A member of the Legislative Assembly is raising the alarm about the prevalence of sexual assault and violence in the Northwest Territories — including some of her own lived experiences.

Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby said she received disturbing social media messages on the 
weekend, “eventually leading to a pornographic photograph and vulgar language about what
the sender wanted.” Photo courtesy of Katrina Nokleby 

At an Assembly sitting on Monday, Feb. 28, Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby questioned the minister responsible for the status of women, Caroline Wawzonek, about the GNWT’s strategy for combating sexual violence.

In her opening statement, Nokleby recounted an experience she had had the previous weekend: That Saturday evening, she said, she received private online messages from “someone who wanted to meet me.”

When she didn’t respond, “the messages escalated, eventually leading to a pornographic photograph and vulgar language about what the sender wanted.”

Nokleby said this was not the first time she had received such messages since taking office.

After sharing her story on social media, Nokleby says she received a number of responses from those who had had similar experiences, particularly women. “The response was overwhelming, and frankly, quite disturbing,” she said.

In response to questions from Nokleby about services that are offered to victims or potential victims, Wawzonek said the Status of Women Council of the NWT offers a service to residents that helps them create a safety plan to leave a dangerous relationship. She said the council is working on distributing this information to all 33 communities in the territory, as well as on social media.

Wawzonek acknowledged that many victims may not want to approach the RCMP with their stories, saying these victims could instead pursue civil actions.

Nokleby also asked what was being done to address sexual violence in the territory given the fact that small communities of the kind found in the territory are at higher risk for incidents of sexual violence.

Wawzonek said the GNWT is participating in a federal-provincial-territorial collaboration to develop an action plan to address gender-based violence. “Part of our role is to call attention to the fact that there are certain risk factors that, frankly, do attach to so many individuals in the north at a much higher rate,” she said.

Nokleby also asked if the territory was any closer to adopting Clare’s Law, a law that has already been implemented in parts of the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada that would give women the resources to conduct background checks on potential romantic partners. Wawzonek responded that her department was “following and monitoring what’s happening with Clare’s Law” in other jurisdictions, but that such a law might not be effective in a jurisdiction with smaller, more interconnected communities “where the realities of violence may be very normalized.”

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