The Blog

Follow along as we work towards systems change and help create better outcomes for kids in our community.

Guest Contributor: Lee Spence – Supports for Dads Update

May 08, 2019

One of the activity areas that we’re currently developing further is the Supports for Dads prototype, which was created with the goal of responding to a gap in services for a particular demographic of men who are experiencing significant barriers. Our society’s social policies have been formed in a way that has not prioritized family togetherness and so often we see that men are excluded from their own families due to systemic barriers. This means that they have a more difficult time accessing the supports and resources they require such as housing, health, and even parenting programs designed for men.


Through our research we learned that men wanted more opportunities to connect with one another in a supportive and culturally safe environment. By teaming up with the North Point Douglas Women’s Centre and Mitch Bourbonniere’s team of qualified facilitators, we were able to test out this idea and saw a very positive response. Now this idea is being prototyped at a larger scale, thanks to funding from the Government of Canada, so we’ve hired a coordinator, Lee Spence, to help facilitate the growth of this activity area.


Lee has shared some of the learnings and impact that she has taken away from this experience so far:


We’ve been very lucky to further develop and scale our Supports for Dads prototype alongside three dedicated community partner organizations: Mount Carmel Clinic, North Point Douglas Women’s Centre, and Andrew’s Street Family Centre. Each of these organizations are providing space for men to meet one another, eat delicious food, laugh and talk, build their skills, and learn about resources for themselves and their families. Through these activities, men have an opportunity to access cultural ceremonies and sit in circle to nourish their spirit.


The Supports for Dads prototype is really demonstrating how allowing space for men to heal themselves and support others in a group setting is needed within our community. The men who attend have expressed how important these circles are in helping them to voice their feelings and thoughts in a non-judgemental environment with other men. 


We’ve learned how valuable it is for men to lead other men and create opportunities to participate in ceremony. This has been pivotal in their healing journeys, and we have found that when men have space to heal themselves it creates a ripple effect with their families and communities.


The most impactful moment I’ve experienced during this process was when I sat in a circle with twenty men who shared openly about their experiences with trauma, allowing themselves to cry and show emotion in a comfortable and safe circle. It was beautiful witnessing men feel loved and supported by one another. The rawness and realness of this experience was life changing for me, and I was honoured to be invited into the circle. I was very moved by seeing and hearing men share how they have changed their path in life to better themselves, to the point where they can now give back to others and mentor youth in the community.


Land Acknowledgement

The Winnipeg Boldness Project resides in and works on the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary lands of the Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe), Anishinabewaki (Oji-Cree), Dené, Michif Piyii (Métis), Nêhiyawak (Cree), and Očhéthi Sakowin (Dakota). We recognize that we have benefited from and continue to benefit from colonization on the Treaty 1, Treaty 3, and Treaty 5 Territories.

It is important to also acknowledge how we benefit in this territory at the cost to Indigenous Peoples. Winnipeg has been drinking clean water for over a century via an aqueduct from Shoal Lake. In 1917, 3000 acres of Treaty 3 was declared property of the city of Winnipeg to build the aqueduct. This aqueduct was built over ancestral burial ground, to build these structures, the ancestors were disinterred and reburied. Construction of the aqueduct changed the waters significantly, causing the peninsula to become a man-made island. This now isolated Nation faced many challenges as a direct result from this aqueduct; Necessities like water, groceries, schools, and mail were only accessible via the dangerous trek to the mainland. Lives of adults and children were lost crossing to and from the mainland. Freedom Road, an all-weather road access finally opened summer 2019, over a century after displacement. This road, a testament to the success of Indigenous-led solutions, helps bring materials to build schools and a water treatment plant.

“I always think of it, even when I turn on the tap I’m like this comes from our community and this water probably contains our ancestors and the spirits of our ancestor. I think about the hardships of the people from Shoal Lake 40 who have gone through so many things for the benefit of Winnipeg’s drinking water,” says Angelina McLeod.1

Another benefit we reap in Winnipeg at a cost to Indigenous Peoples and land is the Hydro Electricity Development in Treaty 5. To optimize water movement for greatest power production the Province of Manitoba increased waterflow by creating the Churchill River Diversion in 1976. The modification of the waterflow caused flooding, shoreline erosion, and changes to water quality. This destruction of habitat has caused disruption to waterway travel, fishing, and hunting.