• ONWA

Expansion of Anti-Human Trafficking Courage Program Creates Pathways to Safe SPACES

Ontario Native Women’s Association Courage for Change Program to expand across Ontario


Fort Erie, ON - Today, on UN Human Rights Day, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services announced funding over five years through the Indigenous Led Initiative Fund (ILIF) towards the anti-human trafficking protection and healing of Indigenous women and girls. The funding will be used by the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) to further develop and expand the Aakode’ewin - Courage for Change Program across Ontario, addressing the unique needs of the disproportionate numbers of Indigenous women, youth and girls affected by human trafficking.


The program supports Indigenous women and girls at risk, currently involved in, or a survivor of human trafficking. It will focus specifically on exploited youth to get them the services and tools they need to exit. The program offers support in a variety of ways, including 24/7 crisis response, harm reduction and safety planning, 1-1 support with referrals to healthcare, counselling and addiction services, and programming focused on capacity building, empowerment and culturally specific healing. Through a multi-sector approach, care and services are provided in a trauma-informed anti-oppressive way, ensuring integration of culture-based practices and mainstream supports.


“ONWA is honoured to continue to do this important work. The expansion of our Courage for Change Program will begin to address gaps in specific services for Indigenous women and girls. With this investment, ONWA will focus on both immediate safety needs and ongoing healing for Indigenous women and girls,” says Cora McGuire-Cyrette, Executive Director, ONWA. “Through continued implementation of ONWA’s Journey to Safe Spaces Strategy, we continue to honour the knowledge of survivors. This announcement represents one of the largest investments in Canada to an Indigenous Women’s agency to prioritize Indigenous Women’s safety.”


This work is based on the most comprehensive engagement process in Ontario, with over 3,360 community members and 250 self-identified survivors who have shared their stories. The resulting report, Journey to Safe SPACES: Indigenous Anti-Human Trafficking Engagement, puts forth the foundations for Courage for Change. It’s 14 recommendations and six-part strategy are rooted in relationship and collaboration through: Survivor-centred and survivor informed services; Prevention through education, training and public awareness campaigns; Access to safe and respectful spaces at service delivery agencies; Core supports for transitioning to a new life; Evidence-based policy and system reform; Streamlined supports and processes.


Currently operating in Thunder Bay with expansion in Toronto, programming will be offered to additional Indigenous organizations in priority communities such as: Timmins, Ottawa, Greenstone, Kenora, Napanee, Sioux Lookout, Midland, Peterborough, Hamilton and Niagara Region, with the goal of creating a network of coordinated anti-human trafficking supports and services across the province.


“Because we’re expanding into 10 communities, this is our opportunity to create a pathway to safe spaces. It takes a community to create change,” says Dawn Lavell-Harvard, Board President, ONWA.


The first new program partner will be the Niagara Chapter of Native Women in Fort Erie, a priority area due to the current lack of programming, high tourism and proximity to the US border. ONWA will assist with program set-up, training, and ongoing support to ensure sustainability.


ONWA is honoured to walk with Indigenous women and girls on their journey through the Courage for Change Program. We will continue to grow and adapt program needs based on the recommendations of Indigenous women and girls, adapting to the changing needs of the community.




Read the Ontario News Release:

Ontario Increasing Supports for Young Victims and Survivors of Human Trafficking




The Ontario Native Women’s Association


The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) is a non-profit organization that empowers and supports all Indigenous women and their families in the province of Ontario through research, advocacy, policy development and programs that focus on local, regional and provincial activities, since 1971. Ending violence against Indigenous women and their families and ensuring equal access to justice, education, health services, environmental stewardship and economic development, sit at the cornerstone of the organization. ONWA insists on social and cultural wellbeing for all Indigenous women and their families, so that all women, regardless of tribal heritage may live their best life.

www.onwa.ca | LinkedIn: Ontario Native Women's Association | Twitter: @_ONWA_ Facebook: ONWA7 | Instagram: onwa_official



For more information:

Andre Morriseau, Communications Manager

Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA)

Email: amorriseau@onwa.ca

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