A New Day healing program made a difference for MLA jailed for spousal assault

'I needed help, I realized that,' says Deh Cho MLA Michael Nadli as the program's continued funding has become a hot political issue.

'I needed help, I realized that,' says Michael Nadli, who spent 45 days in jail in 2015

Deh Cho MLA Michael Nadli speaking in the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly in fall 2014. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

Without a rehabilitation program like A New Day, the only option for perpetrators of domestic violence is jail, says Michael Nadli.

The Deh Cho MLA knows the issue well. He was sentenced to 45 days in jail (and served eight) after breaking his wife's arm last year, and he voluntarily completed A New Day's domestic violence counseling program after being released.

"Right across Canada… people in jails, or in institutions, especially correctional institutions, are mostly Aboriginal, and so there has to be different ways of doing things and to address and curb that very fundamental issue," Nadli told the CBC.

He's become a vocal supporter of A New Day, as its continued funding from the territorial government past the end of the year has become a political topic in recent weeks.

That's because the program had significant impact on himself, he says.

"As a man, it's very hard; generally men don't ask for help, and they basically do it themselves. But in this instance, you would have to reach out. It was some difficulty. But I needed help, I realized that."

He says the group's open discussions — "we all listen and share and respect each other" — allowed him to examine the dynamics of his relationships, as well as delve deeper into what happened the night he assaulted his wife.  

He says it allowed him to "analyze from a healthy perspective" what "other choices a person could make at that moment. One of the things instinctively a person could decide is just walk away."

Government missing opportunity, says Nadli

Nadli says the government should be taking a lead on supporting the healing program, but instead leadership on the issue has fallen to regular MLAs.

"Here in the N.W.T. we have the second highest rates [of domestic violence] across Canada, so the opportunity was there for cabinet and the minister to do that, but unfortunately it didn't happen."

Nadli says that going through the program he was, at times, filled with "some ambivalence, some fear." 

But overall the program was crucial to his attempts to right past wrongs and move forward, he says.

"The first stage in recovery philosophy, is admitting that you've made a wrong choice. But in that very moment you're powerless, there are people out there who can help you."

files from Loren McGinnis and Joanne Stassen