Responding to and Preventing Sexual Violence – Paqtnkek Project



The Paqtnkek Health Centre and the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre & Sexual Assault Services Association have received funding from Status of Women Canada for a collaborative project to strengthen how we address sexual violence against Aboriginal women. The end date for this project is March 30, 2016. The start date was April 1, 2014.


The project focuses on both the response to sexual violence and the prevention of it, based in a culturally relevant, revitalizing, and safe approach.


The project values culture, sharing, inclusivity, holism, strength, honouring, safety, transparency, pro-activeness, and capacity. A fundamental and guiding value of the project is the value of nurturing.


While the focus of this project is in Paqtnkek, connections are made with other Mi’kmaq communities to share our knowledges and to help build our local capacities.

Work Plan

The main activities of the project are: 1) partnership development, 2) needs assessment, 3) collaboration, 4) strategy development & pilot implementation, and 5) knowledge sharing.

Partnership Development

  • Partnership development focused on building a diverse, community-based Advisory Committee to help guide the work of the project. The Advisory Committee includes members who represent community, services, and external expertise.

Needs Assessment

  • Community members were engaged to the needs assessment by focusing on community-based solutions to sexual violence.
  • The needs assessment activities included:
    • Two (2) community forums
      • “Envisioning A Violence-Free Community Together” in December 2014 (to introduce the project and needs assessment)
      • “Creating A Violence-Free Community Together” in April 2015 (to follow up/reflect on the needs assessment activities)
    • Twelve (12) focus groups in February 2015
      • The focus groups focused on assessing definitions and experiences of violence and promoting community-based recommendations.
    • A community safety audit in February 2015
      • The community safety audit focused on assessing physical and social environments as they impact safety and promoting community-based recommendations.
    • An open house and survey for external service providers (to gather information about the gaps they identify in providing service to the community) in February 2015.
      • The service provider survey was focused on assessing gaps in service provision to addressing sexual violence survivors of Paqtnkek (whether these services deal explicitly or implicitly with sexual violence).

Sexual Violence Findings

Themes in the findings

  • Paqtnkek is a nurturing community – there are networks of informal supporters who are trusted in the community.
  • There are varying definitions for violence/sexual violence, healthy relationships, healthy sexuality, consent, and safety.
  • There are challenges regarding disclosing and reporting of sexual violence: lateral violence and victim-blaming, lack of confidentiality, re-perpetration through systems and services, and the threat of breaking valued familial and social relationships.
  • Residential school trauma, intergenerational trauma, and the cycle of violence are presently and widely experienced in the community.
  • Racism and colonialism are broader forms oppressions that contextualize violence in the community.
  • Culture (language and ceremony) is significant in addressing violence and sexual violence, through healing and forgiveness.
  • There are changes in how the community connects – community members are online and using social media; they are not coming together as much.

Prioritized Recommendations

General recommendations

  • Breaking the cycle of violence and promoting safety should be the focus in addressing sexual violence, from individual community members and families to Paqtnkek and the broader community.
  • The project needs to be community-led and community-wide with all community members working together: leadership, men, elders, youth, survivors, and perpetrators.
  • The project needs to build the community’s capacity to address violence/sexual violence (past the project’s funding end).

Community recommendations for response

  • Healing and ceremony for the entire community to move forward
  • Policies and procedures
    • Culturally safe, nonjudgmental, and confidential reporting and disclosing options that have follow-through processes, addressing the questions: what happens, who is involved, how is the perpetrator addressed, how is the survivor supported
    • Mandatory training and support for band staff on policies and procedures
  • Tools and resources for response, such as a flow chart on what to do and what are the options
  • Support for supporters of survivors of sexual violence (i.e. parents, family, friends)
  • External systems and services need ongoing cultural competency training

Community recommendations for prevention

  • Education and awareness on:
    • Healthy relationships, healthy sexuality, and consent for women, youth, and men
    • Harm reduction – alcohol and drug use
    • Anti-bullying and social media/online safety
    • Retreats for women, youth, and men to have discussions in safe places
  • Parental support on how to strengthen positive communication between parents and youth for healthy relationships and healthy sexuality
  • Youth support on how to develop self-esteem and positive identity, understanding responsibilities, consequences, and boundaries, such as rites of passage
  • Tools and resources for prevention, such as material on the signs of abuse
  • Community spaces need to be made safer (lighting/visibility, neighbourhood watch/security, sidewalks/walkways especially with highway construction) and more accessible – key areas of concern were identified on a map of the community

Collaboration Strategy/Action Plan

Response Actions – These actions worked to answer the following question: When sexual violence happens in the community/against a community member, how can response be strengthened to support the survivor/victim and the broader community?

  • Community Supporters Team
  • “Paqtnkek is a Supportive and Nurturing Community” Magnets
  • Community Healing Circles
  • Healing Through Sessions on Storytelling, Art, and Music
  • “Paqtnkek Health Centre Shares on Healing” Video
  • Education for External/Non-Community Service Providers – Service Provider Sessions and Women’s Centres Connect Presentation
  • Transformative/Restorative Justice Presentations for Advisory Committee
  • Policies & Procedures
  • Political Advocacy – Letter Writing re: Changes to Duty to Report in Nova Scotia


“Paqtnkek is a Supportive and Nurturing Community” Magnets

“Paqtnkek Health Centre Shares on Healing” Video

Prevention Actions – These actions worked to answer the following question: How can the community, along with its partners, prevent sexual violence from occurring, strengthen education in the community on the issues of sexual violence, and promote Paqtnkek values of support and nurturing?

  • Community Education Sessions – Youth and Parents
  • Community Educators Team
  • Respect Campaign for 2015 Mi’kmaq Summer Games – T-Shirts and Video
  • Take Back The Night Poster-Making and March
  • Mi’kmaq History Month – Sisters In Spirit and Honouring & Reviving Matriarchal Traditions
  • Call to Action for National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women
  • International Women’s Week – Storytelling Project

Respect Campaign for 2015 Mi’kmaq Summer Games – Video

Project Staff

The Community Facilitator is Karla Stevens ( / 902-870-7299) and the Project Coordinator is Annie Chau ( / 902-318-3300).

In the News…

Mi’kmaq Maliseet Nations News

The Casket

The Chronicle Herald

Global News

Project Materials

Partnership Development & Needs Assessment Materials

Action Plan Implementation Materials

Final Evaluation Report (prepared by External Evaluator Peggy Mahon) for Year One AND Year Two of the Project

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More Resources on Sexual Violence and Aboriginal Women…

NEW – Mi’kmaw Community Engagement Toolkit on Sexual Violence

The Mi’kmaw Community Engagement Toolkit on Sexual Violence is a workbook to address sexual violence, created specifically for Mi’kmaq communities and community members to use in strengthening their response to and prevention of sexual violence, drawing from the many learnings of the Responding to and Preventing Sexual Violence Project in Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation, a collaborative project between the Paqtnkek Health Centre and the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre & Sexual Assault Services Association from 2014 to 2016, funded by Status of Women Canada.

The funding for the creation of this toolkit is from Nova Scotia’s Sexual Violence Strategy through the Department of Community Services.

FINAL Mi’kmaw Community Engagement Toolkit – Fillable

  • August 2, 2021
    August 9, 2021
    August 16, 2021
    August 23, 2021
    August 30, 2021
    September 6, 2021