Men in Hay River, N.W.T., are answering a call to action to address gender-based violence in their town.
Last month, local advocate Nancy MacNeill posted an open letter to men in Yellowknife, asking them to take a stand against gender-based violence and sexual violence. MacNeill wrote that she was tired of people feeling unsafe and women having to take on the brunt of this work themselves.
A group of men in Yellowknife, named Answer the Call, took on MacNeill's call to action earlier this month.
Scott Cloutier decided to use the same name, goals and ideas for a Hay River group.
"Women and gender-diverse people have been doing this work, you know, out of safety, for years," Cloutier said. "When it comes down to it, it's really a men's problem."
We need to raise awareness that this is not OK. - Scott Cloutier, organizer
It's important to bring this movement to Hay River, Cloutier continued, to see if there's a local solution men can find to gender-based violence.
That violence is present in many forms, Cloutier said. It can range from a casual sexist remark in the workplace, to a creepy date or an abusive romantic relationship.
But there's one common thread.
"It's all violence," he said. "We need to raise awareness that this is not OK."
MacNeill's letter noted how bad things have become in today's society.
"We have normalized horrible actions and words to the point that we no longer recognize them. We need to recognize them. We can't move forward this way."
Cloutier said the end goal is to create an action plan in collaboration with the Yellowknife group that would include concrete ways to stop gender-based violence.
The action plan, Cloutier said, would also include specific strategies to address violence against Indigenous women, women of colour and the LGBTQ+ community. That was one of the calls to action in MacNeill's letter.
There's been a positive reaction from men in town so far, Cloutier said. He's expecting about a dozen people at the group's first meeting at Hay River's recreation centre on Sept. 29.
He's looking to hold meetings every two weeks after that.
The meeting is limited to 25 people due to COVID-19 restrictions. Priority will be given to men, but Cloutier said women and gender-diverse people are welcome to attend.
The discussion will also be streamed online if there's enough interest from people in the community to take part.