Family Violence Initiative



In the April 2010 report on their research findings entitled What Their Stories Tell Us, the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) reported that they had identified some 580 cases of murdered and missing Aboriginal women1. Although the NWAC report was the first to confirm the scope of the issue, a number of earlier studies and reports have looked at the heightened risk of violence faced by Aboriginal women (First Nations, Inuit, Métis and non-status Indians). Aboriginal women report more serious forms of family violence, higher rates of stranger violence and are significantly over-represented as victims of homicide. Aboriginal women are three and a half times more likely to experience violent victimization (defined as physical and sexual assault and robbery) than non-Aboriginal women2. Aboriginal women are three times more likely to be victims of spousal violence than non-Aboriginal women, and spousal homicide rates are almost eight times higher for Aboriginal women than for non-Aboriginal women. On-reserve violent crime rates are eight times the rate in the rest of the country. While non-Aboriginal women report a decline in the more severe forms of violence (43% in 1999 to 37% in 2004), the rate for Aboriginal women has remained steady at 54%.

Specific steps have been taken in many communities to reduce violence and improve the safety of Aboriginal women and girls. Anecdotally, there is knowledge of specific instances where individuals, organizations and communities have worked together to make positive changes in the safety of girls and women. However, likely the large majority of these successes are known only to the groups, individuals and communities involved. It is likely that some of these programs that have been developed could be seen as "promising practices"3 even in the absence of a full evaluation. The lack of a comprehensive and readily accessible list of initiatives hampers the ability of other communities to build on and adapt those initiatives within their own jurisdictions.

The absence of evaluation processes or outcomes cannot be used as a reason to restrict the sharing of information about promising practices: the reality is that in many cases, evaluation will never be reasonably possible. Practices originating in smaller communities with limited numbers of participants can lead to increased potential to identify clients when standard evaluative methods are applied. Outcomes oriented to standard research methods may not reflect the holistic nature of many of the programs which focus on results at a community, not individual, level. The time required to realize the desired changes mean that more time is needed for effective results to emerge.

While responses will have to be adapted to each community for maximum efficacy, having more fulsome information about the range of measures that have been tried by other communities facing similar issues, along with information on key elements that appear to have resulted in success, could significantly improve the capacity of communities and justice system agencies to respond in a timely and cost effective manner. This document begins to bring together some of these diverse sources of information on programs developed to address some of the significant issues affecting Aboriginal communities, which also work to improve the safety of Aboriginal women and girls and reduce their risk of violence.

The main objective of this project is to present, in one place, key information on promising practices that respond to issues communities face with respect to reducing violence and improving safety for women and girls. The knowledge and information gained from this compendium could provide a resource for community groups seeking to address similar challenges in their own communities. Ultimately, assisting communities to better address some of the challenges they face will reduce risks of violence and improve the safety of Aboriginal women and girls within their families and communities.