Aboriginal Hotline assists women in distress

THUNDER BAY––Aborginal women in many of Canada’s communities, remote or otherwise, are among the most vulnerable in our society. Aboriginal women living in Northern Ontario can feel particularly isolated and many have experienced some form of violence or abuse, compounded by the belief they have nowhere to turn for help when they need it.

The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) has recently taken concrete steps to create a bridge over that divide. In partnership with Beendigen, the ONWA has launched Talk4Healing, a helpline for aboriginal women. The service will be free and confidential, designed to address the unique needs of aboriginal women.

A first of its kind in Ontario, Talk4Healing was created to provide “a culturally safe and appropriate resource for aboriginal women and their families living in Northern Ontario.”

Operated by Beendigen (in partnership with the ONWA), the new service will provide culturally sensitive crisis counselling, advice and support, personalized information and referrals, acceptance of aboriginal women’s issues in a non-judgmental way, scheduled telephone counselling sessions and help to find the path to personal healing. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Talk4Healing will offer services in English, Ojibway, Oji-Cree and Cree.

“We know that aboriginal women are one of the most vulnerable populations in Canada,” said Betty Kennedy, ONWA Executive Director. “Talk4Healing was developed because aboriginal communities, organizations, and stakeholders collectively recognized the need for more culturally appropriate services, supports and counselling for our women who may have experienced violence or abuse, or those who just need help with getting through the day to day burdens that sometimes plague us all.”

Talk4Healing will offer support and counselling services to aboriginal women living in urban, rural, and remote communities, both on-and off-reserve all across Northern Ontario. “Geographical isolation and the lack of services that go along with it is a reality for many aboriginal women living in Northern communities, but that should not be a barrier to healing,” says Patricia Jurivee, Beendigen executive director. “A safe and easily accessible helpline where our women can turn to for help has been something desperately needed in Ontario for a long time now. It’s great to have finally achieved this goal through the development and launch of Talk4Healing.”

Talk4Healing would not have been possible without the support and funding provided by Government of Ontario’s Ministry of Community and Social Services. “This helpline provides culturally appropriate services for aboriginal women experiencing violence. I am proud that this service was developed in partnership with my ministry with input from aboriginal elders, survivors of violence, community leaders and policing organizations. It is designed, developed and delivered by and for aboriginal women,” said John Milloy, minister of Community and Social Services.

Accessing Talk4Healing is simple. Women can call the toll-free number, 1-855-554-HEAL, where they will be greeted by a caring person to talk to in complete confidence. “At Talk4Healing, we have trained, aboriginal counsellors who are ready and eager to help address the unique needs of aboriginal women and their families,” said Robin Haliuk, Talk4Healing coordinator. “I am so excited that our lines are officially open. This is where the journey to healing begins.”

More information can also be found at www.Talk4Healing.com.