Women and Indigenous learners can now apply to have 90 per cent of the costs for eligible marine courses covered thanks to a federal government contribution of $5.9 million to the Marine Training Program that will expand accessibility and flexibility to suit unique learner needs, and create a safe learning environment, as well as an equitable work culture, for its students.

Efforts to bridge the gaps between genders and cultures – in the spheres of community supports and employment opportunities – received a significant boost recently.

To help more women and Indigenous learners gain access to marine industry training and careers over the next three years, the NSCC launched a new initiative on April 24. Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner Breton–Canso announced a federal government contribution of $5.9 million to the Marine Training Program at the NSCC Strait Area Campus.

Through this initiative, the NSCC will develop new training to create working and learning environments that are welcoming and inclusive for women and Indigenous learners, and increase community outreach aimed at eligible learners.

Tom Gunn, principal of the Strait Area Campus, said the Marine Training Program is a great opportunity for women and Mi’kmaq people to build careers in the marine labour force, noting there are jobs available with employers like Marine Atlantic, Atlantic Towing, and Bay Ferries.

Along with the $5.9 million from the federal government, Gunn said the college is putting up another 10 per cent, resulting in over $2.5 million allocated for scholarships and bursaries, to help bridge the financial gap between training and employment.

As a result of the program, women and indigenous learners can apply to have 90 per cent of the costs for eligible marine courses covered. Successful applicants to eligible marine programs may apply to receive an annual bursary of $5,000 toward the tuition costs of most eligible programs. Indigenous students who receive this annual bursary may also be eligible for an additional bursary of $10,500 each year to assist with living costs. There are two bursaries available for eligible students enrolled in marine-related certificate, diploma and advanced diploma programs.

Then on April 29, the province announced that 24 community organizations and groups will be receiving grants to prevent domestic violence.

The grants, totalling $912,000, are part of the work to develop Standing Together, a provincial plan to prevent domestic violence and support victims and their families.

Prevention grants include the Eskasoni School Board which will get $3,400 for the “Red Dress Project.” The project will work with high school youth to discuss the media’s impact on violence, violence prevention, and community violence prevention strategies. The youth will create an art project and film.

The Naomi Society was approved for $10,000 for “A Youth’s Perspective: Engaging Children and Youth in Discussion on Domestic Violence,” in Antigonish and Guysborough counties. The project will take place through in-school lunch programs that will work to interrupt the cycle of violence using a trauma-informed approach and help reduce barriers for boys who are seeking services for school-based healthy relationship programming.

The Union of Nova Scotia Indians will receive $10,000 for “New Paths,” for the communities of Eskasoni, Membertou, Potlotek, Wagmatcook, and We’koqma’q. The project will address domestic violence and anger management using the seven sacred teachings and will incorporate both visuals and storytelling designed by a registered psychotherapist with input from Elders, cultural support advisors, community members, and other professional organizations.

Under the Shift Grants, Family Service of Eastern Nova Scotia – serving Antigonish, Guysborough, Richmond, and Inverness counties – will receive $75,000 for “Strait Area Healthy Relationships: Engaging Men and Boys.” The project’s primary focus is school-based peer-facilitated programming, after-school youth engagement programming, drop-in social inclusion sessions for men, and systems navigation family violence supports for men and boys. Subjects include healthy relationships, informed consent, well-being, physical exercise, nutrition and cooking, employment skills, budgeting, free personal hygiene appointments, and coordinating domestic violence services and referrals.

Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association will receive $75,000 for “Ending Domestic Violence Starts with Me,” which is a province-wide initiative. The project intends to prevent violence against Mi’kmaq women by using intergenerational learning and cultural reintegration to strengthen sense of self and belonging.

Also approved for $75,000 is the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia for “Not Just Victims of Family Violence: Our Children, Our Future,” which is another province-wide grant. The project will provide expert training for staff members in member organizations across the province on working with children who have experienced domestic and family violence.

Together these announcements can help close the gap between genders, in matters of sexual consent, and provide supports for victims of domestic and sexualized violence, while at the same time, enhancing opportunities for communities which have been marginalized for too long.

Those who are the unfortunate victims of domestic and sexualized violence have local organizations and programs funded to provide support, but more importantly, the provincial program is also designed to educate young and old alike to improve unacceptable behaviour and change poisonous attitudes.

And while part of that provincial funding has been admirably committed to First Nation communities, those same communities, as well as women, can benefit greatly from the enhancements of programs and services at the NSCC Strait Area Campus Nautical Institute. It is great to see communities once overlooked by employers and training institutions, now being embraced.

Lifting up, supporting, and giving women and our Indigenous neighbours the tools they need, is a positive step towards equality that doesn’t just help those segments of the population, but society as a whole.