First Nations agreement to promote addressing violence
Howe Sound Women's Society advocated to end violence against elders, women and children FIRST NATIONS
Photo by Brian Noppé / Brian Noppé Photography
Several Sea to Sky First Nation representatives at the Sea to Sky Aboriginal Conference on Tuesday (May 21) perform a traditional drum song before the event's afternoon session at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre.
MAY 22, 2013
Two of six First Nations Chiefs were present on Tuesday (May 21) to sign a formal safety and security agreement that encourages band councils to take actions in their communities to address the issue of violence against women, children and elders.
The work to see the agreement reach all six First Nations in the Sea to Sky has been ongoing and was spearheaded by the Howe Sound Women's Society Centre.
Executive director Sheila Allen said the focus of Tuesday's Aboriginal Conference held in Whistler was to share what the centre has discovered through its work over the past four years and begin to build bridges to see the work continued.
"Essentially, we would like to brainstorm with everyone that is present and come up with some ideas about what the next steps will be," Allen said. "We are hoping the First Nations might pull together and might put more resources toward this issue and we are hoping we can be of service in that regard."
In 2009, Annabelle Pierre applied for $50,000 in funding from Vancouver Coastal Health to do a three year project, which was later extended into a fourth year.
With the funding, the First Nations Women's Safety Network was started and coordinated through the Howe Sound Women's Centre to work throughout the Sea to Sky corridor.
An outreach worker was recruited from within each First Nation communities of N'Quatqua, Lil'wat, Squamish, Skatin, Douglas and Samahquam. Those workers then established an advisory committee from within the community they work in to examine what needs are present for work to address women's safety.
Aboriginal women are 3.5 times more likely to be victimized than non-Aboriginal women and are eight times more likely to be killed as a result of violence against them.
Allen said now that the program is finished, two resource manuals have been created out of the information compiled by outreach workers and volunteers. The First Nations Elder Safety and Women's Safety resource guides specific to the Sea to Sky corridor are available on the Women's Centre website.
Pierre, who was the outreach worker in Lil'wat, said it is important that local First Nations Chiefs and councils continue with what has been started.
Elder abuse has become particularly concerning, she said, because they are receiving compensation from the government for their residential school experiences and that can result in family members or friends taking advantage.
The Building Bridges Safety and Security Agreement, however, was only signed by two Chiefs from the Lil'wat and Squamish.
Chief Lucinda Phillips with the Lil'wat said she attended and signed on her own behalf and hopes council will support the symbolic gesture.
Phillips said she is supported of the initiative, and only learned about the work six months ago from Pierre. She said she hopes the remaining four First Nations support the agreement so all six can get together and work on how to support the initiative together.
"This is definitely a need throughout all First Nations communities in the Sea to Sky corridor," she said.
Outreach workers like Pierre provided a variety of programming specific to each community and one-to-one support and crisis work for those in need including use of safe houses, or transition housing programs.
At the same time with federal funding, the Women's Centre was undergoing a needs assessment on second stage housing in the region. Second stage housing is where women and children can go after they leave transition housing. A provincial study found that 27 per cent of women making the transition ended up homeless and almost 30 per cent returned to their previous home, which can be a situation where the abuser is removed, returning with the violent situation resolved, or more likely, returning to the abusive situation.
That study highlighted a need for affordable second stage housing in the corridor.
"However, the cost of living in the Sea to Sky corridor and the insufficient income assistance rates leave women and their children with limited, poor and inadequate housing options," states the report. "This in turn, jeopardizes women and their children's safety, by forcing women to return to the abuser and/or put themselves at risk of further abuse from landlords, roommates/housemates and other potentially unsafe housing situations."
Go to www.hswc.ca for more information about the Howe Sound Women's Centre Society or to access their First Nations Elder and Women's Safety resource guides.
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