Ensuring that women in the Northwest Territories have a safety plan to help in situations of intimate partner violence will soon become a reality after the Gahcho Kue Mine and NWT Status of Women Council announced $65,000 for a new project this week.

In addition to the funds from De Beers Group and Mountain Province Diamonds, the NWT Victims Assistance Committee from the Department of Justice will donate $25,000 to the effort.

The money will go toward a safe planning app to be installed in smart phones that women can quickly access when in a dangerous situation with a partner. The initiative will also assist in creating a binder of information to be distributed to frontline service providers in every community in the NWT.

Planning resources on a website and virtual platform are also part of the project to be completed by the new year.

Louise Elder, executive director with the NWT Status of Women Council, said her organization published the We Hear You Report in 2020 based on interviews from women across the territory who have experienced intimate partner violence. From that report, 21 recommendations were identified, one of which was to increase the resources that women can access quickly to respond to threats of violence against them and their children.

“When we distributed that report, we sent it out widely and engaged in dialogue with a number of different organizations, including Gahcho Kue,” Elder explained. “I think they wanted to learn more about our findings and conclusions and how to action our recommendation.

“The bigger picture for us is we are coming at it from what we hear from women directly, as well as service providers. The bigger context is that we know that we have the second-highest rate of intimate partner violence in Canada and that there was an increased rate from 2018 to 2019.

“There are real people suffering and we will offer whatever assistance we can offer to them,” said Elder.

It isn’t uncommon for her organization to hear regularly from women who are in distress with basic questions on how to get help, she said. A formal plan can help women mentally and emotionally organize and get themselves and their children to safety.

In many cases, women who are confronted with intimate violent situations either don’t know where to get help, or can be reluctant to seek help, she added.

“Statistics Canada shows — and NWT is included — that 50 per cent of women, when experiencing a form of physical or sexual assault, choose not to reach out to a formal system for help,” Elder said.

Such a high rate could be due to a number of reasons, including that partner violence is normalized or that it may be difficult for women to get out of a situation economically, particularly if children are involved, she added.

Lyndon Clark, general manager of the Gahcho Kue Mine, said in a statement that the project is consistent with his company’s goals, part of which includes eliminating gender-based violence.

“Everyone must be able to live with dignity and it is very important to enable individuals who face domestic violence to safely exit from these situations,” he said. “We have a zero-tolerance approach to domestic violence, whether it takes place in the workplace or in the home, and we’re proud to support development of critical resources to assist people in need throughout the NWT.”

‘Discreet, timely and accurate’

Elder said safety plans by definition can look different depending on a person’s situation, but a common characteristic is that they are “discreet, timely and accurate.

“A safety plan is a plan to help keep you safe and so there isn’t one type of safety plan,” she said. “What we want to do is provide comprehensive resources in the immediate — things that you need to keep you safe in that very moment.

“So it is a plan for the shorter term — such as the next few weeks following an incident — and until next steps are taken, like proceeding with charges or moving.”

A plan might include descriptions of an exit in a room or reminders to not to be in a room where there are weapons. It might include code words to use when communicating with children or others in an intimate circle.

It might also entail a list of service providers that can help a person walk through court order options or provide information on what funds exist to help pay for groceries or seek shelter.

“So each plan is individualized and unique,” said Elder.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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