In recognition of the Brothers in Spirit campaign

It gives me great pleasure to rise today on behalf of all my colleagues here in the Legislative Assembly to speak to the Brothers in Spirit campaign. The Brothers in Spirit campaign has grown out from a recent movement to encourage and involve men in the prevention of violence against aboriginal women in Yukon and across Canada.

Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council started to include men in their workshops last year. The 2014 Brothers in Spirit project was a two-and-one-half day workshop coordinated with the aim to reach out to Yukon aboriginal men and women alike. For this two-day symposium, YAWC invited two delegates from the 14 Yukon First Nations to attend, and partnerships were formed with existing male-centred campaigns.

This proved to be an effective way to obtain and to share information. The project’s approach was strongly based in organizing an event where participants reflected on issues of violence against women in a healthy and productive manner, using a strength-based, inclusive approach to ensure participants were not targeted or blamed, but able to reflect and to discuss the important, yet taboo, issues constructively.

The keynote speaker was the president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, Michèle Audette. Facilitators included the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres, I am a Kind Man, as well as local and federal White Ribbon campaigns.

The symposium successfully increased the engagement of Yukon First Nation men in the prevention of violence against Yukon First Nation women and girls. Based on the success of the first Brothers in Spirit symposium in 2014, Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council decided to continue this approach of including men in 2015.

This year’s Brothers in Spirit role model poster project continued the involvement of men as role models. The Brothers in Spirit supports the Sisters in Spirit’s project, which documented cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada. Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council is a satellite division of Native Women’s Association of Canada, headquartered in Ottawa.

I’m very pleased today to see that the president of the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council and also the vice-president are in the gallery with us today. I will do some introductions after the tribute, Mr. Speaker.

The Brothers and Sisters poster campaign works toward doing many things, including increasing awareness and community dialogue about the issues of violence against women and girls, creating positive role models for youth, promoting healthy relationships, reclaiming traditional gender roles and responsibilities for men, facilitating networking, mentoring and sharing of personal experiences, building on personal strengths, raising the overall discussion of why aboriginal women and children are the most vulnerable, and inspiring men to get involved and to encourage others.

The role models of the campaign were chosen from different locales in the Yukon and represent all age groups representing different roles in Yukon communities. They are highly respected individuals. These individuals behave in a non-violent, respectful manner toward women and others they encounter in their daily lives.

These role models will help articulate the spirit and emotional and family and community supports that those women and girls and women require in order to help address the issue of violence and violent behaviour in their lives.

The role models took a stand to say that this is how you should behave to be respected. This role model approach captures valuable insight into non-violent choices. Community members recognize these individuals as being role models whom they would like to emulate and know that they respect women, and they will be seen positively and be seen as men. These role models are Eric Morris of Teslin, Percy Henry of Dawson City, James Miller and Isaiah Gilson of Whitehorse, James Allen of Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, and Jeremy Harper of Pelly Crossing. I would like to thank these men who have stood up and chosen to both lend their voices and their faces to the 12 Days to End Violence Against Women campaign.

In my conclusion, violence affects not only the victimized individuals, but also the people of the communities who are close to them. By helping women move out of violence and poverty, it creates a ripple effect. The benefit flows to their children, to their neighbourhood, to the Canadian economy and, ultimately, to all Canadians. Women represent half of Canada’s population. When you improve a women’s economic and social equality, we all benefit. A sense of safety, well-being and empowerment is the foundation and the key to preparing aboriginal women and their families to actively participate in the Canadian economy, and to be able to achieve the goals they set out for themselves and for their children.

In order to succeed, there needs to be buy-in from all levels of government. The Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council asked me to recognize Mayor Curtis and the Whitehorse City Council as having been the strongest supporters, going above and beyond in their support and publicly speaking against violence. More is required from the federal and territorial governments and greater participation from the general public in order to take part in making more effective changes, breaking down silos and working together to address the issue of unison. 

It is only fitting that First Nation men be active allies in the efforts to end the extremely high rates of violence against First Nation women and girls in the Yukon. We have to reach all levels of our society. Violence against women is seen as the norm, and we have to change the mindsets to not accept this as the norm. It is your business. Stand up and speak out against violence in any form that you see.

The Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council says that it is imperative that both men and women work together in unison and in harmony, since violence against First Nation women is not solely based on actions of men. Both men and women have the right to be safe and free from violence. It is a known fact that, in relationships, violence can be inflicted on either partner, although the norm is prevalently toward women. The numbers show that First Nation women are more apt to be murdered by a stranger than a non-First Nation woman.

I would like to thank the members of the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council for the incredible work that they did — and do — with the Brothers in Spirit campaign. I would like it if everybody can help me in welcoming here in the gallery today from the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council, President Marian Horne, Vice-President Lorraine Netro and also Linda Bonnefoy from the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Council and Krista Reid, the president.