Family Violence Initiative



Healing and Reintegration of Offenders

Program name:

Community Holistic Circle Healing Program


Hollow Water First Nation


Hollow water First Nation, Manitoba

Target Group:


Contact Name:

Connie Fontaine








Program Overview

The initial program began in the early 1980s and became fully established in the late 1980s. It was started specifically for sexual abuse, but the scope has widened to include youth and adult justice cases; such as diversion, alternative measures, community sentencing, and probationary services.

Program Description
Goals & Objectives:

To revitalize and restore the traditional family unit; and to foster healthy communities based upon the idea of reconciliation between offenders and victims of violence and abuse.

Traditional/Indigenous ways:

The program is based on regional Anishanaabeg cultural value systems and "ways of knowing". It offers counselling services and provides support groups. Women are realizing that the community has reached a critical point about traditional knowledge, and want to keep building on it, and incorporate all traditional knowledge within every component of the program, and also outside of the organization; such as to the schools, and community health facilities. The healing processes that are integrated into the Community Holistic Circle Healing (CHCH) are used to nurture the right relationship with the spirit world, the earth and with those who suffer; to identify and support a community orientation and traditional ways-of-doing; to use healing for deriving justice, and to employ community processes as a means of envisioning a healing justice paradigm. To accomplish this, program staff members are very strong networkers with each other and with agencies in the community, and all community members are seen as agents who assist in communal healing processes.

Components of program:

The community makes referrals to the caseworkers who then work with the victim, offender and children. Caseworkers collaborate and then hold healing circles for the victim and offender together; the goal is reconciliation – to help parents establish and maintain healthy relationships so the family unit can be as intact as possible; especially where children are involved.

Services/How they work:

Services are provided on site at the facility.


Funding is provided by Aboriginal Justice Strategy (Department of Justice Canada); and Community Justice (Manitoba).

Relationships and Stakeholders
Involvement of Target Groups:

The community women were the driving force to initiate the program; women who had seen the effects of generations of colonization and residential schools, and the depth of hurt from sexual, mental, physical and emotional abuse, including family violence. The women gathered (in the early 1980s) to see how they could address these things, not by looking to the outside, but within the community, within the perspective and world view of their own people. They worked at the need to take responsibility for these ills, and realized that self-responsibility was needed for the healing to take place. They developed the program in ways that worked in conjunction with agencies both inside and outside the community. As years went on, the women were joined by men.


Chief and Council; the Crisis Stabilization Unit; the Mobile Crisis Unit; the Department of Health Canada National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program; Child and Family Services.

Other relationships:

the Wanipigow School; the local health centre.

Details of Program Evaluation

An evaluation has been completed.

Highlights of Evaluation Findings:

The program is cost-effective in comparison with offender incarceration costs in penitentiaries; "larger savings to the federal government may occur if more communities are able to replicate the success of Hollow Water". The role of leadership, creating organizations and building community capacity to support healing, collaboration and participation are essential to the success of healing programs.

Program Outcomes
Measures of Success:

Success is measured by the increase in community involvement and participation in the program.


Revitalization of traditional knowledge among families and family members; the inclusion and growth of traditional practices; strongly believe that healing happens from within, cannot force it on others; belief in that within the circle of healing the power of one person becomes the power of all, and that clients can become one, whole and complete, through healing.


Finding the balance between traditional healing practices and the Canadian legal system. Dealing with the huge gap between mainstream concepts of justice and that traditional to the Hollow Water First Nation is very challenging.

Things to Know to Replicate
Replication Advice:

The program is considered replicable. It would take an organization/group of people from within the community to take it on. Base it on one's own community teachings, and remember that all communities are different. Teachings come from a people, and there are many times when program administrators are asked to speak about the program, and what is always stressed is that, while it takes only a few people to get it going, a team is needed to involve all the community. It is difficult to talk about some of these subjects, such as sexual violence, and domestic violence. Working with one's own community can be a struggle, but it is also a strength of the program.


Sufficient funding; staffing and community support are essential to the program's success.