The NWT Coalition Against Family Violence is worried about the future of a one-of-a-kind men's healing program in Yellowknife as it nears the end of its funding period.
"A New Day" started more than two years ago as a three-year pilot project funded by the N.W.T's Department of Justice.
Earlier this month the Coalition published a set of recommendations for addressing family violence in the territory. It listed making "A New Day" a permanent program as one of its top three priorities — and is now lobbying the territorial government to do just that.
A life-line for Northern men
A New Day provides free, culturally appropriate, individual and group counseling to men who struggle with anger or have used abuse in their relationships.
"Over the past year, more than 150 men have used the program," says Laura Boileau, a member of the coalition and a facilitator with A New Day. "Eighty-five per cent of those men returned for more than three sessions, and on average attend at least 10."
According to Boileau, "none of the regular clients have re-offended" in the past year.
Men can come and go as they please, and don't need any kind of referral to attend any of the sessions.
Boileau says the program is crucial for addressing family violence rates in the N.W.T. — which are nine times the national average.
"Only helping women and providing services for women just puts a band-aid over the situation.
"If we don't work with the men, we are absolutely never going to decrease those rates."
The program is funded to run until the end of this year, but the coalition is lobbying the territorial government to make its decision about extending the program long before that date.
"My concern is if they don't make the program permanent before the end of the pilot period, there is going to be a very large gap in service until [the Department of Justice] decides what they're going to do with it," says Boileau.
She's worried that, come December, facilitators won't be able to tell the men anything about when or if the program is going to start up again.
A New Day has been put on hold before.
During the first year of the pilot, the organization that delivered the program — The Healing Drum — could no longer support it.
The program was then put on hold for eight months, while the Department of Justice looked for a new organization to deliver it.
Boileau says those times were desperate.
"I'm walking down the street and guys are coming up to me and saying. 'Laura I need help. I really don't want to go back to drinking, I don't want to go back to using drugs, I have no one to talk to.'
"They're coming up to me in crisis, and during those eight months there was no where else for them to go."
An uncertain future
The N.W.T.'s, Department of Justice says the future of the program is dependent on an evaluation — but could not say when that evaluation would take place.
"We want to be ready before the end of the pilot to get the evaluation going, but I don't have a timeline right at this moment," said Wade Blake with the Department of Justice.
Blake also said questions about the continuity of the program — should it be made permanent — cannot be addressed right now.
"I can't really say whether there would be a gap [in service]. We need to see what the evaluation is going to say."
The three year pilot cost the territorial government about $577,000 to run.