A unique pilot project aims to educate and empower Indigenous men to recognize and speak out about violence against women.

I Am A Kind Man (Néya Napew Na Muton in Cree) is held at the Canadian Native Friendship Centre (CNFC) and originated at the Aboriginal Men’s Violence Program in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Del Anderson, the facilitator, speaks with enthusiasm about the program.  

“Look at this,” Anderson said, handing me his phone. He’s pulled up a leadnow.ca Facebook post from Dec. 6, the Day of Remembrance of Violence Against Women.

The post includes grim statistics. For example, 50 per cent of women have at least one experience of physical or sexual violence. Disturbingly, Indigenous women are much more likely to be killed than non-Indigenous womensix times more likely. And if you want to run the numbers, Canadians spend $7.4 billion annually covering the cost of this violence.

“The roots of the violence are found in the fear and shame-based teachings from the Christian beliefs imposed on children in residential schools. They were taught that they were evil pagans and punished for speaking their language or following their ceremonies,” said Anderson.

He continued, “The older generations who were raised in those schools brought the violence back to their families. They were never taught to love, so they didn’t know how to show feelings of affection and tenderness after that. Then came the Sixties Scoop where children were again removed from their families and raised outside of their culture.”

Anderson said violence against women wasn’t part of Indigenous communities before colonization.

“Anthropologists called Indigenous people in the Americas masters at raising their children. The key factor was that communities followed the Creator’s will and taught their children to love themselves,” said Anderson.

The pilot began in October and is expected to run anywhere from eight to 12 weeks. The Alberta Native Friendship Centre Association asked CNFC to run the pilot. Other reserves and educational institutions may also offer the program in the future.

Participants were referred, but once the pilot is finished, men can apply to attend the free program. The program isn’t just for Indigenous men, either; it’s geared towards men of all ages.

During the program, Anderson establishes a safe and confidential learning circle with a maximum of 20 participants, some who attend willingly and some who are mandated as conditions of their parole.

The curriculum focuses on what is called the Seven Grandfather Teachings. These include: wisdom (understanding the forms of violence); love (healthy relationships); respect (understanding boundaries); bravery (positive role modeling); honesty (power and control); humility (equality); and truth (promoting change).

Anderson’s philosophy is to offer information rather than forcing it on participants. Listening is as important as teaching, so reflection and sharing is always a part of the group process. Topics for the program will be selected according to the needs of the participants and their personal experiences.

“Trauma is likely to resurface for some when working through these painful issues. The group will follow protocol to engage an elder for support, guidance, and advocacy and to invoke the Creator and ancestors through ceremony. Access to mental health professionals is also recommended and provided.”

For more information, visit www.cnfc.ca or phone 780.761.1900.


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Featured Image: Del Anderson (pictured) is the facilitator of the pilot program. | Aydan Dunnigan-Vickruck