MANITOULIN––Survivors of domestic violence on Manitoulin Island have a unique opportunity to share their experiences and understanding to assist in eradicating violence against women in the District of Manitoulin and along the North Shore. The Mnidoo Mnising Coalition Against Domestic Violence is currently seeking two candidates with lived experience of violence against women issues to join the local domestic violence community coordinating committee (DV3C).
DV3Cs were created across Ontario to assist the violence against women (VAW) sector following a 2004 commitment by the Ontario government under the Domestic Violence Action Plan to strengthen local community service coordination and collaboration across sector agencies to address VAW (although some coalitions were in place as grassroots collaboration prior to this date). Support is provided through the Ministry of Community and Social Services through VAW services for different agencies to work together to address and support education and public service.
Manitoulin’s DV3C is the only VAW service funded throughout this catchment area. “We were initially part of a Sudbury-Manitoulin DV3C but in the early 2000s we decided it would be serve our community to better a standalone service,” explained spokesperson Marnie Hall Brown. Ms. Brown is executive director for Manitoulin Family Resources (MFR), one of the coalition partners. MFR was chosen as lead agency for the coalition as they were the only agency with specific services already in place, including a shelter and counseling services for partner violence and sexual assault. MFR supports both current and historical events.
“The coalition works to enhance and support VAW services collaboratively for the betterment of the community,” said Ms. Brown. DV3Cs do this by strengthening community partnerships and information sharing among local services, by raising awareness through education and training and by increasing accessibility and quality of services through collaboration with partners from multiple sectors.
“Our coalition locally is very active, providing services and public education. We have representation from the various police services, the Crown Attorney’s office, violence against women prevention services, healthcare, mental health and addictions, victim services, and also Childrens Aid Services and Kina Gbezhgomi. We keep our membership meetings fairly fluid. Our members attend as much as they are able.”
“We have a unique and distinct population base and we face unique and distinct challenges in terms of addressing domestic violence,” Ms. Brown said. “Our funding is for just Manitoulin but our catchment area is Manitoulin, Espanola and parts of the North Shore. We are hoping to reach out to the Espanola corridor more in the next few months and provide some networking opportunities for the different services. We want to ensure that the different services are aware of who all is working to support and provide services for domestic violence and sexual assault issues.”
“We try to engage the community at different levels, and support changes to legislation. We try to find ways to build awareness of services that are accessible to community members,” she continued. “Coalitions throughout Ontario were originally focused only on domestic violence but have also adopted work in sexual assault issues. We work to address both within the community and to improve service delivery options.”
Noojmowin Teg Health Centre has received funding from the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Indigenous Justice Division to develop sexual assault services, including forensic testing, for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence on Manitoulin. The coalition is working with Noojmowin Teg as a partner. “The practice right now is for those clients to be referred to the Ontario Network of Sexual Assault Treatment Centres in Sudbury (ONSATC),” Ms. Brown said. “By Noojmowin Teg receiving approval, it will become the first community-based ONSATC and is being undertaken as a collaborative project. We are working to deliver a more cohesive network of support services for violence and sexual violence.”
Part of the coalition’s mandate is to support education and to increase awareness of the issue of violence against women. “We support Women’s Wellness Days, for example David Cory’s presentation (presented on behalf of wife Jill Cory who was ill) in Assiginack for International Women’s Day, in conjunction with Rainbow Lodge and Manitoulin Family Resources. We’ve had women’s rights activist Julie Lalonde speak at Little Current Public School and Manitoulin Secondary School,” said Ms. Brown. “These are some of the initiatives that we try to provide back to the community. That’s one of the reasons we are adding women with lived experience to our membership. These women will bring nuances to those discussions that will otherwise not be considered.”
Individuals with an interest in becoming a survivor member can contact Marnie Hall Brown (email@example.com) for an application package. “The packages allow the individual to reflect on and share the steps they have taken to move forward in their healing since their experiences and to ensure that they are not currently involved in a proceeding that their association at the table would negatively impact them in (conflicts of interest and not revictimizing or triggering survivors),” explained Ms. Brown. “Our goal is to further positive work for victims and survivors in the community and move forward to end violence against women and intimate partner violence and those it affects, and that is the collective agenda.”