Circles of Support and Change

Project to address gender-based violence launches in Canso

Initiative will also launch in local African Nova Scotian communities

By Lois Ann Dort    

HAZEL HILL – A new initiative to address gender-based violence is supporting community-based solutions in Canso and will soon come to other communities in MODG and the Strait Region.

Over the last two years the #MeToo movement has brought the conversation about gender-based violence out into the open. Prior to revelations alleging sexualized violence about and by powerful celebrities, there was a call for justice by Indigenous peoples across Canada in reaction to the thousands of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. That call for action brought about several projects including a partnership between the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre (AWRC) and the Paqtnkek Health Centre, located in the community of Paqtnkek near the town of Antigonish, which began in 2014, that sought to respond to and prevent gender-based violence.

That project resulted in a work plan that identified needs, resources and strategies to support those affected by gender-based violence, along with tactics to reduce such violence in the community. The success of the project led to the decision to transfer what was learned in the rural Indigenous context to other rural communities. This fall that plan is moving into the action phase with the hiring of community facilitators in Canso, African Nova Scotian communities in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough and at the Nova Scotia Community College in Port Hawkesbury.

On Tuesday, September 24 the launch of the Canso and area Circles of Support and Change project was held at Fanning Education Centre / Canso Academy.

Approximately 30 people from the Canso area participated in the community meeting which sought to answer key questions as to what was wanted and needed in the area to tackle the problem of gender-based violence. Groups of participants worked together to answer four questions posed by the organizers: What is your vision for a healthy future in Canso? What is needed in Canso for a better response to gender-based violence; or any type of violence? How does Canso respond now? How do victims seek help in the community; how can we engage community members in the project?

Participants filled the long sheets of paper with answers; often pointing to the deterioration of services in the community that impacted this issue, services such as the closures at the local hospital. Current resources were also highlighted such as the provision of AWRC outreach worker, Marcia Connolly, who visits the community on a regularly scheduled basis.

Karla Stevens, who was instrumental in leading the Circles of Support and Change project in Paqtnkek, told those assembled that the process needed to be led by the community as community buy-in was crucial to tackling gender-based violence and creating strategies specific to their area.

At the end of the evening, Stevens reviewed the many answers to the questions posed. Participants are anxious to move forward with the project and look forward to the hiring of a local facilitator in the near future.

Tonya Pelley, a local community facilitor for the African Nova Scotian communities in the Guysborough area, also attended the Canso launch meeting and said that a meeting would be held at the Sunnyville Community Centre on Thursday, Oct. 3 at 5 p.m. to discuss the initiative and gather input from community members.

The meeting wrapped up with cake and general conversation among those in attendance.