Over the August long weekend in Alberta, the People Versus Predators Association was working hard to make legislative changes to the bail system to keep kids safe and keep predators away from schools and playgrounds.
We first met Mike Meilleur and Cheri Easton last year, when we documented the work they are doing to keep kids and communities safe and informed through People Versus Predators (PvP). Nearly every weekend, Mike, Cheri and the other PvP volunteers are doing community awareness sessions, children’s self-defence sessions and giving communities a voice in the bail system through petitions.
PvP collects in person signatures in affected neighbourhoods when they find out an accused or recidivist sex offender has been released into a given area. They then take these signatures as evidence of community concerns — a tertiary consideration in Alberta bail hearings — and submit them to Crown prosecutors asking for amendments to the conditions of release for accused sex offenders. And they have had some real successes in keeping suspected offenders behind bars and away from places where kids may congregate.
But for Cheri and Mike, the community petitions are only a stopgap measure to an immediate problem. They want real legislative change that requires escalating mentoring for offenders and mandatory restrictions on how close offenders can be to schools, playgrounds and daycares. Getting federal legislative change means another petition — this time nationwide. But unfortunately, like their community petitions, PvP needs to collect these signatures in person, and they need volunteers and resources to do so.
Mike and Cheri are largely self funded, both working two jobs to keep their fight to protect kids going. The perverse irony is that because they want to change laws to protect victims, PvP is labelled a lobby group. Because of that, they do not qualify for the same tax benefits as civil liberties groups, which advocate for offenders’ rights and lighter sentences.
The legal system is not only stacked against the victim, but also against those who champion the victim.