Preventing Violence Against Indigenous Women

Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW) is pleased to present the
results of a community collaboration to create awareness on Violence against Aboriginal
Women. As violence comes in many forms, and affects families, communities, stakeholders and
governments, we have also included topics on men and those who identify as Two Spirited.

Community members, police and IAAW staff collaboratively developed the topics to inspire discussion that may not happen as much as it is needed. Funding gratefully provided from Government of Alberta.

There is a video that was produced using IAAW program participants and guests, including Anthony Johnson of Amazing Race Canada! The presentation that we deliver will include 8 short videos. Each about 1-2 mins long. A facilitator will play the video, showing the first
scenario. Then discussion happens and resources are provided. This is repeated with the remaining 7 scenarios. Our hope is that we can have many local agency representatives in attendance as possible to build the community response capabilities.

The 8 video topic’s are:
Public Safety for Indigenous Women (1)
It’s important to be aware of your surroundings and have a safety plan.
• What is a safety plan?
• Why would I need a safety plan?
• What should I teach my children about being safe?

Planning to Leave (2)
Your life is important. Be careful and leave when it’s safe.
• What should be planned out before you leave?
• What are the dangers of leaving?
• What else you need to think of before you leave?

Unmotivated Partner (3)
When your partner is taking advantage of you, it’s time for them to leave.
• Who gets to live in the shared residence?
• Is it safer just to leave?
• What are the impacts to your family or pets if you stay?

Circle of Supports (4)
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help; you’re not alone.
• How can communities support the men?
• How many people should be in your Circle of Support?
• What resources are in your community for people fleeing violence?

New Relationship Safety (5)
It’s important to remember to keep your personal information private.
• Would you let your new date know where you work or live?
• What are safety tips to have before connecting in person with a date?
• Are you aware of Red Flags?

Dealing with Family Drama (6)
Find the strength to not involve yourself with family drama.
• What is harassment?
• Can you unhook from social media?
• When to get police or a lawyer involved?

Family Supports (7)
It’s ok to lean on healthy relatives that can help you in the short term.
• How can you make sure you don’t overstay your welcome?
• What legal or other supports are available to assist in the short term?
• Where to get counselling for you and children?

Love yourself (8)
You loved yourself enough to leave, now love yourself even more and stay away.
• Where are wellness or self-care supports in your community?
• Who can you connect with for education on building healthy
• How time to give yourself to get healthy?

IAAW has also developed a brochure and stand-up table displays to assist in communicating the key messages to the larger audience. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic we are delivering this workshop on-line through Zoom. Please connect with Bernadette Swanson, if you’d like to set up a zoom presentation.

Bernadette Swanson
Phone: 587-635-3051 | Free 1-877-471-2171 | Email

Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women
Address: 18104 – 102 Avenue Edmonton, AB T5S 1S7

Celebrating 25 Years of the Esquao Awards

IAW, Esquao Awards, 2020, women, leadership

For nearly 25 years, the Esquao Awards has highlighted the amazing work of Indigenous women throughout Alberta and Canada. From its humble beginnings, the Esquao Awards have grown to be the single largest recognition event of Indigenous women in the country.

Four years ago, as the event continued to grow, the Government of Canada began conducting a National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Earlier in 2019, the Government of Canada published the Final Report, along with 231 Calls for Justice.

The Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW) wanted to mark the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Esquao Awards by looking back at past Award recipients, their stories, and how their work has been leading these Calls for Justice for decades.

Download the full PDF here

R v Barton

May 24, 2019 Edmonton/Toronto

The Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW) and the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) react to the Supreme Court of Canada Judgment in R v Barton

This morning the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision to order a new trial on manslaughter with partial dissent of three judges who would have ordered a new trial on manslaughter and murder. 

The decision strongly condemns the use of racist and sexist stereotypes about Indigenous women and encourages trial judges to explicitly counter prejudice against Indigenous women and girls in their instructions to juries. The Court denounces the use of dehumanizing language and the prejudice that was brought into the trial by failing to call Cindy Gladue by name. The decision makes clear the trial “let us all down” by failing to uphold the dignity and humanity of Cindy Gladue. As the decision reads, “She was a mother, a daughter, a friend, and a member of her community. Her life mattered. She was valued. She was important. She was loved.”

The Court provided clear and conclusive direction on consent – including that there is no defence of implied consent, the accused cannot rely on past sexual history evidence to ground a belief in consent, and that expressed consent to every sexual activity is necessary. “The Court sent a strong message that men are not free to rely on their own, prejudicial views about what women do or do not want when engaging in a sexual act” says Lise Gotell of LEAF National. “Only expressed, communicated consent to every sexual act is sufficient. This is a resounding endorsement of women’s equality and women’s sexual autonomy.”

However, while claiming to uphold the importance of her dignity, the decision fails to go far enough to address the level of dehumanization the trial perpetrated against Indigenous women and to ensure that no Indigenous woman ever has to face such treatment again. As Order of Canada recipient Beverly Jacobs says, “It in no way erases the anger, humiliation, and dehumanization of the lower court for the barbaric treatment of her body or the violation of Indigenous laws in caring for the deceased.” The Court had an opportunity, but failed to adequately hold all members of the proceedings – the Judge, the Crown, the defence – to account for perpetuating racism in the trial and allowing the humiliating dehumanization of an Indigenous woman. As Julie Kaye, Research Advisor for IAAW states, “condemning stereotypes is important, but it cannot account for the level of violence Indigenous women experience in this system. We must continue to work together to dismantle the racism, sexism, and systemic discrimination perpetuated by the criminal legal system.”

Reflecting on the decision, human rights defender and founder of IAAW, Muriel Stanley Venne insists, “this is just the beginning. We are determined to eliminate racism and sexism from the legal system. Canada’s system was built with contempt for Indigenous women and it continues to try to dehumanize us. But we are stronger than the systems that seek to destroy us. We will build justice systems that work for and with Indigenous women.” The decision makes clear that “everyone is equally entitled to the law’s full protection and to be treated with dignity, humanity, and respect.” Equal protection for Indigenous women has not manifested from far too many Inquiries and previous Supreme Court decisions, IAAW and LEAF’s work will continue to ensure the promises made in the Supreme Court decision today are upheld. As the Court stated, “we can — and must — do better.”

IAAW and LEAF’s intervention at the Alberta Court of Appeal (ABCA) and at the Supreme Court of Canada strongly shaped the decision’s rebuke of the trial court for admitting evidence of Ms. Gladue’s sexual history. The judgment relies heavily on the work of IAAW and LEAF who put equality rights arguments before the court of appeal, including arguments about sexual history evidence. At the Supreme Court, we were joined by many other skilled interveners who took on the difficult, and often uncompensated, work of challenging discrimination in law. The work of Indigenous women, feminist legal interveners, and community advocates was fundamental the Court’s recognition of this atrocity.

For more information, please contact:

Beverly Jacobs, University of Windsor, Faculty of Law
519-253-3000 ext. 2936,

Muriel Stanley Venne, IAAW, President and Founder

Julie Kaye, Research Advisor, IAAW

Lise Gotell, LEAF National