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Lives free from violence: Safe homes, safe relationships, safe communities

By Diana Coulter

Nicole Greville believes we all deserve lives free of violence – every day and in every way.

As a family violence outreach manager based in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Nicole appreciates the global campaign called “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.”  The campaign runs every year from November 25th to December 10th, and raises awareness around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence. 

“But I also believe it shouldn’t just be 16 days a year, or one month...I believe this needs to be 365 days a year,” she says. “This work needs to be done every day of the year...Because we all deserve safe homes, safe relationships and safe communities. That’s a human right that we deserve.”

Nicole works for Waypoints, an organization that has been helping women, children and men affected by domestic, family and sexual violence in the Wood Buffalo region since 1982. Funded in part by the Canadian Red Cross, Waypoints offers people support, education and information focused on violence and abuse prevention. All its programs and services are free. Waypoints also runs an emergency shelter for women and children, operates a 24/7 crisis phone line, and facilitates public education workshops.
Waypoints trauma counsellors and support workers regularly travel between Fort McMurray, and other remote communities like: Anzac, Fort McKay, Janvier, Conklin, and Fort Chipewyan, a fly-in only destination.

 “Today, I believe violence has become normalized in politics, in Hollywood...and many other ways. You’re always hearing about violence, particularly against women and gender-diverse people, so this work is important in our community,” says Nicole.

Across Canada and internationally, the Canadian Red Cross collaborates with community groups, governments, Indigenous leadership, and law enforcement to address sexual and gender-based violence. Red Cross support has enabled Waypoints to significantly expand its outreach and counselling efforts, says Nicole.

Advocacy and public education are also key roles. Recently, Waypoints hosted a talk by Stephanie Harpe, an Indigenous singer, actress and advocate, who shared her story of survival, violence prevention strategies and how she escaped abuse to find healthy love.

Nicole GrevilleA member of the Fort McKay First Nation, Stephanie has also been outspoken about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry, which found Indigenous women were 16 times more likely to be slain or go missing than Caucasian women. Nicole, who is Iroquois Six Nations, also speaks passionately about the inquiry and efforts to address sexual and gender-based violence at Waypoints, a role she started in 2017.

“16 Days of Activism means a lot more this year... Being Indigenous from Canada, from Turtle Island, it’s very important work because I’m always worried if I’m going to be next, or if one of my cousins or friends or family is going to be next and that’s a really sad reality, especially when we’re living in Canada...That should never be our vision for our future,” says Nicole.

People seek help from Waypoints for a range of challenges, which can often involve social inequality, poverty, and residential school trauma, she explains. These problems have also been compounded by the emotional upheaval and loss after the 2016 wildfires in the region.. In 2017, she started at her Waypoints position.

“With this, I think I found my meaning because I care about people, and I want people to know that I care even if no one does, and that’s been our mission at Waypoints, too.”

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