Woman Warriors Newsletter

Family Violence Awareness Month: A Culturally Relevant App for the Northwest Territories

My example of a culturally safe, culturally relevant, and trauma-informed app for Indigenous women in the Northwest Territories. The name is a placeholder, and I would never name a program without community consultation and I would need to research the name to see if it is copyrighted and available as a web domain. 

This research is the original, unpublished, independent work by the author, Shelley Wiart. Any use of this publication must have prior permission from the author. All Women Warriors content is copyrighted. Email for permission: Shelley@womenwarriors.club

I submitted this research proposal this week for university course credit. I am sharing it with the Women Warriors audience as part of my commitment to being an action-oriented Indigenous health re-searcher. I believe we all need to contribute our voices and resources to implementing the Calls for Justice contained in the Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Please review this report and consider your unique talents and how you may collaborate on projects that implement the 231 Calls for Justice. Thank you. 

Indigenous women experience a disproportionate rate of gendered sexualized violence as represented in the cases of Murdered and Missing Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG), which the MMIWG Inquiry estimated, “thousands of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) have been lost to the Canadian genocide to date” (Reclaiming Power and Place, 2019, p. 3).This colonial violence against MMIWG and 2SLGBTQQIA individuals has been deemed a legal act of genocide under international law (National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, 2019). The report stated the Canadian nation state is guilty of committing “genocide” because it systematically, “imposed its own laws, institutions, and cultures on Indigenous Peoples while occupying their lands. Racist colonial attitudes justified Canada’s policies of assimilation, which sought to eliminate First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples as distinct Peoples and communities” (p. 4). Due to land dispossession, poverty, and colonial violence embedded in institutions and policies Indigenous women have been and continue to be forced into violent spaces with limited ability to access culturally relevant and culturally safe services. For example, there is a lack of culturally relevant resources and programs addressing gender-based violence for Indigenous communities (Kubik, et al., 2009; Fiolet et al., 2019). Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of domestic violence due to “crowded homes, substance abuse, limited access to services and reduced peer support” and there exists an urgent need for online resources to address gender-based violence (United Nations, 2020, p. 17). A survey conducted by the Native Women’s Association of Canada in March of 2020 stated the pandemic has heightened the risk of gender-based violence (GBV) for MMIWG and 2SLGBTQQIA individuals with “one in five reporting they’ve been a victim of physical or psychological violence over the past three months” (Wright, 2020). It is more urgent than ever for the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to implement the National Inquiry’s 231 Calls for Justice[1]contained in the Reclaiming Power and Place Report (2019); however, the federal government deferred its national action plan to implement the Calls for Justice in May (Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action et al., 2020 p. 13). It is my intention to explore innovative virtual solutions that the Government of the Northwest Territories may enact and direct COVID-19 funds to – as part of their gender-based violence prevention strategies – that align with the 231 Calls for Justice.  The main theme explored in this paper is the creation of culturally relevant Indigenous family violence interventions – based in the culturally relevant knowledge shared in Baskin’s (2003) family violence approach and program – translated to a website and free app that may be downloaded to any device. 

This theme is important to explore because of the acute crisis of gender-based violence (GBV) in Canada due to the pandemic and social isolation measures. A survey delivered by the Native Women’s Association of Canada stated Indigenous women experienced a seven percent increase in the rates of intimate partner violence, in comparison with numbers over the past five years (Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action et al., 2020 p. 11). The pandemic has created unique risk factors for Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA individualsincluding inadequate housing and a lack of emergency shelters – in fact, “only six percent of shelters in Canada serve Indigenous women and children in Indigenous communities” (Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action et al., 2020 p. 12). Furthermore, Indigenous women living in remote communities or on-reserve may not have access to transportation or telephones to escape the family violence and no safe space to retreat to as part of their safety planning (Mofitt and Fikowski, 2017, p. 13). According to Fiolet, et al., (2019) Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA individuals also expressed their reluctance to seek help from support services for the following reasons: shame or embarrassment of the family violence; tight knit community and issues surrounding confidentiality and protection of privacy; and, inappropriate service provider responses causing mistrust and fear (p. 7). Furthermore, Joyce Echaquan’s[2]death serves as a reminder of the urgency of cultural safety in colonial institutions being accessed by Indigenous peoples. It is the responsibility of all levels of government to provide culturally competent services including government funded family violence shelters and family violence prevention and awareness programs and services. 

This research proposal is timely since November is Family Violence Prevention Month[3]in the Northwest Territories, as well as the International Day For the Elimination of Violence Against Women[4](25 Nov.). Online resources aimed at Indigenous family violence are required to inform and educate the public on family violence prevention, GBV risk factors, safety planning, and existing resource dedicated to supporting Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA individuals fleeing dangerous spaces. Being action oriented is a key component of Indigenous health research so I am proposing a concrete action – a family violence website and an app – that can help address family violence for Indigenous communities or organizations that may have limited or overburdened human resources and lack of access to judicial, police or health services (Gaudry as cited in Strega and Brown, 2015). This research proposal, which is the foundation for a community based participatory action research project to create the website and app based on community collaboration, fulfills the need for Indigenous women’s inclusions in pandemic response plans (Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action et al., 2020 p. 16). It is my intention, as an Métis womxn with community ties to both Treaty 6 (Lloydminster, Alberta) and Treaty 8 (Yellowknife, Northwest Territories) to create a pathway to virtual decolonized resources and self-determination in Indigenous family violence interventions (Mack and Na’puti, 2019).The alarming rate of violence against women in the Northwest Territories (NWT) – nine times the national rate with seventy-five percent of victims self identifying as Indigenous – is my motivation to begin this project as soon as possible since social distancing and risk factors will increase during the winter months (Mofitt and Fikowski, 2017). There exist gaps in Northern service delivery with only five shelters serving the territory (often at full capacity) and a shortage of stable and affordable housing for Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA individualsfleeing family violence (Mofitt and Fikowski, 2017). Mofitt and Fikowski (2017) identified many women in small communities do not have access to a phone so I will include in my proposal a response similar to the Yukon government’s response of free cell phones with a four month service plan to women in vulnerable situations[5].

Another aspect that may be considered in this research proposal is cultural safety training for shelter employees. It is important that service providers to understand the historical and intergenerational trauma that Indigenous peoples experienced due to residential schools and the ongoing impacts of colonization (Mofitt and Fikowski, 2017; Kubik, et al., 2009). In order tounderstand why Indigenous women and girlsand 2SLGBTQQIA individuals have been targets of genocide in Canada, it must be framed in relation to the historical context of the Indian Act and how it is a form of gender discrimination (Baskin, 2003; Kubik, et al., 2009). Under the influence of the Indian Act Indigenous women’s bodies and sexuality were gendered and racialized which lead to the “reduction of the fully human Indigenous woman into a highly stereotyped version” expressed as the racial slur “squaw” (Eberts, 2017, p. 71). The use of stereotypes is an “ideological dehumanization” of Indigenous women and girls used to “justify both settler domination over Indigenous peoples and lands and violence perpetrated against [them]” (Bourgeois, 2017, p. 260). The insidious purpose to this stereotype was to control Indigenous women and remove them from their traditional lands. It pushed Indigenous women and girlsand 2SLGBTQQIA individuals into violent spaces as evident by the statistics that “at least three-quarters of Aboriginal women have experienced family violence and the mortality rate for Aboriginal women due to violence is three times higher for Aboriginal women than non-Aboriginal woman” (Kubik, et al., 2009, p. 23). Also, in the context of the North how the social determinants of health such as poverty, food insecurity, inadequate housing and low educational attainment contribute to Indigenous women’s vulnerable positions and why they may feel helpless to leave a violent relationship (Mofitt and Fikowski, 2017).  

The foundation of my culturally relevant ideas for family violence online resources will be drawn from several scholars specializing in the area of Indigenous populations and GBV including: Mofitt and Fikowski’s (2017) Final Report: Hearing about the Realities of Intimate Partner Violence in the Northwest Territories from Frontline Service Providers; Baskin’s (2003) Mino-Yaa-Daa Programthat expressed the Indigenous worldviews of holism, community controlled, and culture-based in their family violence program; Mack and Na’puti (2019) decolonial and Indigenous feminist resistance to gendered violence; and, Bailey and Shayan’s (2016) analysis on the technological dimensions of the MMIWG crisis. As well, I will follow the recommendations on behalf of the Reclaiming Power and Place (2019) report that stated the implementation of the Calls for Justice must be: rooted in Indigenous values, philosophies, and knowledge systems; include the perspectives and participation of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people with lived experience, including the families of the missing and murdered and survivors of violence; and the services and solutions must be led by Indigenous governments, organizations, and people; include cultural safety and trauma informed approaches (pp. 170-173). My main focus in the Calls for Justice and GBV awareness and prevention pertain to Calls for Health and Wellness Service Providers 7.1-7.9 (pp. 188-189). This health research incorporates the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada calls to action.[6]  The Government of the Northwest Territories is in the process of modifying legislation and policies to best reflect the principles set out in UNDRIP[7]and are in the process of responding to the Calls for Justice of the Reclaiming Power and Place Report in their initial response titled, “Doing Our Part”[8].

In the creation of the Indigenous family violence app, I will analyze three current GBV safety planning apps: 1)Bright Sky[9]– a UK based free app providing support and information to those concerned that someone they know is experiencing domestic abuse 2) myPlan[10]– a North American based free app to help with safety decisions for those experiencing intimate partner violence 3) Florish[11]– an Alberta based app focused on resources and legal information for GBV survivors in Edmonton and area. It is my intention to adapt these apps to Indigenous families and communities that need free, accessible, and culturally relevant information on family violence. I will make a list of recommendations for features to include in the app in a detailed report. Furthermore, as part of my commitment to being action-oriented I will share this idea in my bi-weekly Women Warriors newsletter[12]and email the final research paper to the Status of Women Council of NWT[13], the YWCA NWT[14], and the Yellowknife Women’s Centre[15]to seek future community collaboration and/or funding opportunities to make this website and app a reality.


Bailey, J., & Shayan, S. (2016). Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Crisis: Technological Dimensions.Canadian Journal of Women and the Law28:2, 321-341 https://doi.org/ 10.3138/cjwl.28.2.321.
Baskin, C. (2003). From victims to leaders: Activism against violence towards women. In K.Anderson and B. Lawrence (Eds.). Strong women stories: Native vision and community survival(pp. 213–227). Toronto: Sumach Press.
Bourgeois, R. (2017). Perpetual State of Violence: An Indigenous Feminist Anti-Oppression        Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. In Green, J. Editor.        Making space for Indigenous feminism(2nd ed., pp. 69-102). Black Point, N.S. :   Fernwood Publishing.
Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) & Palmater, P. (2020 June 19).Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Retrieved from https://pampalmater.com/publications/.  
Eberts, M. & (2017). Being an Indigenous Woman is a “High-Risk Lifestyle. In Green, J. Editor. Making space for Indigenous feminism(2nd ed., pp. 69-102). Black Point, N.S. :    Fernwood Publishing.
Fiolet, R., Tarzia, L., Hameed, M., & Hegarty, K. (2019). Indigenous Peoples’ Help-Seeking Behaviors for Family Violence: A Scoping Review.Trauma, Violence, & Abuse I-11. https://doi.org/10.1177/1524838019852638.
Kubik, W., Bourassa, C., & Hampton, M. (2009). Stolen sisters, second class citizens, poor health: The legacy of colonization in Canada. Humanity & Society, 33(1–2), 18–34.Retrieved from https://0-journals-sagepub-    com.aupac.lib.athabascau.ca/doi/pdf/10.1177/016059760903300103
Mack, A.N., & Na’puti, T.R. (2019) “Our Bodies Are Not Terra Nullius”: Building a Decolonial Feminist Resistance to Gendered Violence, Women’s Studies in Communication, 42:3, 347-370, DOI: 10.1080/07491409.2019.1637803.
Mofitt, P., & Fikowski, H. (2017). Northwest Territories Research Project Report for Territorial Stakeholders: Rural and Northern Community Response to Intimate Partner Violence, Faculties of Nursing and Social Work, Aurora College. Retrieved from https://www.ntassembly.ca/sites/assembly/files/td_17-183.pdf
National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). (2019).The Executive Summary retrieved from https://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/wp-     content/uploads/2018/05/MMIWG-Executive-Summary-ENG.pdf.
National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). (2019).    Reclaiming Power and Place:the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (2019). Retrieved from https://www.mmiwg- ffada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Executive_Summary.pdf. 
Strega, S., & Brown, L. (2015). Research as Resistance: Critical, Indigenous and Anti-oppressive Approaches (2ndEdition). Toronto, Ontario: Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc. 
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Summary : honouring the truth, reconciling for   the future. Winnipeg: Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
United Nations. (2019). United Nations declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.Retrieved from https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/wp-        content/uploads/sites/19/2018/11/UNDRIP_E_web.pdf.
Wright, T. (2020 May 10). Violence against Indigenous women during COVID-19 sparks calls for MMIWG plan. CBC News Manitoba. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/violence-against-indigenous-women-action-plan-covid-19-mmiwg-1.5563528.

[1]They are legal imperatives and not optional. They represent important ways to end the genocide and to transform systemic and societal values that have worked to maintain colonial violence. Download the 231 Calls to Justice extracted from the final report: https://www.kairoscanada.org/missing-murdered-indigenous-women-girls/213-calls-for-justice.
[2]Joyce Echaquan was a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman who died on September 28, 2020 in the Centre hospitalier de Lanaudière in Joliette, Quebec. Before her death, she recorded a Facebook Live video that showed her screaming in distress and healthcare workers abusing her. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Joyce_Echaquan
[4]United Nations resource https://www.un.org/en/events/endviolenceday/.
[6]Reconciliation in health is recognized in two documents that serve as a framework for reconciliation across Canada and internationally: The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action (2015).

Please click the link to review my academic article from our digital storytelling re-search published in Northern Public Affairs magazine, Decolonizing Health Care: Indigenous Digital Storytelling as Pedagogical Tool for Cultural Safety in Health Care Settings.

Upcoming Speaking Engagements & Conferences

November 17th: Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) November 16th-20th, 2020. Our panel, Covid-19 and Global Indigenous Health Inequity: A Holistic Life Cycles Approach to Systems Change is scheduled for Tuesday, November 17th 12:30–2:00 pm MST. Please view our panel on the CSPC program.