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.

Take action! This post was submitted in response to Voices of Our Future Application: Challenges and Solutions to Creating Change.


It is so refreshing to read about how the two are indeed connnected and that is is not an either/or situation. We can indeed share information and transfer knowledge. Thank you for educating me (an American) on your work with Aboriginal women in Canada.


Hi Arlene thanks for posting this. You are right, there is such a facade in Canada of all things peaceful & fair and that injutices have been made up for. I would be so interested in hearing from the women involved directly with the Centre here on World Pulse...letting them engage here and tell their own stories. Even living fairly close myself to the Six Nations, it is still a world away in terms of my own reality and experience of Canadian culture. have you seen or heard of the movie Third World Canada?? I heard about it briefly on CBC last week, I would be interested to see the film. Are there major needs in your community around resources..and I mean practical everyday items around children's school supplies, etc?? I have heard so many stories around the lack of literacy tools for children in remote communities.

thank you for the work that you do and bringing this to light on this site- it is very much appreciated. Darcey

"A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality." — John Lennon

Aboriginal societies are based in oral story telling and information sharing rather than in writing and illiteracy rates are high. Using the internet and web-based tools is happening more and more often so I am totally excited about that. We plan to develop a program to encourage women in the shelter to use the computer and write their stories so hopefully you will hear from them soon.

I haven't heard of the movie. It sounds like I need to see it.

In terms of resources, children's educational toys and art supplies and women's personal care items like tampons, shampoo, toothpaste etc plus towels and washcloths are the greatest need.

The other real need is a major (national) fundraiser of some sort. It is a small community so everyone is fighting for the same dollar. Our government financially starves us because we protest against them... Our rent to the government in the building we use is $4,000 per month and the utilities are $2,000 a month. Some day you will have to visit. If you give me your email I can send you come pictures and our brochure.

Sigh... working in a non-profit environment, I am sure I am not telling you something you don't already know.

$6,000 a month in basic do you do it??? I can't even imagine. that is exciting that you are going to be working on a program to get the women more involved in web-based programs....who knows- maybe next year some could even be writing towards VOF!

that is good to know the resources you need- who knows, maybe in the future, we could work on something to help in that way...I really believe in meeting practical needs.

I would love to visit at some point. The only areas of Canada that I have not been to is NWT, Yukon & Nunavut, so they are definitely on our travel plan list. We have a 3 month old, so it may not be for a couple of years at this point.

have a safe trip, Darcey

"A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality." — John Lennon

I will keep it in mind- you never know.... thank you :)

"A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality." — John Lennon