As is true for any community in the world, challenges around creating positive change is varied and complex. The particular difficulty faced by the North lies in the fairly recent imposition of Eurocentric institutions and systems into Indigenous communities and the devastating impact of ongoing colonial practices that marginalize Aboriginal people which make up one-half of the population of the Northwest Territories. Control of political, economical, educational and social structures by the mainstream combined with an almost complete halt to the transfer of traditional Aboriginal knowledge effected by the residential school system contributes to the perpetuation of patriarchalsim, a high degree of internalized racism and co-optation of voluntary sector “allies” who put the survival of their organization above that of the people they purport to serve. That along with an emphasis on collaborations and partnerships which are largely unequal in power and resource sharing complete the set-up for a grand deception of the Canadian public laden with self-righteousness and contentment that is difficult to challenge and almost impossible to shift.
The Centre for Northern Families was founded on a peer support model of practice and therefore fulfills a particular niche in meeting the needs of women and families who are marginalized. Most of the women in leadership positions within the Centre have required support services at some point in their lives. In keeping with that history, the Centre has developed strong trust relationship with populations who tend to mistrust institutions by taking a harm reduction approach that meets women and families where they are at in their life journey. As an employer the Centre prioritizes training and hiring women who have accessed programs and services. As a member of coalitions and partnerships, the Centre endeavours to ensure the Terms of Reference reflect an empowerment model that is inclusive of marginalized populations. As an activist, the Centre gathers the stories of women and their families and based on that perspective provides input into legislative and changes and practice standards. When that process fails, the Centre has taken direct action in protesting state interventions which in some instances has put the survival of our agency at risk.
PulseWire and other online communities are vital mechanisms for information sharing and networking. It contributes to global change that can be experienced at a local level both in terms of identifying solutions to common challenges and in ensuring international accountability for how women are treated by the state. Canada in particular is adept at presenting itself in a positive light, giving the impression they are a country of equality at home and a protector of human rights abroad. Their track record with respect to Aboriginal communities in Canada, and in particular Aboriginal women reveal the opposite, but it has been difficult to crack the facade. Canadian women need our sisters abroad to generate a movement that changes the global circumstance of women.