An N.W.T. group that helps Northern youth learn about healthy relationships and sexuality has received a nearly $1.3-million boost from the federal government.

FOXY (Fostering Open eXpression among Youth) will receive the money over the next five years to help Northern and indigenous youth who have experienced teen dating violence.

Executive director Candice Lys said the money is earmarked to "help us better support those who've experienced trauma and violence."

The funding comes from a Public Health Agency of Canada program to address family violence.

"We know that family violence and intimate partner violence are much higher in the N.W.T. and in the North," said Lys, "so it's something that we really wanted to focus on."

Candice Lys

FOXY/SMASH executive director Candice Lys says the money is earmarked to 'help us better support those who've experienced trauma and violence' in the N.W.T. (Kayley Mackay)

According to Statistics Canada, in 2015 the rate of sexual assault in the North ranged from four times the national average in the Yukon to almost eight times the Canadian average in Nunavut. Northern victims of sexual violence also typically have access to fewer resources to deal with their trauma than victims in larger southern centres.

Lys said the group's 50-page funding application included 30 letters of support.

"I think that really speaks to how much support that we have from across the Northwest Territories for the work that we do," she said.

By Northerners, for Northerners

"FOXY is unique in that it is developed by young people who grew up in the Northwest Territories, using their own experiences to guide the development of this unique, youth-driven, tailored program," said N.W.T. MP Michael McLeod in a press release Monday. 

Organizers have delivered hundreds of workshops since the program began in 2012. An estimated 1,500 young people from all three territories have participated in school workshops or peer-led retreats, at no cost to themselves. 

It's not the first time the value of FOXY has been recognized. In 2014, it won the Arctic Inspiration Prize and was awarded $1 million, which it used to develop a program for young men called SMASH — Strength, Masculinities and Sexual Health. The creators of FOXY received a meritorious service medal from the Governor General of Canada earlier this month.

Organizers at FOXY and SMASH are hosting a think tank in March to help develop more specific resources and programming to address sexual trauma and violence.

The group will also be celebrating its fifth anniversary.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the funding came from Health Canada. In fact, it came from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
    Dec 16, 2016 10:25 AM CT