A meeting has been called to start a discussion about how men can take action to reduce sexualized and gender-based violence in Hay River.
The Sept. 29 gathering is an initiative of Scott Clouthier.
The aim is to create the groundwork for an action plan to make the town safer for women and gender-diverse people.
Clouthier said the meeting was inspired by a recent similar initiative in Yellowknife.
Nancy MacNeill, a Yellowknife woman and a friend of Clouthier, posted an open letter on Facebook saying how she and all the women she knows are tired of having to work to keep themselves safe.
“So basically, it was a call to action,” said Clouthier, adding it showed that it’s a men’s problem and they really need to step up in a meaningful way and hold each other accountable to make communities safer.
“Hearing words from someone that I care about talking about feeling unsafe in certain situations, that’s something that really struck a chord with me,” he said. “So that really got me thinking about what can I do within our community to help make our community safer and reduce gender-based and sexualized violence.”
In Yellowknife, meetings have also begun by a group of men to discuss the issue, and a Facebook group has been established under the name Answer the Call
Clouthier’s effort is his own personal initiative, and he is not representing any organization.
“It’s just me as an individual taking stock of what I can do to help organize fellow men in a way that we can come together and put together some sort of action plan to reduce the sexualized or gender-based violence in our town,” he said.
Clouthier hopes the meeting will just be the start.
“I think there’s enough men in this community who are fed up having to hear from our friends that they’re being hurt,” he said. “So I think there’s enough people who have a similar mindset to me that we can put together a core group to make this an ongoing thing, whether it’s every couple of weeks in the short term, every month for the long term.”
Kristine Vannebo-Suwala, executive director of the Family Support Centre, which operates a women’s shelter in Hay River, commends Clouthier for the initiative.
Vannebo-Suwala said it “definitely” could make a difference.
“I hope that it works the way that they plan to and I definitely think it’s a dialogue that we all need to have in the community moreso,” she said. “And when we’re talking about family violence, we really need to look at prevention. That’s a perfect example of a prevention initiative.”
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, in-person attendance at the upcoming meeting will be limited to 25 people.
Women and gender-diverse people are welcome to attend, but priority will be given to men due to the space limitations.
“I hope I don’t have to turn anyone away,” Clouthier said. “Even if we do, there’s still room for everyone to take part in the meeting and in an online stream, and also in anything the group does in the future.”
Clouthier will also share written messages from anyone unable to attend the meeting.
“It would be silly to exclude the people who have been doing this work up to now, that being women and gender-diverse folks who have been using secret channels and their own kind of survival instincts to keep themselves safe,” he said.
The Sept. 29 meeting is set to begin at 6 p.m. at the Hay River Community Centre.