Late last month a Yellowknifer put out a call on social media and now, her call is being answered.
Nancy MacNeill asked men to take a stand, and take action against gender-based and sexual violence. The former FOXY and SMASH leader said she was "tired" of people feeling unsafe, and of doing the labour to try and change things. It was time for men to step up.
"Men (hashtag not all men, and not exclusively men, but enough men that you need to read this): this is your problem, and your responsibility," her letter on Facebook read in part.
"We know that you don't think it's that bad. But it is that bad. 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."
The calls for action in the letter include "an anti-colonialist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic, and anti-racist approach that incorporates traditional methods of healing and education."
Now fellow Yellowknifer Jay Boast is organizing a men's group, called Answer the Call, to discuss and take action on sexual and gender-based violence.
He says it's something he's been thinking about for a while.
"When Nancy put out her letter as an open call, it just felt like I wasn't going to be able to look my friends who are women in the face anymore if I didn't respond in some way," Boast said.
"The main role just from the start, is you can't deal with a problem until you admit there is one."
He says that step includes men doing some introspection and some critical thinking about negative systems — like toxic masculinity, patriarchy and misogyny.
"I think that men have to start the process and it's going to be a difficult one because I think it triggers a defensive response in us and a guilt response in us of realizing that we are complicit in these systems and we are complicit in this problem," Boast said.
He says some responses from men have been enthusiastic but he says it's important to have a slower start.
"I think the hope is that a space can be created where it's OK to talk about these things, OK to admit that we're not perfect because none of us are," he said.
"I'm not an expert in this field. I'm just a ordinary guy who has friends who are hurting and wants to do something about that," he said.
He also says, while there's a separate group he supports that's in the early stages of forming and where some women gave their first hand experiences, his meeting is directed specifically at men so that they can "do the work they need to do."
"I'm not going to turn anyone away who wants to show up, though, I've just asked that people who do show up, respect that idea of trying to focus on men taking on the work that they need to take on," he said, adding the intention is not to exclude anyone.
"I think the topic is massive. And there's lots of things to take on," Boast said.
"The more ways that we can approach and tackle this problem, the more likely we are to make a difference."
Deal with past trauma, says counsellor
William Greenland is a counsellor at the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation healing camp in Yellowknife, and was previously with the A New Day healing program, a now-defunct Yellowknife project to help prevent domestic violence, teach men to be accountable for their actions and promote a safe environment for their partners and children.
Greenland says it's important for men to evaluate some negative emotions they haven't dealt with before.
"I think for men right now, what we need to do is take a look at the anger that we carry," Greenland said.
"Everybody carries anger. We can control it … we can manage it, we can take care of it like that. But a lot of men don't know how to do that [and] are afraid of it."
He said a lot of it stems from residential school trauma.
"They seem to take it out on their loved ones, more than anything else," he said.
Greenland says he has spoken with some men who've been able to stand up against that violence, but to make that happen, it was a matter of digging into issues that have been weighing on them for years.
"It's like a vicious cycle that we want to stop from happening," Greenland said.
"A lot of men … are ashamed of what happened. They're ashamed of what they're not doing about it."
"We begin that process of working on building a healthy relationship, forgiving ourselves and asking to be forgiven for what we've done wrong and then start building on the goodness around us."
Nancy MacNeill declined an interview with CBC.
The meeting is set for Thursday night at Northern United Place in Yellowknife from 8 to 9:30 p.m. The group's Facebook page says it's open to men and masculine-identifying people.