A first-of-its kind gathering, bringing together First Nations leaders and provincial officials, is taking place in Truro, N.S. this week.
The two-day conference is focused on the Nova Scotia Sexual Violence Strategy and allows participants to gather ideas on how to respond to and prevent sexualized violence in their communities.
“Many of the programs that were out there, people didn’t see themselves in the services,” said Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard.
“They didn’t feel safe going to them. They didn’t feel culturally relevant. We heard that youth did not reach out because they didn’t see themselves in the services that were there.”
Bernard says aboriginal women and girls are three times more likely to become the victims of sexualized violence than non-aboriginal women and girls. With that in mind, she says her department made a conscious effort to fund more culturally-sensitive programming in its sexual violence strategy.
“We really made it a goal through the innovation grants to make sure that different organizations that were not necessarily mainstream or regularly funded agencies came together and came up with really innovative proposals in which we could fund that really looked at consent and sexualized violence from the inside out,” she said.
While launching the conference on Monday morning, Bernard announced $150,000 in grants that were awarded to local organizations for specialized programming.
Education program starting for boys
Among the grants, was $46,000 awarded to the Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation in Antigonish County to start a program for boys in grades seven and eight.
Similar to a program that already exists for girls, workshops will be held to teach the students about healthy relationships and sexual consent. The new program will also focus on masculinity and the students’ roles as young men.
“We thought it was very crucial that we try and get them at the same level — try to give them the same opportunities … so that you’re educating the entire population,” said Juliana Julian, the health director with Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation.
“We could have the (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) nurse from the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre come in and talk about consent, and stuff like that. And it could be that we could bring in an elder in our community to talk about their role as men.”
Grants were also awarded to the Waycobah First Nation and the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre, which received $34,000 to hire a community facilitator to implement a project on responding to and preventing sexual violence.
The Millbrook Native Women’s Association received $5,000 to develop public service announcements on preventing sexual violence.
The Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association received a grant of $36,000 to provide programming for aboriginal women and girls in the Sydney area who have been affected by sexual violence.
The association’s president, Cheryl Maloney, says it’s work that has already been taking place due to volunteers so the money will come a long way in furthering their goals.
“It’s the first time we’ve been funded to do the work that we’ve already been doing with volunteers and hard work and I think it’s important that the province realizes and in Canada realize that this work that’s been done by women is to be valued and supported,” Maloney said.
In total, funding was awarded to six projects. There is still $600,000 in the strategy’s $1.2 million investment over two years.
Applications for the remaining money will be made available in the fall.