Federal government supports CYFN’s domestic violence program with $1.18 million

An investment of $1.18 million from the federal government is planned to support a domestic violence initiative led by the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN).

Yukon Member of Parliament Brendan Hanley and Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, were on hand alongside CPNY officials to announce the funding in Whitehorse on July 21.

“When we say the word home, we think of a family haven, a warm, supportive and loving environment. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for everyone. And in fact, for many, especially women and children, the home is the space where physical, psychological and sexual abuse occurs,” Bennett said.

“We know that domestic violence is all too common, accounting for approximately 40% of all violent crime reported to police. It can affect anyone in any neighborhood, in any part of the country.

Bennett said the COVID-19 pandemic has been a stressor that has increased the risk and intensified the effects of domestic violence.

The purpose of the funding is to train individuals in Yukon communities to facilitate a voluntary violence reduction program for men who have assaulted or are at risk of assaulting their families.

CPNY Grand Chief Peter Johnston called domestic violence in First Nations communities a complex issue related to colonization and residential school abuse. 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 there were. He said these relationships, with fathers, grandfathers and uncles, are important in passing on the roles and responsibilities of being a man. He said that in many cases these ties have been severed to the detriment of the whole community.

Currently, Johnston said there are few options available to First Nations men who have or are at risk of acting violently beyond a jail sentence. He said this is a gap that needs to be filled.

Shadelle Chambers, CEO of CPNY, offered more information on the program and how it works.

“Our program will ensure that this violence prevention program is led by Yukon First Nations men and will develop a train-the-trainer model that will be offered to all Yukon First Nations to help build capacity and understanding,” Chambers said.

She added that the goal of the program is to make it barrier-free, voluntary and prevention-focused. Participants will not need to be ordered by a court or even face charges to participate.

Samantha Dawson, a Yukon First Nations lawyer, was hired to coordinate the program.

The CYFN program will draw on similar work elsewhere in the country, but Chambers says things are somewhat different in the Yukon because First Nations have self-government. An initial partnership has been developed with people doing similar work in British Columbia, but Chambers said their existing program will be adapted for 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 part of the family support that CYFN is creating, which includes working with families involved or at risk of becoming involved in the child welfare system. Chambers noted that families who experience or witness domestic abuse sometimes have their children abducted by the government.

Chambers said the current goal is to complete engagement with Yukon First Nations men and implement training in the community within eight to nine months.

Contact Jim Elliot at [email protected]

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