MS & Q: “A New Day” RFP

new day

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, two days ago the Department of Justice released a request for proposals for a revamped “A New Day” program”. At least that’s what the title says. However, those familiar with the current “A New Day” program might only recognize it as a gutted and sterilized approximation of the program they know.

A New Day is the NWT’s only healing program for men who use violence in their relationships. It was developed after two years of research and investigation led by the Department of Justice, and included staff and leaders from Health and Social Services, the John Howard Society, the Status of Women Council, the Native Women’s Association, the Salvation Army, the Tree of Peace, the Yellowknife Women’s Society, the YWCA, and the RCMP. The program provides flexible, individual and group counseling services that are respectful, collaborative, and hold people accountable. It is delivered by permanent, full-time staff who provide culturally appropriate counseling based on traditional knowledge, and with the assistance of Elders. Perhaps most importantly, Mr. Speaker, it’s accessible. It’s easy for those seeking help, to get help. These qualities are why the program is successful, why it fulfills dozens of requirements of the TRC Calls to Action, and why it’s a Public Health Agency of Canada Aboriginal Best Practices Program.

The Department of Justice was determined to end the program, but the Regular Members recognized the need for a men’s healing program, and we rallied together and ensured that the program would remain until there was “something” equivalent to take its place.

Well, Mr. Speaker, the RFP that describes what that “something” is, has profoundly disappointed many of those who were engaged in designing the original program. Its contents came as a surprise to them, as their consultation was not sought this time around.

The result appears to be a program stripped of all the qualities that make it successful – its accessibility, flexibility, outreach, cultural components, and ability to allow for trusting relationships between clients and counselors to develop. The first point of contact for potential clients will now be a GNWT Coordinator who will determine whether or not those who want to enter the three-phase program will be allowed. If they are, they will be assigned to facilitators who are on non-exclusive, when-and-as needed contracts. Facilitators are not required to have a background in issues of domestic violence, Aboriginal culture, or intergenerational trauma. Instead of fostering opportunities to build trust, clients may be assigned to a different facilitator for each phase of the program. Further, if a facilitators must not have pre-existing professional relationships with clients. That virtually eliminates the ability of the current provider, as well as the ability of many others in the community, to participate in the program.

These are just a few of the issues that have been raised, Mr. Speaker. I’ll have questions for the Minister to see if these concerns are just the result of poorly written RFP, or if A New Day is really A Completely Different Day.

Questions

SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As far as the Department of Justice is concerned, the only benefit from the new day program has been to the 12 men who have completed the program start to finish. The department gives no weight to the benefits to the men who didn’t graduate but who will attest that they can better control their anger and that they’ve slowed their drinking and that their lives are just generally better after participating in the program. It doesn’t consider the fact that A New Day is the only program available in remand. So what the department has done is structure the RFP to eliminate all these qualities and really sterilize it making it more palatable to government.

So my first question. The first point of contact for the program will be a GNWT coordinator. I said that accessibility is one of the strengths of the current program, so I’m interested to find out: where will this coordinator be located? Is it in the courthouse? Do people have to go to the courthouse to sign up for the program now? How will that initial contact take place? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SPEAKER: Masi. Minister of Justice.

HON. LOUIS SEBERT: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I can advise this House that the coordinator will be located in GNWT offices. I don’t think an actual address has yet to be determined; however, we did hear from contractors during the evaluation of this program that the administrative work was a burden, and for that reason it was decided to have a GNWT coordinator so that burden would be lifted from the deliverers of the program. Thank you.

SIMPSON: So far, it’s not looking good. The evaluation of the program which we eagerly awaited last sitting states that probation services were particularly emphatic about the usefulness of the program and the importance of it. However, the RFP appears to indicate that the program will not accept referrals from outside agencies like Probation Services. Is this in fact the case?

HON. LOUIS SEBERT: I’m not absolutely sure about that. My impression would be that they would be accepting referrals from outside agencies, but I will look into that and get back to the Member opposite.

SIMPSON: Oh for two. The program currently incorporates traditional knowledge and elders. Will there be a similar cultural component to this program? Because, again, the RFP is silent on this.

HON. LOUIS SEBERT: I can advise that the coordinator will actively support facilitators to include cultural supports in the delivery of the program, including connection with elders.

SPEAKER: Masi. Oral questions. Member for Hay River North.

SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A very bureaucratic answer. It’s a ball. Two strikes and a ball; how about that?

—Laughter

The RFP is virtually silent as to what the new program will look like. It states that the information on the model of the long-term program is attached in Schedule A, but all I can find is a blank page that says “Appendix A” at the top. So can the Minister commit to immediately making the details of this program public? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

HON. LOUIS SEBERT: I’ve not had an opportunity to review the request for proposals. I am confident, however, that all the necessary information is in the request for proposals. I have a competent staff; they spent considerable amount of time preparing this and I am content that the RFP does set out what is required by potential contractors.