In Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, the Spousal Abuse Counselling Program helps abusers recognize why family and relationship violence is wrong, and provides them with tools to prevent them from offending in the future.
Family violence is a problem in the small, northern community — a problem that the local RCMP detachment was determined to make better.
"We want to improve the quality of family lives," says Sgt. Lorne Morrison, Rankin Inlet RCMP. "We gear towards how we can make the community a better place."
When Morrison saw a call for proposals from the RCMP's Family Violence Initiative Fund (FVIF), he took action.
Morrison approached the counsellors from the spousal abuse program and asked if they had any ideas of what they could do with the funding if they applied. They suggested modifying their offender program for high school students.
"I loved that idea and it just exploded from there," says Morrison.
Funding the fight
Each year, the RCMP receives funding through the Family Violence Initiative, a federal commitment that brings together 15 departments and agencies to prevent and respond to family violence.
The FVIF distributes up to $50,000 to RCMP detachments and $25,000 in grant funding to non-profit community organizations and provincial, territorial and municipal partners that support initiatives that respond to issues of family violence within their communities.
The proposed project did receive funding in 2015. Two counsellors from the Spousal Abuse Counselling Program together with two RCMP police officers spent a total of 30, one-hour sessions with the Grade 10 class discussing topics like how to identify and recognize the different types of abuse.
"After a few sessions, we noticed a difference in how the students were treating each other and speaking to each other," says Morrison. "The hope is now that we've seen that immediate effect that it carries on so that when they are adults and have children they become the examples for their children."
Family violence is very broad and, as such, when the FVIF selects applicants they make sure they have an array of projects and initiatives from across Canada.
Cst. Maureen Greyeyes-Brant, manager of the fund for the RCMP, says a small amount of funding can have a big impact in a community.
"These projects and programs are getting the word out about family violence and the resources and services in their communities," says Greyeyes-Brant. "They've noticed a difference — a new knowledge — that's been provided to their community members and it helps everybody."
The Spirit of Peace Family Violence Prevention Program through the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre in Manitoba also received funding from FVIF in 2015.
The grant went to a project they developed with Ndinawe, an integrated service centre for youth, to provide family violence prevention for at-risk indigenous girls as young as 14 and women in their 20s transitioning from living on a reserve to moving to the city.
The older women were able to share their personal experiences about surviving and preventing abuse in the group setting.
"The younger women heard that directly from someone that's lived it, and then the teachings and discussions on how to prevent or work through those experiences begins to naturally happen," says Angela Lavallee, a Spirit of Peace co-ordinator.
"We can facilitate with topics that we form related to violence prevention and intervention, but when you have a circle of women sharing, the energy is beautiful," she says.
Strength in numbers
Lavallee says the project's participants knew where the funding came from.
"It's empowering to have the RCMP acknowledge the importance of the project and to be able to give us this opportunity," she says. "It's valuable for our women to know that we are working together on preventing violence."
That partnership between communities and the RCMP is key in stopping family violence.
"It's an issue that everybody needs to address by working, networking and coming together to work on it," says Greyeyes-Brant. "It strengthens all of us."
For 2015-2016, the FVIF received 65 applications from across Canada, 30 of which were selected to get funding.
"It's an excellent program," says Morrison. "The funding is there and it's stuff that you see the benefits from. Sometimes you wonder if a program really works and this one does."