Family Violence Initiative
COMPENDIUM OF PROMISING PRACTICES TO REDUCE VIOLENCE AND INCREASE SAFETY OF ABORIGINAL WOMEN IN CANADA – COMPENDIUM ANNEX: DETAILED PRACTICE DESCRIPTIONS
INTERACTIONS WITHIN COMMUNITIES
Healthy Relationships: Women
- Program name:
Medicine Bear Counselling Support & Elder Services
Ka Ni Kanichihk Inc
- Target Group:
- Contact Name:
Colleen Robinson, Program Coordinator
When an Aboriginal woman or girl goes missing or is murdered, there are traumatic consequences for the family to deal with on many levels. Moreover, many times the families are already dealing with intergenerational trauma, including that from residential school experiences, so the loss of a loved one to violence is compounded by shame and self-blame. This program seeks to address this problem.
- Goals & Objectives:
To reduce violence against Aboriginal women and girls by increasing the knowledge and tools that promote the health and strength of the family unit.
- Traditional/Indigenous ways:
The Medicine Bear Program uses the Medicine Wheel as a base approach. The program employs various group gatherings and sharing circles to help the women through their grief and the gaining of resources and knowledge. They provide access to ceremonies and Elders, as well as helping those who need it, with the proper cultural protocols in traditional ceremonies.
- Components of program:
The program looks to ease and eliminate the isolation of Aboriginal women who have lost a loved one to violence. In addition it provides Aboriginal traditional ways of looking at family and relating to loved ones. The program has also worked with women to alleviate the factors that keep and feed the stigma of intergenerational shame.
- Services/How they work:
Services are provided on site at the facility as well as through ceremonies that take place throughout the community.
Funding provided by: the Department of Justice Canada; and "in kind" support from various organizations.
Relationships and Stakeholders
- Involvement of Target Groups:
Families come to help and are engaged in the grieving processes and the community's spiritual helpers are called upon to assist when appropriate.
RCMP; and others (not specified)
- Other relationships:
Details of Program Evaluation
No evaluation has been completed.
- Highlights of Evaluation Findings:
- Measures of Success:
Success is measured by building greater strength and tools for Aboriginal women and families so that a better understanding of the issues, including the underlying ones, leads to less violence. In a more immediate measure of success, the program aims to have individual participants regain their footing to the point where the support network provided by the program is replaced by their own support system and by their regained health, as per the Medicine Wheel model.
The building of further resilience for the participants to try and get their families together. They have worked to build a greater awareness of the issues surrounding murdered and missing Aboriginal women. In a larger sense, they have worked to reduce the isolation and the blaming of one's self for the loss. To help the participants emerge from various traumas many are born into. They have also developed a comprehensive toolkit, called the "Missing Persons & Persons at Risk Toolkit" that can be accessed on their website under the resources tab. It provides information, checklists, contacts, and other items that can be of help to anyone dealing with a murdered or missing loved one.
The most difficult challenge was dealing with the shame that many Aboriginal women carry including dealing with the stigma and various attitudes associated with women who have been, or are, engaged in high-risk lifestyles. It is difficult to find time to allow opportunity for counsellors and other helpers to debrief about the traumas they are helping clients with (counselling the counsellors).
Things to Know to Replicate
- Replication Advice:
The program is considered replicable. Staff must be knowledgeable, empathetic and able to provide appropriate counseling for those affected by the loss of a loved one.
Adequate funding, space and properly trained and knowledgeable staff are essential for the program to operate effectively.
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