Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society: Together for Justice

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Overview

Cultivating community-wide safety to improve response services to women and girls

Indigenous Women, RCMP and Service Providers Work Together for Justice: A Response-based Safety Collaboration in the Yukon.

The Together for Justice initiative was borne with the intent of putting a stop to violence against women and to help women who have experienced violence transfer to violence-free lives. This was to be accomplished through motions meant to cultivate community safety with Gatherings between community members, Aboriginal organizations, front-line service organizations for women, RCMP, and perhaps most importantly, Elders. Relationship-building activities were designed to slowly cultivate comfort and trust between the parties so that a non-judgmental and safe space would be created. It was hoped that the groups would form lasting relationships, which would serve to strengthen interdependence between organizations, and improving RCMP and other service-provider responses to women requiring assistance.

It was determined that altered and improved responses to Aboriginal women would be required for creating safety because the current avenues of maintaining their safety were ineffective and at times detrimental. It was also determined that changes to the current system needed to be accomplished via collaboration by all agencies and people involved in supporting the safety of women in Watson Lake and Whitehorse areas.

ADDITIONAL SUPPORTING INFORMATION

The Together for Justice framework was based on the following response-based principles and understandings, which have largely become the ground for the work.

  • The quality of social responses is the single best predictor of individual and community outcomes in cases of violence and other forms of adversity.
  • Accurate information and accurate descriptions are the first indispensable step in forming effective social responses.
  • Individuals are active and spirited beings who respond to one another and to positive and negative events, including violence.
  • Dignity is central to social life and to individual and collective wellbeing. All forms of violence are an attack on the dignity of the person. Recovery from violence is largely a struggle for dignity.
  • Violence is social in that it involves at least two people, a victim and an offender. Complete descriptions should include the actions of both people; the perpetrator, in committing violence, and the victim, in resisting violence.
  • Violence is unilateral in that it involves actions by one person against the will and well-being of another. Descriptions should reflect the unilateral nature of violent crimes.
  • Individuals respond to and resist violence, overtly and covertly, directly and indirectly – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Violence cannot be understood unless the resistance of the victim is taken into account at all points.
  • Descriptions are formed in language. Language can be a tool for liberation or oppression. Language is the central tool for all criminal justice and professional work – and daily life.
  • Violent crimes, victims and offenders are open misrepresented in criminal justice and professional settings, and in the media. Careful analysis of descriptions is central to ethical and informed social responses
  • Complete analysis must take into account:
    1. The nature of perpetrator actions in context
    2. Victim responses and resistance to those actions
    3. Social responses to perpetrator and victim
    4. Perpetrator and victim responses to social responses
  • Voices of Indigenous women and Elders must be considered in all interventions to ensure they are helpful and respectful.

The Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society (LAWS) and Watson Lake RCMP have broken new ground with a unique community safety initiative. “Together for Justice” is a protocol for building community safety that confirms the new relationship that has been built between LAWS and the local RCMP. On International Women’s Day, Friday March 8, 2013, Together for Justice celebrated its shared journey and commitment to continue a collaboration that advances safety for women. The Protocol establishes principles, objectives and core commitments which capture the new relationship.

The protocol was developed out of a series of workshops that took place from February 2011 to March 2013. The project was initiated by LAWS and held in both Watson Lake and Whitehorse. RCMP employees have joined with Kaska women, Yukon Women’s Coalition delegates, representatives from government and community organizations. Sessions have carefully focused on the justice system, policing, culture, historical colonialism and residential schools to explore and understand how society responds to women who experience violence.

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