Nova Scotia

Advocates welcome supports for Mi'kmaq, black N.S. victims of domestic violence

Ottawa and the Nova Scotia government are teaming up to provide Indigenous and black woman culturally specific support to deal with violence at home.

4 Halifax-area groups to share in $2M in funding over 4 years

Paula Marshall, executive director of the Mi'kmaw Legal Support Network, says the problem of domestic violence isn't 'going to go away any time soon.' (Jean Laroche/CBC)

The Nova Scotia government is partnering up with the federal government to help fund programs aimed at providing Mi'kmaq and black women in Nova Scotia safe spaces to report abusive partners and to find a way to heal from the harm they have suffered at home.

The $2 million of funding will last four years and go to the Mi'kmaw Legal Support Network, Nova Scotia Association of Black Social Workers, Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre and the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia, all of which are Halifax-based organizations.

"The goal is to help educate in our community," said Crystal John, president of the Nova Scotia Association of Black Social Workers. "The goal is to help heal some of the damage that has been done by gender-based violence and the goal is to bring families back together."

John said some black women have been reluctant to report when they have been attacked or abused because of a fear of being re-victimized.

"In our communities, we don't call the police," she said.

Crystal John, president of the Nova Scotia Association of Black Social Workers, says having a black Nova Scotian to speak with about domestic violence would be a huge help for women. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

"There's a fear of police, there's a fear of not being understood. There's shame in being involved in gender-based violence."

She said something as simple is having a fellow black Nova Scotian to talk to would make a big difference.

"One of the biggest things is that when we walk into spaces, there is nobody that looks like us, and so we're hoping to change that," said John.

'Triage type of support'

Paula Marshall, executive director of the Mi'kmaw Legal Support Network, said her organization will help Indigenous women with "a triage type of support" from the moment they seek help.

"We hope to have a caseworker, a victims support caseworker that will work directly with the police so that we will be able to provide intervention and support immediately after an offence and direct them to the support services that they need," said Marshall. 

That would be on top of helping the victim navigate the court process, if it came to that.

A need for sustained funding

She echoed John's sentiment that existing programs and services didn't always suit the specific needs of Mi'kmaq victims of domestic abuse.

Although the funding is for four years, Marshall said she hoped sustained funding would come from this.

"Because I don't believe that this is going to go away any time soon," she said.