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Pathways to Healing: Youth Mentorship Program

December 20, 2019

By: Jaskirat Ghuttora

One program of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary that you may or may not have heard of is the Youth Mentorship Program and it is one that I would like to shed some more light on. The Youth Mentorship program aims to pair marginalized and underprivileged youth with volunteers from EFry in order for them to have a positive role model to look up to and learn from in their lives. This program gives a helping hand to those youth who find themselves in trouble because no one is there to listen to them, and they just need their voice to be heard.

I would like to focus on one of our youth mentors, Jackson Eckes and his experience with his mentee on how the mentorship program allowed them both to grow, connect and learn from each other. Jackson discussed how his mentee and him both established common grounds from their upbringings, to their beliefs which helped establish a respectful and empathetic connection between the two right off the bat. From there the connection only blossomed as they were both in somewhat similar situations when they were paired up at the beginning of the school year. On one hand, Jackson was finishing his final year of post-secondary and doing his practicum with EFry in the court volunteer program, while his mentee was upgrading in order to get into his post-secondary degree of choice. This led to an understandable array of stress and emotions, however their mutual experience contributed to Jackson’s ability to see his mentee succeed and be a positive influence on his mentee. Coupled with his mentee’s desire to consistently improved upon work ethic, they were able to progress together.

Eventually, the time will come for Jackson and his mentee to part ways at the end of November. However, after having met one another in August of 2018 and building a strong and meaningful mentor to mentee relationship, Jackson believes it has evolved past that and blossomed into a positive and enduring connection where they both served as positive influences and learning experiences to one another throughout their time together.

As you can see, The Youth Mentorship Program from The Elizabeth Fry Society aims to build a meaningful relationship between mentors and mentees in order to help underprivileged mentees feel welcome into society and accepted for who they are, alongside helping them realize their self-worth. Additionally, it helps youth who may have continued down the wrong path towards opportunities of moving towards a more healthy directions.


Message from the Executive Director

Transitioning from 2019 into a new decade moves us closer to our 55th anniversary in 2020. We would like to say thanks to all those individuals, agencies, supporters and collaborators for all your contributions over 2019. In particular, our organization would not be able to deliver the number of services and programs without the incredible staff and volunteers who consistently provide support to those who require our services and programs.

In 2019, we expanded our services into Eden Valley and Strathmore, and participated in the collaboration with the community and Alberta Justice and Solicitor General on the development of the Calgary Indigenous Court. We currently coordinate the Community Case Management Table, which contributes to the healing plans for those attending Indigenous Court. We conduct this work in partnership with other community partners who participate in the process and add value in reducing the gaps and increasing access to services and programs to address trauma, addiction and emotional and mental wellness.

As we move into 2020, we are reminded of the importance of empowering others who have had challenges that have lead them to systemic criminalization. We believe in the importance of building connection through community and contributing to increasing access to options and opportunities through the work we provide. Everyone deserves a chance to develop their true potential. We hope that you remain interested in our work, please feel free to connect and visit the organization. We will be celebrating the opening of our Indigenous Healing Room, the advancement of our services into Siksika and Lethbridge in January will be our next exciting advancements.

If you are interested in knowing more about volunteer opportunities or would like to support our organization please explore our website for further information. We are also seeking support with new or old, clean and in good condition winter jackets, socks, underwear, and winter gear.

From the EFry Family to your family – Have an amazing Holiday Season!


SAGE Fall 2019 Profile: Volelle Bulle

December 19, 2019

The Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary’s SAGE Emotional Wellness and Employment Readiness program assists women on their journey to personal success. The program is built on Indigenous cultural values that provide support and healing; interactive and experiential learning provide participants with reconnection to their culture. Each week, participants spend 23 hours with Kachina Raymond-McGillis, the SAGE Coordinator, learning both functional life skills and strategies to promote emotional wellness—including writing, art, and photography. Participants also engage in employment skills that better prepare them for their next steps after SAGE. Over the 12-week program, participants gain new confidence and tools to assist them on their new journey. We sat down with Volelle Bull to discuss how the SAGE program has facilitated her personal growth over the last couple of months.

Sharing only as much as you feel comfortable, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what lead you to work with SAGE?

I wanted to get in touch with my culture and boost my self-confidence. I also wanted to gain knowledge I could use for finding employment since it has been over a year since I last worked.

What has been your favourite activity or day you have had at SAGE?

I appreciated working on my public speaking and interview skills as I gained confidence through my ability to practice.

Will you be taking courses at Bow Valley College and if so, what area of study do you plan on taking?

Yes, I plan on completing Aboriginal Upgrading and then moving on to Addictions Studies.

What does an average day at SAGE look like?

The average day consists of morning smudge, check in, then learning, fun and laughter.

Has SAGE connected you with any other community resources that you have either used or plan on using in the future?

Yes, we had the opportunity to start volunteering at WINS (Women in Need Society) through the job shadow portion. I also went on a tour of Bow Valley College which allowed me to get comfortable with the staff and campus before applying.

Have you felt your confidence increase with your time with SAGE?

Yes, it has helped me build a routine that helps me get up in the morning and then out of the house into the public which I was not comfortable doing before.

What is the #1 skill or teaching you have learned at SAGE?

Public speaking, meeting new people and how to open up in a group setting. I struggled with interview questions the most and now I am feeling more comfortable. I want to push myself to get out and complete some interviews so I can continue working on gaining confidence.

Do you feel that SAGE has given you the tools to navigate an easier future or increased your resiliency to any difficult situations that will arise?  

Yes, it has helped me get out of my comfort zone and I have more confidence to take the next steps on my journey.

Do you feel like you have used any skills learned at SAGE in your daily life?

Yes, I have created a routine for myself and feel more confident connecting with new people.


Breaking Barriers: Factors that kept some Canadians out of the polls

By: Alannah Page

The last federal election was decided just over a month ago and while many Canadians might have already put the thought of politics out of their mind, there are many people who didn’t make it to the polls despite being eligible voters.

By law, in order to be considered an eligible voter, you must meet the two following criteria, be 18 years of age or older and be a Canadian citizen. However, meeting these criteria can be a lot more difficult than they first appear and some of the four most significant barriers to voting impact the most vulnerable citizens in society.

  1. Not having a permanent address

When going to the polls the main requirement is that you present a valid driver’s license as proof of address and citizenship. However, it can be daunting for people who live on the streets or are in-between homes to go to the polls without a proof of address easily accessible.  

According to the Elections Canada website, a homeless person can vote a few ways, such as showing a piece of I.D. with their names on it, like a fishing license, library card or Social Insurance card. Also, if you are staying at a shelter or other residence you can ask for a letter of confirmation to present at the polling station. Other solutions can be found on their website under the FAQ section.

A new mobile polling station system was recently established in Alberta’s last provincial election that saw polling stations being set up at the Calgary Drop-In Centre. The polling station allows multiple forms of identification which bridges the barrier to voting due to lack of I.D.

  1. Having a disability

Though many polling stations do what they can to accommodate physical disabilities in many rural locations it’s not always that simple. There may be a ramp-up to the voting area but something as simple as one elevated step can deter persons with a disability from casting their ballot. 

According to 2017 data from statistics, one in five (22%) of the Canadian population aged 15 or over have a disability. In 2015, 48 per cent of people attributed “everyday issues” which include being out of town, ill, or having a disability as the reason they did not vote. 

In some circumstances, such as living in a long-term care facility, Election representatives may come to voters to ensure those with mobility issues get a chance to vote. Other solutions are ramps, accessible elevators and mail-in ballots for those who are unable to make it to the polling station.

  1. Being in prison

Since 2002, all people incarcerated in a Canadian prison have been allowed the right to vote Federally and Provincially. Prior to this only Canadians serving a sentence less than two years were eligible to cast a ballot. 

According to CBC, in the 2015 Federal election, 22,362 people voted from prison but 7.5 per cent of ballots were rejected.

Inmates often have access to T.V. but not to the internet so they are forced to rely on what the media presents as the political parties’ message as opposed to doing their own research. This can often result in the inmates not knowing much about the person or party they are voting for. 

Inmates are able to register to vote by filling out the Application for Registration and Special Ballot form and can vote only on the 12th day before the election as opposed to when all the other Canadians vote. Voting from prison is a bit different because instead of writing an X next to your preferred candidate’s name inmates must write out the full name of whoever they vote for and then put it in an envelope. 

  1. Living on a reserve 

According to research completed after the 2015 federal election 62 per cent of First Nations living on reserves voted, compared to 66 per cent of the non-First Nations population. This was the higher than in 2008 and preliminary reports show that voter turn out on reserves in the 2019 election surpassed previous years, with Alberta having the highest. Many people are attributing this rise in voter turn-out to the record-setting number of Indigenous candidates who ran for office in the last election. APTN reported that there were 62 First Nations, Metis, and Inuit candidates registered.

Despite the numbers rising there are significant barriers for those living on reserves when it comes to information around the election as well as access to polling stations. According to a blog post by Indigenous Corporate Training Inc., things like identification, emotion and physical limitation can all pose a barrier to on-reserve voting. 

This barrier can be bridged by factors that we saw emerge in the last election, such as more Indigenous representation in politics, accessible polling stations and political activism aimed at demanding change for Indigenous Canadians. 

While voting remains a democratic right in the country, it can help to be mindful of those who are not able to exercise it due to lack of privilege. In addition to the list above, not having internet access, transportation and the ability to obtain information about the political parties are also barriers to voting that impact incarcerated, homeless and less fortunate Canadians. 


Welcoming the Calgary Indigenous Court (CIC)

December 2, 2019

The Calgary Indigenous Court (CIC) officially opened on September 4, 2019 after 18 months of consultation with Indigenous leaders and stakeholders. Operating weekly, the court will primarily deal with bail and sentencing hearings, concentrating on a restorative justice approach to crime while incorporating Indigenous traditions.

Modelled after a teepee, the courtroom is arranged in a circle, in which judges, victims, offenders, and lawyers sit at the same level so that each party is an equal participant in the judicial process. Four judges with deep ties to First Nations communities preside over the process and include stakeholders, such as Efry, Homefront, Calgary Legal Guidance and Native Counselling Services, to take part in the legal proceedings. Paying homage to Indigenous culture, Alberta Justice provides the option for witnesses to swear their oath with an eagle feather instead of a traditional bible and the courtroom has special ventilation to allow for burning of medicines for special events and ceremony.

Indigenous people are disproportionately represented in both federal and provincial institutions across Canada. Despite only accounting for 4.3% of the total Canadian population, Indigenous adults account for just over 1 in 4 of total admission to provincial and territorial and federal correctional services. Specifically in Alberta, 6.2% of the provincial population is Indigenous, however, current Indigenous incarceration rates in Alberta are unknown as the province has not released this data since 2012. It is the only province in Canada where this information is not publicly available. At the last reporting, Alberta had the most disproportionately high level of Indigenous incarceration and the previous government have acknowledged this overrepresentation.

The CIC is an effort to address these numbers and create alternatives to jail and prison time by implementing recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as well as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) report. The colonial justice system and Criminal Code itself have not adequately managed crime involving Indigenous people and as a colonial system has not honoured the Indigenous traditions of reconciliation and restorative justice. Judge Eugene Creighton, the provincial court judge that presided over the opening ceremony, discussed the Blackfoot language saying, “We don’t have a word for crime. Our word is mistake.”

With a focus on cultural supports, peacemaking and joining Indigenous clients with the appropriate resources, including Elders, the CIC’s primary goal is restorative justice, rather than punitive justice. Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer stated that the UCP government supports different types of court models. Schweitzer elaborated, “Simply locking people up and throwing away the key is not the path forward, we have to make sure we’re innovative. What’s hurting people, how do we get those issues resolved?” By connecting Indigenous people in vulnerable situations with their community and culture, they find a space where they feel like they belong and the possibility of relapse becomes less likely.