Family Violence Initiative



Healing and Renewal of Family Roles and Responsibilities

Program name:

Family Healing Program


Warriors Against Violence Society


East Vancouver, British Columbia

Target Group:


Contact Name:

Joyce Fossella





Program Overview

The program was started in 1998 and has grown over the years with regard to both participant numbers and available programming to clients.

Program Description
Goals & Objectives:

To help Aboriginal families stop violence and abuse through reclaiming and utilizing traditional values of honour, respect and equality in all family relationships.

Traditional/Indigenous ways:

The program includes talking circles, smudging, and prayers. When participants are ready, the instructors encourage them to tell their own stories and others benefit from this. They take part in ceremonies, sweat lodges, Sundances; some are involved in various Longhouse ways, and they are encouraged to partake in their own cultural ways, or to explore others, as they feel comfortable. Everyone is respected for their own beliefs; it is a part of the program's holistic outlook and approach.

Components of program:

The program is holistic and aware and respectful of various cultural beliefs within the Aboriginal community and tries to accommodate these various belief systems through encouraging participants to voluntarily partake in their own belief systems. The youth program provides anti-violence workshops contributing to prevention of violence against women early on in relationships. Other workshops target the source of violence and help family members develop strategies and use tools to deal with conflict in ways other than resorting to violence.

Services/How they work:

Services are provided on site at the program facility. Some activities and events such as sweat lodges and Sundances are held off site.


Funding is received from Vancouver Coastal Health; and the British Columbia Association of Friendship Centres.

Relationships and Stakeholders
Involvement of Target Groups:

The program works with families as a whole; out of the Warriors Against Violence Society have come people who honour their spirits by finding and gaining back their own identities and self-esteem. When consulting with women, they indicated what they wanted to be included in their own program. They wanted cultural activities such as music-making, drumming, regalia-making. Program management also involves the youth by consulting with them about what they want as a part of their programs. Men also provide feedback about what they like about the program, and what else they would like to see included in it. The wider community is involved by referring participants to the Warriors Against Violence Society.


Kiwassa Neighbourhood House.

Other relationships:

The Urban Native Youth Association provides "in kind" services for the program.

Details of Program Evaluation

No evaluation has been completed. A draft operational review has been done.

Highlights of Evaluation Findings:

There has been much positive feedback from participants on how it's impacted their individual lives in a good way and how it's helped them to resolve conflict in a healthy way; e.g., on a cultural wellness question on an exit survey, 85% of men said they became aware of at least one traditional way, and one modern way of dealing with conflict that they could use.

Program Outcomes
Measures of Success:

Success has mainly been measured against participant empowerment. For example, some participants teach others, telling others what they've learned, and say, "This is how to communicate, how to deal with conflict, and stress", that's success, too. When they're able to tell their own stories of pain and how they came to knowledge of where their anger came from and pass these teachings on, and when they get their children back after they had been apprehended, that is success. Success is also measured based upon clients referring other clients to the program. There is also a measurement of success in clients taking further education and counselling on their own initiative.


The main accomplishments of the program are that it works with the whole family. Staff work with men, women and youth. It began as a program for assaultive men only, but has expanded to include women and youth, mainly at the request of the women. The program incorporates culture with the teachings.


Obtaining funding. The administrator is the only paid staff member at the Warrior office. There are around 60 to 70 participants a week, and this generates a lot of work; it is very challenging to manage everything. Staff can volunteer for only so long, as it gets very exhausting. At the Warrior office, there is only a small work space. Some participants want staff to attend court with them, or attend case management meetings, and provide other kinds of advocacy but there is no capacity for that. There are no resources for more staff.

Things to Know to Replicate
Replication Advice:

Replication is possible. Development of a "Train-the-Trainer" program where communities or agencies can learn and utilize the Warriors Against Violence Society model would be very beneficial. What they need to know is that it should be an ongoing program and that facilitators should be on their own healing journeys. It should include working with men as they are most responsible for violence against women, however, women may also be the abuser. The program is for both victims and perpetrators. Working with the whole family and not just one member is recommended as violence effects everyone. Also, work with youth toward building healthy relationships. Many youth are in relationships where violence and abuse is already an issue. The anti-violence workshops help youth understand the issue of violence and help facilitate the intergenerational prevention of violence.


Adequate financial funding and staff resources as well as a space to operate and provide counselling from are essential to the success of the program.