Pandemic stress could trigger youth violence, expert says, as new partners sign threat protocol

Pandemic stress could trigger youth violence, expert says, as new partners sign threat protocol

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Heidi Ulrichsen
April 28, 2022

A very special guest was on hand April 26 as 26 partners signed onto the fourth edition of a protocol designed to prevent tragic events such as the school shootings in Columbine, Taber and Sandy Hook here in Greater Sudbury.

Kevin Cameron has developed protocols and provides training on traumatic events before they escalate and after they occur.

He played a key role in the aftermath of the 1999 Taber, Alberta, school shooting, among others, and works with police, school boards, cities, community agencies, and provincial governments throughout Canada and the United States, including Sudbury.

Cameron was in Sudbury this week to provide training to members of the threat assessment protocol, as well as to hold a free Zoom talk on his work yesterday evening for members of the public.

The group also hosted retired Columbine High School principal Frank DeAngelis earlier this month. 

The signing of the fourth edition of the Community Threat Assessment Protocol here in Greater Sudbury comes at a crucial time, Cameron said.

After more than two years in a pandemic, kids and families are under a lot of stress, and “we know that we would see an increased level of threat-making or threat-related behavior, (which) are certainly cries for help,” Cameron said.

He said he’s still worried about events such as school shootings, but also violence “such as suicidality.”

“So to have the fourth iteration of this (protocol), with more partners to add as well, is really positive to see,” Cameron said.

The first edition of the Community Threat Assessment Protocol — developed with input from Cameron — was signed by 13 partners back in 2011.

Those partners include police services, school boards and social service agencies, who together provide a “circle of care” around the at-risk person.

Cameron said it’s great that the partners who have signed onto the protocol here in Greater Sudbury have doubled in a little more than a decade. If more partners are joining in, “it means it's living and breathing, and we're doing what we need to do.”

Any of the partners signed on the protocol can activate a Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA). The goal is to keep the community safe by intervening before a violent incident occurs.

Trained VTRA teams work from the perspective that “serious violence is an evolutionary process” and no one “just snaps.”

Data is often available that can help identify and prevent serious violence. VTRA Teams are trained to look for signs that allow for both early intervention and identification of rapidly evolving individuals of concern.

“Serious violence is an evolutionary process, meaning most kids and adults actually don't want to get to that point,” Cameron said.

“So they give signs and indicators, they talk, they post online, sometimes they even embed things in their assignments at school.

“So it's really about training and picking up on somebody before they get to that point, and then taking from the (protocol) partners the right folks to support that kid, that family.”

Chief Paul Pederson of Greater Sudbury Police Service, one of the partners in the protocol, said GSPS is not just committed to enforcing laws, but also to “intervening collaboratively to reduce elevated risks.”

“I’ll say today that by signing, we further commit to do everything that we can collectively do to reduce violence in our community,” he said.

VTRA community co-ordinator Anna-Maria Barsanti said the key to a successful intervention is finding the right partners to support the at-risk person.

Sometimes that even means calling in those who are not members of the protocol to help come up with a plan.

“It's not just about the people who are signing protocol partners,” Barsanti said. “There may be other agencies and organizations that are out there that have a resource that we can reach out to them, with consent ...

“I remember years ago working with hockey, because the kid really likes hockey,” Barsanti said.

“So what does the person like to do? How do you build that? That connection, so they're doing what they love to do.”

Protocol partners include:

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters Association of the City of Greater Sudbury
  • Cambrian College
  • Canadian Mental Health Association – Sudbury/Manitoulin/Association canadienne pour la
  • santé mentale – Sudbury/Manitoulin
  • Children’s Community Network/Réseau communautaire pour enfants
  • City of Greater Sudbury/Ville du Grand Sudbury
  • Collège Boréal
  • Compass / Boussole / AKII-IZHINOOGAN
  • Conseil des Services du District de Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board
  • Conseil scolaire catholique du Nouvel-Ontario
  • Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l’Ontario
  • Future North/ Futur du Nord
  • Greater Sudbury Police Service/Les Services policiers du Grand Sudbury
  • Kina Gbezhgomi Child and Family Services
  • Mental Health and Addiction/Santé mentale et toxicomanie-Health
  • Sciences North/Horizon Santé-Nord
  • Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services/ Ministère des
  • Services à l’enfance et des Services sociaux et communautaires
  • Nogdawindamin Family and Community Services
  • Northern Youth Services Inc.
  • Manitoulin, Ontario Provincial Police/Police provinciale de l’Ontario
  • Nipissing West, Ontario Provincial Police/Police provinciale de l’Ontario
  • Rainbow District School Board
  • Sudbury Action Centre for Youth
  • Sudbury and Area Victim Services/Services aux victimes du Grand Sudbury
  • Sudbury Catholic District School Board
  • Sudbury District Restorative Justice/Reparatrice du District de Sudbury
  • The Children’s Aid Society of the Districts of Sudbury & Manitoulin/La Société d’aide à
  • l’enfance des districts de Sudbury et de Manitoulin
  • YMCA of Northeastern Ontario Employment Services & Immigrant Services/YMCA du Nord- 
  • Est de l’Ontario Services d’emploi & Services aux immigrants

Heidi Ulrichsen is the associate content editor at She also covers education and the arts scene. Follow her on Twitter @HeidiUlrichsen.