Indigenous women are a tremendous source of strength and resilience, and have helped shape and influence their communities as nurturers, caregivers, providers, teachers and leaders. However, the ongoing impact of colonialism, systemic discrimination and racism perpetuate behaviours that lead to violence against Indigenous women and girls.

Across Canada, Indigenous women are three times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women.1 These alarming statistics and the need to address the root causes of violence were the key drivers in leading Ontario’s response to the national crisis.

Ending Violence Against Indigenous Women

In February 2016, in collaboration with Indigenous partners, Ontario released Walking Together: Ontario’s Long-Term Strategy to End Violence Against Indigenous Women. The strategy, co-designed and developed with Indigenous partners, focuses on:

  • Raising awareness and preventing violence
  • Providing programs and community services that reflect the priorities of Indigenous leaders and communities
  • Ensuring young people and families get the support they need to promote healing within Indigenous communities

The strategy was the result of collaborative work with five Indigenous organizations and several ministries: Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, Ontario Native Women’s Association, the Métis Nation of Ontario, Independent First Nations, the Chiefs of Ontario, and 10 Ontario government ministries. The Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation co-led the province’s involvement in this work, along with the Ontario Women’s Directorate (now the Ministry of the Status of Women).

Since 2016-17, Ontario has been investing $100 million over three years to implement the strategy and focus on six key action areas:

  • Supporting children, youth and families
  • Community safety and healing
  • Leadership, collaboration, alignment and accountability
  • Improved data and research
  • Policing and justice
  • Prevention and awareness

Together with Indigenous partners, Ontario ministries have worked alongside the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation to make significant progress in implementing the following initiatives:

  • The Family Well-Being program supports Indigenous families and helps communities begin to heal from the impacts of intergenerational violence and trauma. The program provides workers with supports to address frontline needs and to deliver community-based programming based on their local contexts. The program also offers communities the opportunity to design safe spaces where holistic, culturally safe and prevention-based services can be sought and received without stigma by Indigenous women, children and youth at risk of family violence.
  • The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres’ Kizhaay Anishinaabe Niin: I Am A Kind Man program expanded from five locations to 24 Friendship Centres and two additional sites to support Indigenous men through healing and violence prevention programming.
  • The ministry is working with Indigenous partners and relevant ministries to develop and deliver mandatory Indigenous Cultural Competency Training to all Ontario public servants by 2021. To date, more than 750 senior executives and political staff have received training.

Programs like Kizhaay Anishinaabe Niin work to end violence against Indigenous women and girls by helping Indigenous men address trauma in their lives and create opportunities for healing. It is an example of the great work that Friendship Centres do every day to help improve the lives of urban Indigenous people.

Sylvia Maracle, Executive Director, Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres

National Indigenous Women’s Summit

Ontario successfully hosted the fifth National Indigenous Women’s Summit in March, 2017 with the theme of “Empowering Indigenous Women: Now and Into the Future.”

The province welcomed approximately 300 First Nation, Inuit, and Métis delegates, including youth, as well as federal, provincial and territorial representatives to the event. The summit was an initiative under the Long-Term Strategy, and a key commitment of the 2nd National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Improving Access to Indigenous Midwifery Care

Ontario is improving access to culturally appropriate child and pregnancy care by supporting a new Indigenous midwifery program, starting with six Indigenous midwifery locations across the province.

Indigenous midwives provide a full range of culturally safe midwifery primary care, support services, language and community education.

1 Shannon Brennan (2011). Violent Victimization of Aboriginal Women in the Canadian Provinces, 2009. Statistics Canada – Catalogue no. 85-002-X.