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'It's hopeful': Smash gets funding to work with young NWT men


An NWT-based project engaging Indigenous men and boys on gender equality and gender-based violence is receiving a $125,000 boost from the federal government.

Funding was announced on Friday by federal gender equality minister Maryam Monsef,

Foxy/Smash is one of four organizations across Canada to be funded for projects designed to bring men into the movement for gender equality, Monsef's department said in a news release.

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Inuksuk Mackay, a facilitator with Foxy and Smash and a founding board member, said the money is a "big deal" and made possible two projects focused on young men in the territory.

Those projects include a media campaign depicting the realities of young men and "masculine-identifying folks" in the North, Foxy/Smash executive director Candice Lys stated via email.

The second project creates community engagement sessions led by youth, which Lys said will provide "safe and non-judgemental" spaces for boys and men to discuss gender equality in their communities and families.

"What that's going to look like is basically what they ask us to make it look like," Mackay said. From the get-go, she said, youth are involved in the project development. Half of those employed at Foxy and Smash are youth.

The issues of gender equality and gender-based violence are very real in the North, Mackay said. July data from Statistics Canada suggested women are three times more likely to be victims of violent crimes in northern Canada than in the South. (The territory's Department of Justice maintains crime rates in northern Canada are less reliable as indicators, as populations and sample sizes are smaller.)

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"It happens at a higher percentage in the North and it happens at a higher percentage to women and females, and also gender diverse youth in the North," Mackay said. "It's a big issue and the health of our community is really dependent on it."

Inuksuk Mackay, left, federal Minister for Women and Gender Equality Maryam Monsef, and Ken Mackay at the awarding of $125,000 to Foxy and Smash on Friday. Submitted photo

Mackay believes involving people who identify as boys and men is crucial to the push for gender equality. "It's been led by women and grassroots organizations, they've been leading the way in the fight forever. And it's really important that we call in folks of all genders to work alongside, to make these changes happen," Mackay said.

"Unless you're including all the voices, we're missing really important perspectives and we're missing out."

Foxy – or Fostering Open eXpression among Youth – has been running retreats and programs for teenage girls focusing on sexual health and love since 2012.

Smash – Strength, Masculinities, and Sexual Health – is a parallel program for young men around the NWT. Through school-based workshops and a peer leader retreat program, issues of "sexual health, consent, healthy relationships, and positive masculinity" are taught.

Foxy and Smash are also engaged in research on youth and sexuality in the North. The groups recently took part in roundtables held by the federal government about the engagement of men and boys in the push for gender equality – the results of which were detailed in a report released Friday.

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