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The Healing Journey: Family Violence Prevention in Aboriginal Communities - COMPLETED

The Healing Journey: Family Violence Prevention in Aboriginal Communities is a project that was based on a collaboration between Gignoo Transition House Inc., the only Aboriginal transition house in New Brunswick, and Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick (PLEIS-NB) to develop a toolkit and website ( )that would provide holistic and culturally sensitive information about addressing family violence in Aboriginal communities. All of the material in the kit was developed under the guidance of a working group of Mi’kmaq and Maliseet organizations. The design of the toolkit was also informed by a needs assessment undertaken by an Aboriginal consulting firm at the front end of the project to determine what community wanted to see in the kit.

The toolkit and website were launched to rave reviews at a conference in Fredericton on October 4-6, 2006.  Over 160 participants from First Nations Communities across New Brunswick attended the conference to discuss holistic and culturally sensitive ways to address family violence in their communities. Representatives and service providers also attended from Nova Scotia, PEI, Newfoundland, Quebec and Ontario.

Funding to develop the toolkit, print it, create a website, host a conference, support Aboriginal participation and generate follow up activities, was provided by many different agencies including Justice Canada, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the Mounted Police Foundation - RCMP, Women’s Issues Branch – Executive Council Office, NB Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat, the NB Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Status of Women Canada and Canadian Heritage.”

The conference offered a range of concurrent workshops on such topics as suicide prevention, legal and policing issues, safety plans, positive aboriginal fathering, and community initiatives in the First Nation Communities of Burnt Church, Elsipogtog and Tobique. With a view to involving Aboriginal youth, there was a dating violence workshop and a workshop on self-esteem building with Inuk singer/songwriter Susan Aglukark. Youth from local high schools also presented a dating violence skit over lunch, while youth from Eel Ground Middle School performed their award winning play on fetal alcohol syndrome as a special activity. A highlight of the conference was an evening of storytelling and song with Ms Aglukark which was open to the public and well attended. A half day was dedicated to small group discussion of issues, report backs and networking. Local businesses and community groups donated several services and gifts, and the many draws for door prizes throughout the conference were much appreciated.

The Conference Evaluation Report shows that participants were extremely pleased with all aspects of this initiative and that they planned to return to their communities to begin the process of making use of the toolkit.  The toolkit was distributed and actively promoted across New Brunswick.

Due to the success of the Healing Journey initiative in New Brunswick, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada approached our partner, Gignoo Transition House, with an offer of support to transform the toolkit and website into a national initiative. The goal was to provide family violence resources for First Nations and Aboriginal communities across Canada, in English and French (where available).   Since much of the information in the toolkit is generic, in 2007 PLEIS accepted the challenge of enhancing the law information in the kit and adding resources about funding, family violence programs and services across Canada.  The transformed national toolkit and website was launched in 2008 and Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups and individuals from across Canada have been ordering copies of the toolkit.  Natalie McBride, the executive director of Gignoo has travelled to Aboriginal events and meetings across Canada to promote the toolkit.  There has been an overwhelmingly positive response – and the opportunities for the project to grow as a vibrant, web-based initiative are enormous.


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