From left are Koala Place director Elyse Lauzon-Alguire, MP Guy Lauzon and Koala board chair Richard Allaire at a ribbon-cutting.
CORNWALL, Ontario - Koala Place, a centre that specialized in helping young victims of sexual and physical abuse, held its grand opening Thursday in Cornwall.
The centre, which opened in January, has already seen some 36 clients come through its doors, with more expected in the weeks and months to come.
The centre was opened as a result of the Cornwall Public Inquiry, which convened to examine historical sex abuse allegations in the Seaway City.
Local dignitaries, including police officers and politicians, as well as child advocates, attended the function - which highlighted the plight of young people who have been subject to abuse.
"One of my best friends is a survivor of child abuse," said MP Guy Lauzon in his remarks. "I'm here to tell you the effects of child abuse at 55 years old are just as bad as when he was five.
"This man went through hell for 50 years of his life."
Lauzon praised the work done at Koala Place to help young people grapple with the after-effects of abuse.
"What you've done here is phenomenal."
Koala Place is the first such facility in Cornwall.
The project was funded by the Department of Justice victims fund and from other key community partners. The fund will continue until March 31, 2015, and will have to be renewed.
Several partner organizations such as local police services and Children’s Aid Society of S.D. & G. have been doing whatever they can to help.
Koala Place board chair Richard Allaire, who was presented with a large plaque to honour his commitment to the agency, said local networking is the key to the future.
"We have quite a good representation across our community for support," he said. "Partnerships are crucial to the success of this centre."
In an earlier interview Koala Place executive director Elyse Lauzon-Alguire said the animal was seen as the perfect representation of the agency.
“The koala is a very child-friendly animal with big ears,” said Lauzon-Alguire. “What we do here at the centre is listen to these children and their families when they disclose their stories. It is about the ears and how friendly they look.”
Koala Place is located at 123 Pitt Street.