Yellowknife Regional Meeting
(September 1, 2016)

On September 1, 2016, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women, hosted a regional roundtable in Yellowknife, the Northwest Territories. This roundtable is part of a broader engagement process to engage stakeholders across the country to inform the development of a federal strategy on gender-based violence. See http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/violence/strategy-strategie/index-en.html for more information about the engagement process.

This roundtable brought over 20 stakeholders from Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Labrador together to discuss issues related to gender-based violence that are regionally specific. Participants included representatives from non-governmental organizations, representatives of professional associations, who work in the areas of: Indigenous women, francophone women, and sexual assault; intimate partner violence and working with men and boys.

The roundtable was attended by Michael McLeod, Member of Parliament, and officials from the territorial governments of Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut as well as numerous Indigenous governments were also in attendance.

Highlights

The roundtable discussion is summarized here. This summary should not be interpreted as a comprehensive account of the discussion, nor is it meant to suggest that there was consensus among the participants on the points outlined below.

Some of the regional considerations participants outlined include the:

  • Broader challenges in the North related to literacy in official languages, access to housing, higher costs and availability of employment all impact the ability of victims to access help. Sometimes these circumstances lead to women and girls putting themselves in abusive situations to meet basic needs such as shelter and food
  • Need for awareness efforts to be broader than social media; many in the North, especially in rural and remote communities do not have regular access to the internet and do not participate in social media
  • Fact that most clients of services related to gender based violence in the North are Indigenous, yet most services that are funded are mainstream

Participants shared insights about the needs and experiences of specific populations at risk of gender-based violence, including the need to:

  • Recognize that there is a need to create safe spaces for Indigenous people of all genders to learn healthy approaches in a trauma informed way. There is also a need for culturally appropriate services in their first language that individuals can trust. Indigenous people who have retained their language may not be literate in English which creates additional barriers to services
  • There is a need to incorporate Indigenous healing and concepts of justice in solutions
  • Homeless individuals and those with disabilities often have difficulty accessing services
  • Make services available for francophones in their first language
  • Youth need to be provided with sufficient services and also need to be engaged in their design so their experiences are reflected

Gaps identified included the need to:

  • Focus on children who are often subjected to or witness abuse
  • Change the justice system to provide more support to women as they navigate the system
  • Increase services for men and boys, in particular there is a need for more access to positive role models that are culturally attuned
  • Address the lack of services outside of major centres; victims often have to completely start their life over to access help meaning they lack social supports from friends and family
  • Address the prevalence of trafficking for the purposes of the sex trade
  • Address the fact that justice approaches can’t intervene until the violence has already occurred; there needs to be strong interventions before crisis
  • Ensure funding is multi-year and that federal programs work together to allow organizations to have a greater impact but creating holistic programs with various components rather than piecemeal funded activities
  • There is also a need to recognize that internet-only application processes exclude many rural and remote communities from applying

Building on what works, participants suggested:

  • Creating family based approaches, especially with young couples
  • Creating a link with the land and culture as a way to create healthier approaches and to help individuals cope with their trauma
  • Including elders in the design of programming rather than just as a ceremonial presence
  • Aboriginal focused legal supports, such as those found at Aboriginal Legal Services Toronto
  • Addressing men in a way that focuses on their strength and choices rather than making them feel inherently bad so they can see change is possible

Overall, participants highlighted that the federal strategy should recognize:

  • That solutions need to include community leaders, especially in small centres, as this will help address the stigma that victims face and increase supports in remote locations
  • That having to constantly change programming that has been proven to have an impact in order to meet new funding programs disrupts success
  • A need for a clear North and Indigenous focus that acknowledges that there is intergenerational trauma and that broader issues such as housing and healing are linked
  • A need for programming that is not just about women who are victims; programming needs to be holistic including working with communities, families, elders, men and children
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