A $1.18 Million investment from the federal government is set to assist an anti-domestic violence initiative run through the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN).
Yukon MP Brendan Hanley and Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister of mental health and addictions, were on hand alongside CYFN officials to announce the funding in Whitehorse on July 21.
“When we say the word home, we think of family safe haven, a warm, supportive and loving environment. Tragically, that is not the reality for everyone. And in fact for many, especially women and children, home is the space where physical, psychological and sexual abuse occur,” Bennett said.
“We know that family violence is all too common, accounting for roughly 40 per cent of all violent crime reported to police. It can affect anyone in any neighbourhood, in any part of the country.”
Bennett said the COVID-19 pandemic has been a stressor that has increased the risk and intensified the impacts of family violence.
The funding’s goal is to train people in Yukon communities who will facilitate a voluntary violence-reduction program for men who have abused or are at risk of abusing their families.
CYFN Grand Chief Peter Johnston referred to domestic violence in First Nations communities as a complex issue tied to colonization and the abuses of residential schools. He said trauma, poverty and addiction add further complications.
Johnston described growing up in his home community of Teslin in the 1970s and the positive male role models he had there. He said these relationships, with fathers, grandfathers and uncles, are important for passing down the roles and responsibilities of being a man. He said in many cases those links have been severed to the detriment of the whole community.
Presently, Johnston said there are few options available to First Nations men who have or are at risk of acting violently besides time in jail. He said this is a gap that must be filled.
CYFN executive director Shadelle Chambers offered further information on the program and how it will operate.
“Our program will ensure that this violence prevention program is led by Yukon First Nations men and develop a train-the-trainer model to be delivered in all Yukon First Nations to help build the capacity and understanding,” Chambers said.
She added that the aim of the program is to make it barrier free, voluntary and focused on prevention. Participants will not need to be court ordered or even facing charges to participate.
Samantha Dawson, a Yukon First Nations lawyer, has been hired to coordinate the program.
The CYFN program will draw from similar work elsewhere in the country but Chambers says things are somewhat different in the Yukon because the First Nations have self-government. An early partnership has been developed with people doing similar work in British Columbia, but Chambers said their existing program will be adapted to the Yukon. Chambers said one of the next steps will be to engage with Yukon First Nations men to determine what supports and services they need.
Chambers said the new program is all part of family supports CYFN is creating that includes work with families involved with or at risk of becoming involved with the child welfare system. Chambers noted that families that experience or witness intimate partner violence sometimes have their children taken away by the government.
Chambers said the present goal is to complete engagement with Yukon First Nations men and have in-community training up and running within eight to nine months.
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