COMPENDIUM OF PROMISING PRACTICES TO REDUCE VIOLENCE AND INCREASE SAFETY OF ABORIGINAL WOMEN IN CANADA – COMPENDIUM ANNEX: DETAILED PRACTICE DESCRIPTIONS
Healing and Renewal of Family Roles and Responsibilities
- Program name:
Whe-la-la-U Area Council
Alert Bay, British Columbia
- Target Group:
Women/Men in a relationship (couples, work related, school, church, etc)
- Contact Name:
The program started about 3 years ago and falls under the Alert Bay Community Justice Program, which is funded under the 5-year funding cycle of the Aboriginal Justice Strategy (Department of Justice Canada). There have been no changes in size or scope, and the program has not experienced any interruptions.
- Goals & Objectives:
To prevent domestic violence through education on traditional family roles and views of familial relationships. Most couples volunteer to come into the program, the first couples that went through the program became role models for the rest of the community. When both partners are violent, change is big enough that other community members see it. People can change relatively quickly, based on their self-perceptions, and motivations. Even when participants do things that aren't right (such as yelling at their partners, even though they don't actually act out and hit them), they come in and talk about it, and talk through it with instructors using the tools that were taught during sessions. They are acting responsibly when they come in of their own accord, and try to get back "on track".
- Traditional/Indigenous ways:
Adapting the curriculum and material according to the traditional ways of the community; the program uses a genogram concept to help participants understand where they and their families have come from as Whe-La-La-U is an amalgamation of five bands. It helps promote the community spirit when people reach out for help when they want to change behaviours within the families, and to be more traditional in ways of caring and taking responsibilities for one's own family. Young moms, for example, are becoming experts in budgeting. The community as a whole made a decision to work toward the goal of not having any more of their children going into care, so now they use traditional approaches, such as relatives taking children and helping out in times of need – the program administrators facilitate this, and ensure that approaches aren't used to blame mothers, nor send the message that "you're a bad mom". Rather, it's that "We're here because we care about you, and your children. Your children are my concern, and this is what we all can do to help you" – that is the message.
- Components of program:
The curriculum and material of the program is adapted according to the traditional ways of the community. The clients voluntarily come into the program to work on issues and to help improve their relationships with their spouses. Faculty teaches clientele strategies that they can use to overcome violent and abusive behaviours. Community solutions come from consensus and working together so that everyone supports each other. Participants are taught from a preventative educational perspective, and learn about the components of historical and contemporary violence; they examine the ways it has impacted them, such as residential schools, alcohol abuse and sexual abuse. Instructors reassure participants that they are people who learned certain violent behaviours, and are given tools to help unlearn those behaviours.
- Services/How they work:
Services are provided on site in the community.
Funding is received from the Aboriginal Justice Strategy (Department of Justice Canada); Province of British Columbia; B.C. Corrections.
Relationships and Stakeholders
- Involvement of Target Groups:
The couples themselves give feedback on an on-going basis; they articulate what helps and what doesn't help. As far as providing leadership, couples who have gone through the program tell others about it, and refer them to it. They become community leaders after this training and after taking the life-skills course called "Leading the Way".
British Columbia Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Corrections (Adult Probation); Ministry for Children and Family Development (Youth probation), Legal Services Society, Victim Services; other First Nations in the northern parts of Vancouver Island
- Other relationships:
Details of Program Evaluation
No evaluation has been completed.
- Highlights of Evaluation Findings:
- Measures of Success:
Satisfaction of clients, there are far fewer RCMP calls regarding family violence; people acting responsibly toward their families, having participants voluntarily coming into men's support groups, and women's support groups, and for one-on-one support. The fact that community members come in for counselling to make positive life changes is success; people getting involved in substance abuse programs (quitting, or reducing their intake of harmful substances).
Program Administrators took the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General's training and were able to tailor it to suit community's specific needs.
Initial difficulty of garnering community support for program.
Things to Know to Replicate
- Replication Advice:
The program is considered replicable. It can be tailored to any community and its needs; building relationships is the main challenge with anybody (such as between children and parents), how to support them without encouraging dependence, recognizing challenges stemming from residential schools, showing love and affection. There is always hope – people must be willing to take risks; each person needs his or her own strategies, be fully committed, and learn how to use the tools needed for helping oneself. Do not sit around and wait for the 12 minimum participants to show up, or whatever the "ideal number" happens to be. To make it financially worthwhile, and the reality is that program has to meet the needs of the community; so the program must take women and men as they come in and want to start work on themselves. Try to look at things holistically and traditionally – look at the whole issue of violence and abuse, work on each person's strengths and weaknesses to do away with damaging behaviours.
Building strong relationships with all provincial ministries is essential in the success of the program.
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