Victim service programs receive $400K boost through criminal forfeiture funding

The Manitoba government is taking money from criminal property forfeiture funding and putting it to the benefit of victims of crime to to the tune of $400,000.

Candace House and other organizations will put money toward expanding victim services

Wilma Derksen helped open Candace House, named after her daughter who went missing in 1984 during her walk home from school. (Lyza Sale/CBC)

The Manitoba government is taking money from criminals and putting it to the benefit of victims of crime to the tune of $400,000.

The most significant funding is going to Candace House, a downtown Winnipeg-based social services organization which opened last fall near the Law Courts.

Every year, $30,000 is already allocated to supporting the victim services department and operations at Candace House. For the upcoming year, the province will chip in an additional $70,000 of funding from criminal property forfeiture. 

The house was the longtime vision of Wilma and Cliff Derksen, whose 13-year-old daughter Candace went missing during her walk home from school in 1984. Her body was found six weeks later.

The death of Candace Derksen remains unsolved. A suspect was convicted of second-degree murder in 2011, but the conviction was overturned on appeal. A second trial in 2017 ended with a verdict of not guilty.

After her own family's ordeal, Wilma wanted a place where other families could get together and share their common pain in a safe environment. 

"They can experience all the emotions in a safe place and they come back here and experience family in a new extend way," she said.

Wilma believes the additional money will allow Candace House to extend their services and help even more families.

"It pays to dream and see your dream come true," she said. "This continues to heal us as we collect new stories."

Other organizations receiving criminal forfeiture funding include Sage House, Salvation Army and Laurel Centre, which offer services to women and children who have faced sexual and domestic abuse.

Cecilly Hildebrand, executive director of Candace House, said since opening they've helped 14 families deal with the death of their loved ones. (Lyza Sale/CBC News)

In the eight months since it opened, Candace House has helped 14 families prepare for trials and go through the grieving process, according to executive director Cecilly Hildebrand.

"This money is going to providing our service of a safe place for families to get away, so a lot of the core things that we do," said Hildebrand. 

Since their opening day in October, Hildebrandt said they've consistently been swamped with the amount of people accessing their services.

"We've worked with families from 14 different homicides, but we've had about 150 people come through from different families," she said.

"One of the things we're trying to create here is a home away from, we want people to know when they walk in here that they're safe, to know that they are loved and to feel like this is a placed where they can just be." 

The Derksen family was joined by Minister of Justice and Attorney General Cliff Cullen and Janice Morley-Lecomte, MLA for Seine River, who made the announcement on Thursday morning.

"We're certainly excited about the positive response that families have had, we've made a commitment to victims of these tragic situations," said Cullen.

With files from Lyza Sale