The causes of disempowerment that many Indigenous women and girls experience are rooted in historical factors including colonialism, racism, and residential schools. The impacts of these historical factors have resulted in profound harm to Indigenous communities including loss of culture and language, alienation, poverty, unemployment, addiction, loss of healthy life skills, and an erosion of traditional knowledge and values including the experience of socially, culturally and spiritually nourishing relationships.
ANFCA’s Provincial Women’s Initiative focuses on addressing systemic barriers that impact Indigenous women’s emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. By working to create positive cultural and systemic shifts, this initiative proposes to support gender equity for Indigenous women at the community level.
This initiative consists of 4 key activities:
- Communication and Resource Development: focused on developing, supporting and/or promoting programs that address violence against Indigenous women and girls and addressing systemic barriers that are producing the environment of violence.
- Increasing Networks and Partnerships: building opportunities for Indigenous women in leadership roles, supporting Friendship Centres to provide program and services for women, creating partnerships with provincial and regional organizations working from a gender lens.
- Piloting Empowerment: In partnership with the Lac La Biche Native Friendship Centre, the development, implementation, and evaluation of an Indigenous Women’s Empowerment program.
- Incorporating Indigenous Cultural Values and Knowledge: Introducing and ensuring an Indigenous perspective is used in programs, services, and provincial strategies that address systemic barriers impeding Indigenous women’s success and leadership.
Along with local Friendship Centres, ANFCA has created a Provincial Women’s Advisory Committee to help guide and broaden the Initiative vision and voice issues from a regional perspective.
Violence Prevention – Working in Friendship to End Violence against Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA Peoples
This project will strengthen the capacity of ANFCA to support the 21-member Friendship Centres to strategically and cohesively address the systemic barriers and pressing contemporary issues that contribute to the ongoing role of racism and misogyny in perpetuating Indigenous gender-based violence, disparities in Indigenous women’s health and wellness, and hindering the fulfilment of Indigenous women’s equality, security, economic, social, and cultural rights in Alberta’s urban and rural centres.
The 21 Friendship Centres in Alberta have provided a wide range of culturally safe and responsive support and prevention programs to urban Indigenous people for over 50 years. Despite these efforts, there remains an urgent need to develop a Provincial Friendship Centre Action Framework and Advocacy Agenda to continue developing strategic partnerships through consistent long-term networking to address all forms of violence and systemic barriers impacting Indigenous women and girls in the urban and rural communities to advance their health and wellbeing. This project aligns with the ANFCA’s 2017- 2022 Organizational Strategic Plan which includes building the capacity of the sector-specific Provincial Women’s Initiative to support member Friendship Centres in improving the socio-economic environment of their community members, support Friendship Centres advocacy role, and create capacity and funding to support and manage the Women’s Initiative.
This project’s objectives include:
1) Development of a Provincial Friendship Centre Strategic Action Framework addressing Indigenous gender-based issues
Despite the national and provincial media surrounding the Inquiry of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls and the #MeToo movement, violence against women is on the rise and urban Indigenous females in Alberta largely remain silent on disclosing the violence they experience. Many urban Indigenous women being served through community-based Friendship Centres struggle with naming, acknowledging, and openly talking about violence in their lives. This silence also limits the development and implementation of programs and services.
The development of a Strategic Action Framework will guide the work of ANFCA in supporting Friendship Centres in addressing violence against Indigenous women and girls with clear strategic priorities, objectives and actions, and provide ANFCA with the ability to measure change over numerous years. ANFCA’s work will support and enhance Friendship Centre communities’ responses to the ongoing and increasing gender-based violence against Indigenous women and girls. This framework would ensure that Indigenous females are at the heart of decision-making and strengthen coordination and collective actions while building the capacity of the provincial office and ANFCA’s 21 Friendship Centre partners. With a vision for healthy and safe communities for Indigenous women and girls, the Strategic Action Framework will also address significant gaps in a number of Provincial Strategic Plans on issues of gender-based violence that do not include the voices and needs of Indigenous women and girls, nor have included Indigenous-specific recommendations despite the overrepresentation of Indigenous victims.
Unlike other criminal activity in Canada, for the last 40 years reports of violence against women and girls have increased, particularly for Indigenous women and girls in Alberta. Indigenous women experience the highest rates of violence, including extreme, life‐threatening violence, in the country. In Alberta, Indigenous women are seven times more likely to be a victim of homicide than non-Indigenous women (StatsCan 2017). Indigenous women also “reported” that they had experienced spousal violence more than three times that of non-Indigenous women.
According to the 2014 GSS, nearly twice as many Indigenous women who reported spousal violence experienced the most serious forms of sexual and physical violence. Indigenous women also reported that they feared for their lives at a greater frequency than non-Indigenous women (53% versus 29%) and police-reported family violence against children and youth was higher in 2017 than 2016. Rates of violence were higher for female victims in every metropolitan area in Canada. Over 4,500 girls and young women reported sexual violence in 2017. It is important to note that these are statistics based on police reports; of equal importance, it is vital to note that the majority of Indigenous women and girls do not report violence inflicted upon them to the police. This continued silence is attributable to a number of systemic barriers including racism, fear, re-victimization due to discrimination, or a community normalization of silence.
2) Develop a Provincial Friendship Centre Advocacy Agenda with complimentary advocacy media addressing emerging issues impacting Indigenous women and girls.
ANFCA also acts in a supporting role for Alberta Friendship Centres and their communities by advocating to all levels of government and provincial services. Advocacy can make a difference in removing barriers and simplifying processes. Work undertaken with true reconciliation intent, and allows Friendship Centres to do what they do best, provide culturally relevant supports and services to the community.
With a developed advocacy agenda, ANFCA and its members can have a unified voice with key messages calling for changes, identifying needs, and addressing emerging issues. ANFCA will develop policy positions on priority issues through the advocacy agenda, and those policy positions will drive the Alberta Friendship Centre Movement’s advocacy work to create opportunities to move recommendations forward to the appropriate municipal, provincial, or federal bodies and other key stakeholders. Media advocacy materials and specific advocacy campaigns will be developed that are geared towards stakeholders, the community, and policymakers to create community change through awareness, policy and action.