Courage for Change: Ontario Native Women’s Association to Expand Across Ontario

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Prioritizing Indigenous Women’s safety

As today pays homage to UN Human Rights Day, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services announced funding over five years through the Indigenous Led Initiative Fund (ILIF) towards the anti-human trafficking protection and healing of Indigenous women and girls.

Today’s announcement represents one of the largest investments in Canada to an Indigenous Women’s Agency.

The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) will use these funds to further develop and expand the Aakode’ewin – Courage for Change Program – across Ontario.

Expansion of this program will lend more attention to the unique needs of the disproportionate numbers of Indigenous women, youth and girls affected by human trafficking.

Indigenous women and girls who are currently at risk, involved in or a survivor of human trafficking will be supported under this program.

It is vital to offer and provide tools to assist youth and get them the services they need.

Brave Beyond Belief

The BRAVE WOMEN who speak of their Journey to Safe Spaces put forth the foundations for Courage to Change.

There are over 3,360 community members and 250 self-identified survivors who have shared their story. The resulting report, Journey to Safe SPACES: Indigenous Anti-Human Trafficking Engagement aims to increase awareness and coordination efforts, improve survivors’ access to services, and enhance justice sector initiatives.

The program offers support in a variety of ways, including 24/7 crisis response, harm reduction and safety planning, 1-1 support with referrals to health care, counselling and addiction services and programming focused on capacity building, empowerment and culturally specific healing.

“ONWA is honoured to continue to do this important work. The expansion of our Courage for Change Program will begin to address gaps in specific services for Indigenous women and girls. With this investment, ONWA will focus on both immediate safety needs and ongoing healing for Indigenous women and girls,” says Cora McGuire-Cyrette, Executive Director, ONWA.

“Through continued implementation of ONWA’s Journey to Safe Spaces Strategy, we continue to honour the knowledge of survivors. This announcement represents one of the largest investments in Canada to an Indigenous Women’s agency to prioritize Indigenous Women’s safety.”

The goal – to create a network of co-ordinated anti-human trafficking supports and services across the province.

Who will benefit?

There are several priority Indigenous communities across Ontario that will now be offered programming such as Timmins, Ottawa, Greenstone, Kenora, Napanee, Sioux Lookout, Midland, Peterborough, Hamilton and Niagara Region.

“Because we’re expanding into 10 communities, this is our opportunity to create a pathway to safe spaces. It takes a community to create change,” says Dawn Lavell-Harvard, Board President, ONWA.

The first new program partner will be the Niagara Chapter of Native Women in Fort Erie, a priority area due to the current lack of programming, high tourism and proximity to the US border. ONWA will assist with program setup, training, and ongoing support to ensure sustainability.

Walking alongside Indigenous women and girls on their journey through the Courage for Change Program is a privilege and ONWA is the finest organization to do so.

About The Ontario Native Women’s Association

The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) is a non-profit organization that empowers and supports all Indigenous women and their families in the province of Ontario through research, advocacy, policy development and programs that focus on local, regional and provincial activities, since 1971. Ending violence against Indigenous women and their families and ensuring equal access to justice, education, health services, environmental stewardship and economic development, sit at the cornerstone of the organization. ONWA insists on social and cultural well-being for all Indigenous women and their families, so that all women, regardless of tribal heritage may live their best life.