Bob McLeod - Family Violence

Ministers' Statements and Speeches

(October 22, 2013) - Mr. Speaker, many Northwest Territories residents continue to experience family violence or are dealing with its negative after-effects. This is not the kind of territory that we want. We talk about healthy and educated people in this Assembly, and we talk about safe and sustainable communities. We are committed to achieving those goals and addressing family violence is an important part of that commitment.

One of the biggest challenges we face when it comes to family violence is the perception that what goes on in a person’s family is private business. Most times that is true. But family violence is a complex problem that has its roots in social issues. These are issues like prevailing attitudes, social inequality and systemic injustice. Social problems require a community solution; they cannot be fixed by solitary individuals alone. Particularly those who are being abused by those they should be able to trust most.

Shared responsibility and community solutions are something we have been discussing a lot lately in the context of community safety. Family violence is no different; we all have a responsibility to do whatever we can to ensure that people, especially the most vulnerable people, are safe in their own homes.

Government has an important leadership role to play in stopping family violence. We share that role with other partners, like community governments, Aboriginal governments, law enforcement and community social agencies. Together we are responsible for developing and implementing strategies to prevent family violence. We also work together to ensure that programs and services are available to support victims of family violence and to help the perpetrators take responsibility for and change their actions.

Government programs for victims of family violence include emergency funding that helps them with financial needs related to the crime. RCMP, social workers, and victim services workers provide support throughout the territory. If they are not safe in their homes, victims can stay at one of our local shelters while they think about what to do next.

For perpetrators of violence, our government’s new 24-week Wek’eahkaa program reflects our healing philosophy. Violence is a choice and people need effective strategies and tools for dealing with their anger appropriately and constructively. The Wek’eahkaa program helps teach men who have used violence in their relationships that there is a better way. We believe every day brings a new chance for a violent person to change his behaviour. This pilot project being delivered in Yellowknife was designed for Northern residents. Ultimately, our goal is to have a program that is accessible and relevant throughout the Northwest Territories.

The community can play a role by watching out for the signs of abuse and taking steps to stop it. A healthy and safe community is one where friends and neighbours know and look out for each other. Friends need to ask victims to get help. Neighbours need to call the police when they hear violence in the home or on the street. People need to listen to victims and help them to make the choices that will keep themselves and their families safe.

Family violence is related to many of the issues we deal with as elected leaders. It is connected to poverty, to mental health and addictions and to respect for women. As we all know, these issues are complicated and the links are not always direct. But by taking a holistic approach, we can make progress on the long-term issues while taking immediate action to ensure victims’ safety.

I would like to thank the Coalition Against Family Violence for their work throughout the Northwest Territories to support victims, including the work they do for Family Violence Awareness Week. They help women and teens to know when they or their friends are in unhealthy relationships, and they support victims to be safe. Recently, one of the booklets they produced to help northern teenagers became so popular they were asked to send copies throughout Canada, United States and the United Kingdom. We are not alone in facing this problem. We have a lot to learn from our neighbours, and they have a lot to learn from us.

Mr. Speaker, we cannot achieve the vision of this Assembly if we do not address family violence. Our people cannot be healthy and educated when they live in fear of violence in their own home. They will not have the freedom or confidence to pursue their goals or participate fully in the economic or social life of their community. Children who witness violence will find it difficult to grow up to be good parents and loving partners. As leaders, we need to take a strong stand against family violence. The people of the Northwest Territories deserve nothing less.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.