Family Violence Initiative



Family Violence Interventions

Program name:



Nova Scotia Native Women's Association.


Indian Brook, N.S / Millbrook, N.S / Pictou Landing, Nova Scotia

Target Group:


Contact Name:

Cheryl Copage






Program Overview

The program started in 2010 and received funding for an 18 month program. Increasing community discussions about family violence have led to expanding partnerships and increasing demand for programs.

Program Description
Goals & Objectives:

To deliver education and outreach for proactive interventions to help women and their families in situations of abuse to recognize the signs of violence; to ensure the module content and delivery are reflective of Mi'kmaq culture, community values, experiences and customs; to fill the service provider gaps for Mi'kmaw families who are marginalized and to guide and support them toward safe, healthy lifestyles; to train and support non-professional family violence intervention at the grass roots level; to create communities of care by building networks of supporting sisters for women and connecting with Mi'kmaw Legal Support Network, shelters and services and to help women navigate the system to ensure their safety and health; and to improve pathways to eliminating violence through holistic, non-adversarial approaches.

Traditional/Indigenous ways:

All modules in the toolkit embrace Mi'kmaq healing practices. Customized curriculum includes seven sacred teachings, sweat lodge ceremonies and shaking tent healing. The healing practices are instilled by a pipe carrier and members of the Grassroots Grandmothers who are healthy Mi'kmaq Elders who work to bring back traditional ceremonies, birthing ceremonies, and women's ceremonies. Talking circles are the format for the Planning Alternative Tomorrows of Hope approach.

Components of program:

The program consists of four modules delivered by a Mi'kmaq Elder and social worker to assist mobilizing the communities to de-normalize violence through education that is culturally relevant and site specific. The modules consist of: Crisis Support - aimed at women who are victims of violence; Empowering Mi'kmaq Women and Communities – a service that helps communities design and implement their anti-violence PATH (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope) Plan; Community Awareness - this toolkit will provide women with the knowledge and skills to provide assistance to Sisters that need and want to stop the cycle of violence; Being a "Sister" - this toolkit is designed to motivate more women to take on the role of a Sister to work together in communities to address family violence and its related issues. Skill sets focused on include: creating reflective listening, how to support people who continue on in violent relations, and provide non-judgmental support by building community compassion and through understanding the root causes and consequences of intergenerational trauma.

Services/How they work:

Programs and services are offered on site at the facilities of the participating communities.


Funding has been provided by the Department of the Status of Women Canada; and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

Relationships and Stakeholders
Involvement of Target Groups:

Five focus groups were held where women designed and decided the key points to be included in the Sisterness modules toolkit. Together they drafted the modules and then took it to a larger community focus group for feedback and refining. The Nova Scotia Native Women's Association relies on the community women to promote the program by word of mouth and has received assistance at the Mi'kmaq / Provincial / Federal Tripartite forum for support.


Tripartite Forum Justice Committee; Mi'kmaq Friendship Centre in Halifax; Nova Scotia Universities; Gignoo Transition House New Brunswick safety plans; and the Tawaak Housing in Halifax.

Other relationships:

There are 15 urban and off reserve chapters and on reserve chapters of the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association in each Mi'kmaq community who are involved with organizing projects of the Association.

Details of Program Evaluation

No evaluation has been completed.

Highlights of Evaluation Findings:


Program Outcomes
Measures of Success:

Success is measured by: the number of women attending training sessions; sustained and working collaborative networks established; expanded adoption of the program to successfully be utilized by other communities and achieving recognition of the program as a viable alternative to mainstream victims' services and adversarial court processes.


The program has provided educational tools that are meaningful and applicable and addressed the gaps in services that exist. It has also been instrumental in breaking the silence on family violence and challenging the normalization of violence, designing a strategy to help families when they are reconciling and ensuring family violence is a priority at every political level.


Obtaining funding. Limited staff and capacity are a result of non-sustainable funding. Traditional sources of funding are no longer reliable and competition for funding is heightened.

Things to Know to Replicate
Replication Advice:

The program is considered replicable. The modules can be followed and modified to suit an individual community's needs. Flexibility is key. Offer the program delivery when the community finds it convenient, such as in the evenings and on weekends. It needs to be community driven and the women need ownership. Need to be available and accessible – 24 hours a day.


Funding is essential to be able to provide adequate staff and program services. In particular, funds for child care, transportation, food and facilitation would be needed.