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Parenting Programs for the Isolated of the Northwest Territories

Tansi Nîtôtemtik


Call to Action #5, as previously stated, calls upon “...the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to develop culturally appropriate parenting programs for Aboriginal families.”[1] In this post, we will explore how Call to Action #5 has been received and implemented in the Territories, specifically the Northwest Territories.


One such approach taken by the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) was the implementation of the Healthy Family Program (HFP), which offers “parenting groups and workshops, cultural programming, peer support, one-on-one in-person (home visiting/in office) supports, [and] one-on-one virtual supports.”[2] The HFP was created to offer services that centred around inclusivity, preventative measures, and cultural support. The program was started by the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority and is open to anyone expecting a child or parenting children aged 0-6 years.[3]


The HFP was implemented in 2015 and now operates in 16 communities across the Northwest Territories.[4] In 2019, following consultations with early childhood development stakeholders and partners, the program was reframed to "move to a more encompassing approach that emphasizes partnerships and is more easily expandable to all communities, large and small."[5] The initially implemented and revised program were designed to connect families to resources in the community and then to also offer parents/families HFP specific resources and supports. This aspect of the program reflects what each specific community can offer parents/families where they live, but also connects parents/families to services in other communities if their home community cannot offer what other communities offer to their residents.


Like many things, the initial implementation of the program did not mean immediate success to resolve all problems that parents/families face in the Northwest Territories based on initial needs in various northern communities, and perhaps the GNWT understands that. When the HFP went through the renewal project, the Hotii ts’eeda - which is a research support unit by the Tlicho Government for independent Indigenous governments - led this project.[6]



The reason the Hotii ts’eeda took on this renewal project was that they were asked by the Department of Health and Social Sciences. But one reason why this approach was appropriate was that the Indigenous-led approach to community engagement allowed for Indigenous governance to speak with Indigenous communities, through initiatives like parent surveys, sharing circles, staff workshops, interviews, and site visits with HFP staff.[7] Nine communities were visited, and this broad-based approach seemingly allowed for various avenues of feedback, and various community-specific perspectives in order to make the program better for the parents/families in these northern communities.



A question we should ask ourselves today is what do we think of this governmental and Indigenous collaborative approach? Are you impressed with the GNWT’s direction on parenting programming? Or do you think the best approach in the future might be purely independent Indigenous governance and control of the HFP program or similar programming?


Even if things could have been done better, it is assuring to see that there is a purpose-approach to parenting programs. We need to do what we can to offer children and youth support at an early age so they can be the best versions of themselves. We are all responsible for their success.



Until next time,


Team ReconciliAction YEG


[1] Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, “Calls to Action”, (2015) at 1, online (pdf): Government of B.C. <www2.gov.bc.ca> https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/british-columbians-our-governments/indigenous-people/aboriginal-peoples-documents/calls_to_action_english2.pdf


[2] Health and Social Services Authority, “Health Family Program” (2021), online: Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority <nthssa.ca> https://www.nthssa.ca/en/services/healthy-family-program


[3] Ibid.



[4] Government of the Northwest Territories, “Responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Calls to Action - An update to ‘Meeting the Challenge of Reconciliation: The Government of the Northwest Territories Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action’” (2017) at 4, online (pdf): Government of the Northwest Territories <eia.gov.nt.ca> https://www.eia.gov.nt.ca/sites/eia/files/an_update_to_meeting_the_challenge_of_reconciliation_the_gnwts_response_to_the_trcs_calls_to_action.pdf


[5] Ibid.


[6] Hotii ts’eeda, “Health Family Program Renewal Project” (2018), online: Hotii ts’eeda Northwest Territories SPOR Support Unit <nthssa.ca> https://nwtspor.ca/projects/healthy-family-program-renewal-project


[7] Ibid.


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