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Red Deer Native Friendship Society: Funding cut for I Am a Kind Man, but lessons to continue

Program is invaluable, says director

Provincial funding wasn’t renewed for the I Am A Kind Man pilot project offered last year by the Red Deer Native Friendship Centre.

But staff feel it’s so invaluable, they plan to run a form of the program again this year, paid for out of the centre’s operational funds.

“It’s really important that we offer it. The first and only I Am A Kind Man program that we ran made a big difference,” said Lianne Hazell, executive-director of the Red Deer Native Friendship Society.

Instead of offering a separate program, Hazell is planning to incorporate aspects of I Am A Kind Man into other programs the centre runs for families and youths.

The goal is to change negative attitudes towards aboriginal women, breaking a cycle of violence, trauma and abuse.

I Am a Kind Man was sparked by the missing and murdered indigenous women and the Walking With Our Sisters travelling commemorative art exhibit. It came out of men’s circle discussions about how the loss of so many women affected countless other lives.

Participants in I Am a Kind Man discussed the roles men should be assuming in society. Hazell said 12 males who took the program began understanding their responsibility as “protectors… They looked at how women and girls were treated,” she said, and examined how their own attitudes and actions could be contributing to the problem.

Those who completed the course gained a broader perception of how society needs to change. “They became our role models in the community, and began to talk about it to others — and you know how 12 (people) can become 50 and then 200…”

Since participants voluntarily signed up, they were arguably more aware than some of their peers of the problems experienced by First Nations women. But from the feedback Hazell received, she believes they learned much more than expected.

“They were overwhelmed by what they learned. They got a history lesson, they learned skills building, they learned to look back at their own lives… and see how they can help stop (the abuse).”

Aspects of I Am A Kind Man are expected to be added to some other Native Friendship Centre programs by March.