Canada: Preventing Domestic Violence in Aboriginal Communities

This project is developing and testing tools and procedures for a randomized controlled trial of community-led interventions to prevent family violence in Aboriginal communities. Its central hypothesis is that many Aboriginal communities, assuming they are appropriately resourced, have the resilience to develop and to implement their own effective solutions to domestic violence.

The prime movers are twelve women’s shelters in Aboriginal communities on and off reserve, covering most provinces and territories across Canada. Although these shelters mainly deal with women victims of domestic violence, the project also addresses other types of domestic violence (male and female children, elderly, and disabled).

 Each participating community determines its own interventions to reduce domestic violence. Each develops and tests tools and procedures for, and generates community buy-in to, a series of randomized controlled trials. Participating communities may also develop other studies aimed at prevention of domestic violence in Aboriginal communities.

 The baseline study applies a questionnaire developed by the shelters. Testing a “stepped wedge” design in an Aboriginal context, shelters randomized themselves to two waves of intervention, half the shelters receiving the resources for the first wave. A repeat survey after two years will measure the difference between first wave and second wave, after which the resources will shift to the second wave.

 At least two Aboriginal researchers are expected to complete their doctoral studies in the project.

 The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) convened an Aboriginal national steering committee to oversee development of the domestic violence research framework. The directors of the 12 participating shelters are part of the steering committee.

 Ethical clearance to conduct the pilot phase of this project was granted by the University of Ottawa’s Research Ethics Board in January 2011.

 To capture some of the research and reflection that went into the creation of this project see the CIET-sponsored special issue of Pimatisiwin: A Journal of Aboriginal and Indigenous Community Health.

 This collection begins with the words of a song written by a young T³įchǫ artist in the Northwest Territories. Mason Mantla’s lyrics link the pain of people in his community with their experience of violence in residential school. He echoes the memories of his parents and grandparents.

 Lisa Lambert describes some barriers faced by Aboriginal women in Alberta, with a brief look at the wage gap.

 Beverley Shea, Amy Nahwegahbow and Neil Andersson present a systematic review of the literature on previous interventions intended to prevent family violence in Aboriginal communities.

 Neil Andersson and Amy Nahwegahbow introduce five planks of a strategy for intervention and prevention of domestic violence.

 Neil Andersson, partnering with twelve women’s shelters across Canada, offers a look at their funded research proposal

 Mary Cameron gives us a critical overview of the epidemiological approach outlining culturally appropriate and community driven methods that deepen our understanding of domestic violence interventions.

 Patricia Maguire–Kishebakabaykwe offers an indigenous perspective on research methods. With a resilience-based approach, she examines the value of research by focusing on the experience and ways of knowing of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, specifically, the Anishinaabe of Lake Nipigon in northern Ontario.

 This special issue concludes with two practical tools. Mike Patterson’s cybercircles paper describes the use of technology in partnership with Elders, while Rob Chase brings us the life story board as an approach to address the mental health of children who have experienced violence by breaking the cycle between victim and villain through a nondisclosure narrative.

 The steering committee has created a newsletter for sharing of information, ideas and experiences among the participating shelters. Available issues of he newsletter, entitled “Rebuilding from Resilience” are:

October 2009

November 2009

January 2010

February 2010

August 2010

October 2010

February 2011

April 2011