Aboriginal women get controversial new online tool to help fight violence

Aboriginal Affairs minister Bernard Valcourt is being accused of victim blaming after announcing funding for a new online anti-violence campaign, aimed at aboriginal women and girls.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt announces funding for new mobile app

New app aimed at violence prevention in aboriginal communities also includes articles on cultural appropriation and bullying. (a4w.ca)

Aboriginal Affairs minister Bernard Valcourt is being accused of victim blaming after announcing funding for a new online anti-violence campaign, aimed at aboriginal women and girls.

A mobile app, called A4W Live, was launched on Saturday. It's part of a national initiative called Action for Women, which focuses on violence prevention among indigenous youth,  including information and articles on dating, celebrities, bullying and identifying domestic abuse.

The federal government pledged $500,000 to fund the campaign and in a letter to Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod, Valcourt invited provincial and territorial jurisdictions to match the remaining $500,000 cost of the project.

Valcourt wrote the mobile app will provide "information, tools and support that aboriginal women and girls need to make informed choices, whether they are confronting violence, or seeking information regarding its prevention."

Dawn Harvard, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, said creation of the app suggests victims are to blame.

"I actually find that language offensive that it's putting it once again back on the victims that the violence that they find themselves in — the violence that's inflicted on them — is somehow a result of a choice on their part, or more specifically a poor choice on their part," Harvard said.

"I know none of our young girls are growing up making a choice to be homeless, making a choice to be living in poverty. That is something that happens because of a lack of choice."

'Action for Women' 

The mobile app aims to become "a digital community to end violence against indigenous women and girls." The site includes information and articles on health, sex, violence and addiction.
Tanya Tagaq is one of the indigenous celebrities featured on the new Action for Women website. (a4w.ca)

It also includes profiles of aboriginal celebrities including Inuit singer Tanya Tagaq and quizzes like, "Is my relationship healthy?" and  "7 signs your drinking has become a problem."

Action For Women was created by the National Association of Friendship centres, a non-profit community centre and aboriginal program/service delivery organization. Along with the mobile platform, the campaign will also include programs aimed at indigenous men and boys, which will provide "solutions for men to stop violence."

Harvard said strategies that only focus on creating awareness or violence prevention will not address the bigger issue. 

"While apps that create public awareness are great ... it doesn't address the root causes that are creating the situations of vulnerability, that are creating the poverty, that are creating the lack of opportunity."

RCMP report points to family violence

On Friday, RCMP released a report that found aboriginal women are three to four times more likely to be killed or go missing that non-aboriginal women. The report found that like female homicides in the general population, most aboriginal women are killed by men they know.

In 2013 and 2014, 32 aboriginal women were killed and 11 more went missing. However, those statistics do not include other cases that occurred outside RCMP jurisdiction. 

The Mounties said those statistics were consistent with the rates of deaths and disappearances of aboriginal women in the last decade.

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story stated the app was called Action for Women, instead of A4W Live.
    Jun 22, 2015 5:04 PM ET

About the Author

Connie Walker

CBC Reporter

Connie Walker is a reporter in the Investigative Unit at CBC News. Follow her on twitter @connie_walker