The Department of Justice says plans are moving forward for A New Day despite the fact no one has come forward with a bid to run it.
The request for proposals to take over the NWT’s only healing program for male perpetrators of domestic violence originally had a deadline of April 10. After no one applied, the deadline was extended to April 18.
As of May 18 the RFP has closed, and no one has come forward to take on the program. The current program ends on June 30, leaving the department with an increasingly persistent metronome counting down to replace it.
“The department is currently exploring their next steps for the delivery of the program,” stated Marie- Ève Duperré, official languages and communications adviser on behalf of the justice department in an e-mail to Yellowknifer.
Those “next steps” include discussions with local non-profits and private-sector service providers, although the department declined to comment on who might be involved or if any more tweaks to the request for proposals might be in the pipeline.
The current program has been delivered through the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre, and offers free individual and group therapy sessions for men who have used violence in their relationships. A new request for proposals, which has gone through two iterations, has been subject to criticism from the public and MLAs. Under the most recent request for proposals, the program would go from group and private counselling sessions to public only, and would go from full-time to a predetermined hourly rate. As Yellowknifer has previously reported, many people working in the community felt the department hadn’t listened, either at proponent meetings or to recommendations that came out of an evaluation of the program in November.
The Centre for Northern Families and the Salvation Army both declined to bid on the program, citing concerns with the changes.
Lyda Fuller, executive director of the YWCA, also confirmed the YWCA had no intention of bidding on the program, and have no plans to develop a program to replace it.
Arlene Hache, former executive director of the Centre for Northern Families, brought up the issue at a public meeting on open government on May 17. She was involved in the development of A New Day from the beginning.
“Now all a sudden all that work is down the toilet,” she said. “And the Department of Justice, all by itself with no rationale, has totally stripped and changed that program. Once again they basically just said this is what we’re doing, suck it up … we’re doing it this way, too bad so sad.”
Hache said she wants the legislative assembly to provide a rationale for what she calls the “strange and bizarre” decisions around A New Day, calling the current stance “schizophrenic.”
“The MLAs and the government would say addressing family violence is a number one priority in the Northwest Territories but they actively take steps to prove that it actually isn’t,” she said.
Duperré stated that despite the lack of bids, there are no plans to cancel the program.
The Northwest Territories has the second highest rate of police-reported family violence in the country, beaten only by Nunavut. In 2015, the NWT had Canada’s largest increase in the rate of reported family-related physical and sexual assault, going up five per cent. According the the Status of Women Canada, indigenous women are nearly three times more likely to be violently victimized than non-indigenous women.