Couchiching First Nation is the latest of the Grand Council Treaty #3 communities to accept and engage in “Project Green Light”–a volunteer-based effort that looks at promoting violence-free homes.
Community members, Grand Council Treaty #3 Women’s Executive Council members, First Nation chiefs, and members of the Treaty #3 Police Service gathered at the Couchiching pow-wow grounds on July 1 to celebrate the passage of the project to the community.
So far, seven of the 28 Grand Treaty #3 communities– Shoal Lake, Onigaming, Nigigoonsiminikaaning, Rainy River First Nations, Mitaanjigaming, Lac La Croix, and now Couchiching–have received the green light bundle, which contains a green blanket, two green light bulbs, tobacco, wild rice, and a green ribbon.
Lac La Croix Chief Clayton Ottertail passed on the “light strategy bundle” to Couchiching Chief Brian Perrault, during the ceremony.
“When we put these green lights outside of our house[s], what we’re telling our community and others is that this house with that green light is a violence- free house,” noted Chief Perrault.
“There will be no violence in these houses,” he said. “That’s a safe place.”
Chief Perrault said the project was established to help fight against the problems of violence that affect First Nations’ communities, not only in Anishinaabe ones but throughout North America, as well, including substance and physical abuse.
“We’re trying to do as many things as we can to help ensure that we’re going to have safe communities–violence-free communities,” he said.
“This is what we’re hoping for.”
Many community members and authority figures spoke during the ceremony, including Jasmine Nastiuk, a family well-being worker for Couchiching Child and Family Care Program (CCFCP), who said this project not only will “enhance the family well-being” of the area but also the “community as a whole.”
The CCFCP is a new initiative that seeks to “describe the cycle of violence within indigenous families.”
Within the program that Nastiuk oversees, two services are offered: supportive services, which provides emergency food and connects clients to community services and family advocating; and safety planning, which assists family members who are fleeing violence by giving them a safe play to stay.
She added indigenous women and girls experience a higher rate of violence in Canada than their non-indigenous counterparts.
Nastiuk said “Project Green Light” seeks to address this by “providing visible safe places within our community to not only acknowledge the higher rates of violence impacting our people but also to provide immediate safety” to those in crisis.
Treaty #3 Police Chief Louie Napish, meanwhile, announced a sister project that also will be taking place throughout the community.
The blue light program initiated by the Treaty #3 Police is a “parallel process of an ongoing safety program.”
“What we’ve done with our blue light program is establish that it’s a policing-led type of safe home program,” Chief Napish explained.
“What we want to do is point out not only residential locations of safety but also commercial locations of safety.”
He added the recognized safe houses are no more secure of a facility but is a police-supported program.
The inspiration for the project came from Thelma Fair of Shoal Lake 40, who had a dream of a community filled with green lights.
Similar projects have been undertaken in other communities, such as “Project Blue Light” in Manitoba, which identified non-smoking homes by a blue light.
In this case, the colour green was chosen because it signifies healing and renewal.
An increasing rate of violence, and factors such as sexual assault and high rates of child apprehension throughout the Treaty #3, is what led to the creation of “Project Green Light.”
The project is completely volunteer-based, with homes and shelters monitored by the Treaty #3 Police.
“If we have one green light home on the [reserve], we are successful,” said Priscilla Simard of the Grand Council Treaty #3 Women’s Executive Council.
“If we have a dozen, that’s even better,” she added. “If we have 30, that’s even way better.
“But the one green light, when people see it, [they] will know what it’s about.”