It was with great sadness that the Child Witness Centre team learned of the passing of the agency’s founder, Judy Harding, in January 2021.
In 1981, Judy led a group of volunteers in forming the Child Witness Centre (then known as Citizens Concerned with Crimes Against Children or ‘4Cs’). This began with Judy’s now famous ‘get off the couch’ moment. After seeing local news reports of two sexual assault cases against children, concerned citizens in Kitchener-Waterloo (led by Judy) and London came together in gathering 40,000 signatures on a petition to the Minister of Justice, seeking tougher sentencing for crimes of this nature. The Minister urged citizens to bring the issue of child sexual abuse to the attention of the public. The formation of the agency truly represented the caring and community-focused approach that continues to be a trademark of Waterloo Region to this day.
The early mission of the organization was to address the lack of community services and prevention programs as well as the insensitivity of the Court to victims and their families and public ignorance of the facts of sexual abuse. Volunteers educated themselves about child sexual abuse and determined that prevention depends on community awareness and support.
Over the following decade, the influence of 4Cs grew tremendously under Judy’s leadership: obtaining status as a registered charity, promoting the introduction of 4Cs organizations in other communities, and making significant progress in the treatment of children and youth as victims and witnesses before the criminal courts.
Judy oversaw the creation of the Child Witness Program, a program providing court preparation for children and youth under the age of 18 and now supporting nearly 1000 young people each year, and became the agency’s first Executive Director in 1993.
Judy leaves a tremendous legacy as an advocate for children and youth. Without her passion and desire to make a difference, the countless young people we have worked with may have never received the support they needed. As the Child Witness Centre celebrates its 40th Anniversary in 2021, Judy’s efforts continue to bring so much positivity to those who need it most. Her ‘grassroots’ spirit will live on with the agency for many years to come!
To learn more about the history of the Child Witness Centre and Judy’s lasting impact, visit Our Journey.