Youth sexual health programs in N.W.T. get $1M boost

A sexual health program for youth in the N.W.T. is getting a big boost. N.W.T. MP Michael McLeod announced $1 million in funding over five years for two organizations on Tuesday.

Federal funding is part of 5-year plan to tackle HIV and Hepatitis C

N.W.T. MP Michael McLeod announced $1 million in funding for SMASH and FOXY on Tuesday in Yellowknife. The programs are designed to teach youth about sexual health. (Kirsten Fenn/CBC)

A sexual health program for youth in the Northwest Territories is getting a big boost.

The territory's MP Michael McLeod announced $1 million in funding over five years for FOXY (Fostering Open eXpression among Youth) and SMASH (Strength, Masculinities, and Sexual Health) on Tuesday.

"Organizational stability is ... kind of the holy grail of working at a non-profit," said Nancy MacNeill, co-founder and facilitator for FOXY and SMASH.

"Knowing that we're going to have the ability to continue this work for five years, it's incredible. It's absolutely incredible."

The group plans to put the money toward on-the-land peer leader retreats and school programs, said co-founder and executive director Candice Lys.

Through those opportunities, youth get a deep-dive into sexual health and training that helps them become leaders in their own communities, said MacNeill.

Jacob Schiller is a peer leader for SMASH. In his role, he talks to youth about sexual health, healthy relationships and consent.

He said the programs are important because they're an opportunity to work on a "one-to-one basis with the youth and understand where they're coming from, to give them the education that they need."

McLeod made the announcement on behalf of federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor.

The funding for FOXY and SMASH is part of a five-year, $26.4 million investment in community-based projects and research targeted at preventing HIV and Hepatitis C.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is supporting 85 projects across the country, according to McLeod.