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This article was published 7/12/2017 (842 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A new program to help heal Indigenous men who endured sexual abuse as children is believed to be the first of its kind in Winnipeg.
The program will be run by the John Howard Society, an advocacy group for men who’ve served time or been in conflict with the law, and funded by Ottawa. It’s expected to draw men from across the city over the next four years.
There are a number of programs for men in Winnipeg that focus on the trauma left by child sexual abuse. This one is different, however.
"What we put together was a proposal for a program specifically for Indigenous men because there isn’t a program that’s culturally based and designed for Indigenous men, " John Howard Society executive director John Hutton said.
While primarily focused on the society’s regular clientele, the program is also open to any Indigenous man who has suffered the traumatic legacy of broken relationships and difficulty fitting in that typically follows childhood sexual abuse.
Ottawa announced it’s putting $229,000 into the effort with a goal to develop and refine a service for Indigenous men, rooted in culturally appropriate services and traditional Indigenous teachings.
"We see this funding as an acknowledgement of the expertise we’ve developed over the past six decades of working with incarcerated men, far too many of whom have been sexually abused as children," Hutton said in the official announcement.
In a phone interview later, Hutton expanded on the premise, saying the percentage of Indigenous men who are childhood sexual abuse victims is unknown.
"People don’t tell other people about it, if they’ve been victimized, especially men and especially men who might have been put in the correctional system," Hutton said.
Years of testimony from residential school survivors and the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission put the trauma before the public eye.
Several of Sen. Murray Sinclair’s calls to action while he chaired the commission deal with changes to the health-care system and all levels of government to work with Indigenous people and incorporate healing practices that address the trauma of abuse.
"Some of their findings were that there was widespread childhood sexual abuse, that might be from parents, or residential school, foster situations or institutions where kids ended up because of family break-up," Hutton said.
"There are needs and issues related to dealing with this kind of abuse within a context that makes sense," Hutton said.
Estimates vary, but most experts put the total number of Indigenous children compelled to attend residential schools at about 150,000 during the century they operated. Another 100,000 or more attended schools as day students, going home each night.
Thousands more were removed from their homes later in a process known as the Sixties Scoop.
The sciety sees about 1,300 men a year, mostly for one or two visits while they’re behind bars or just after they’ve been released. Word of mouth among their past clientele is probably the most effective way to get the word out about the new program.
Dates for its launch have not been decided yet, Hutton said.
"We want a culturally appropriate program based on traditional teachings with elder support available for the Indigenous men who come to the program because they’ve been abused," Hutton said.
One case worker has been assigned to put a shape to the service; contracts will be put together to engage the services of at least one Indigenous elder, and perhaps more, Hutton said.
"There are some sweat lodges in the city and there are elders we have close connections with who have sweats and cultural activities just outside the city," Hutton said.