Saskatoon technology enlisted to help vulnerable Indigenous women

A pilot project is using Saskatoon technology to keep vulnerable Indigenous women safe.

Official says COVID-19 has increased rates of domestic violence, mental health emergencies and addictions

Alicia Buckley of the Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan is hoping a partnership with ORA, a Saskatoon company that makes personal safety devices, will make life safer for her staff, vulnerable women and others. (submitted by Alicia Buckley)

A pilot project is using Saskatoon technology to keep vulnerable Indigenous women safe.

"Knowing this could make a difference in even one life is huge," said Alicia Buckley, program director for the Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan.

Buckley said the COVID-19 pandemic is a highly stressful time and has led to higher rates of domestic violence, addictions and mental health emergencies. 

Some staff in the province's 11 friendship centres will receive ORA personal safety alarms, as will a group of vulnerable women, over the coming months.

Serese Selanders, founder and CEO of ORA personal safety devices, is happy to be partnering with Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan. (submitted by Serese Selanders)

The devices are named after ORA, the Saskatoon company that makes them. They are shaped like pendants or keychains.

When pressed, they send an alarm to the person's selected contacts. If the contacts don't reply in two minutes, the alert goes to 911, complete with a GPS location.

"Being able to have that emergency button when you're in a situation you're not comfortable with is a huge safety benefit for Indigenous women," Buckley said.

ORA founder and CEO Serese Selanders is co-hosting, along with Saskatoon Indigenous Community Action Partnership, a video information session Thursday afternoon for the friendship centres and other Indigenous organizations.

The ORA personal safety device sends a message to emergency contacts, and then 911, when pressed. (Submitted by Serese Selanders)

Selanders said she feels "bittersweet" about the pilot project. She said she's honoured to help, but is saddened by the increasing safety risk faced by vulnerable women and staff.

"ORA was created specifically to help people who are vulnerable," Selanders said. "It started as a tool to assist the elderly who are alone and has grown since that time, since the beginning, to help anybody who needs help quickly."


Jason Warick


Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.