Actions and Commitments

Call to Action # 41: Justice (25-42)

1st on-reserve women’s shelter in New Brunswick to open in the new year

November 30, 2023

12-bed facility will also have family units

A bed with a window in the foreground.
The emergency women’s shelter has 12 beds and four family units available for women with children. (Oscar Baker III/CBC )

CBC Indigenous: The first women’s shelter on a First Nation in New Brunswick will open its doors in the new year and it’s a resource Shelly Francis says will be valuable for women escaping violent homes.

Nignen Women’s Shelter at Natoaganeg First Nation, 115 kilometres northwest of Moncton, is Indigenous-led with cultural resources serving Indigenous women, children and 2SLGBTQ people.

Francis, who is director of Mawlugutineg Mental Wellness which will provide mental health services to women in the shelter, is Wolastoqey from Neqotkuk, Tobique First Nation. “When I was going through my rough time in my earlier years, this would have been an incredibly safe place for me to bring my children,” said Francis.

Francis said she stayed in an abusive home because she didn’t want to go to a shelter outside of her community. Now she’s an advisory committee member for Nignen. “I think this place is really going to provide a lot of culturally safe and directed support for these women to find the resources that they need,” said Francis. 

An Indigenous woman smiling.
Shelley Francis says Nignen will provide a cultural and safe space. (Oscar Baker III/CBC )

The centre will operate as a 12-bed emergency facility and features family units that include bathrooms, living rooms and bedrooms. It will offer access to elders, workshops, addiction services, and mental wellness staff.

Anita Boyle, executive director of Nignen, said she envisions the centre as a place to help women heal. “We will bring all of those partners together to assist that woman in achieving these goals for herself,” said Boyle, who is Mi’kmaw from Metepenagiag Mi’kmaw Nation.

An Indigenous woman in a chair in her office.
Anita Boyle says women will have access to health, mental wellness and cultural programming at the shelter. (Oscar Baker III/ CBC )

She said the centre will try to shorten wait times but she’s not sure what the demand will be. 

“I think that because our shelter is on a First Nation, we will end up with women choosing to want to escape the intimate partner violence in their homes and may actually decide for the first time to come to our shelter,” said Boyle.

Boyle said the emergency women’s shelter in Miramichi, about seven kilometres away, has agreed to assist with any overflow needs.

The Women’s Equality Branch of the provincial government provided training for 13 staff members in domestic and intimate partner violence foundations, administering the danger assessment tool, and applying for emergency intervention orders.

Nignen received $5.4 million from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and $2 million from Indigenous Services Canada to assist with construction costs and an additional $1.1 million from ISC next year for operational costs.

An Indigenous man in a ribbon shirt in front of a beautiful mural.
Natoaganeg Chief George Ginnish says Nignen Women’s Shelter will provide a safe place where Indigenous women, children and 2SLGBTQ people will have resources to rebuild their lives. (Oscar Baker III/CBC )

Natoaganeg Chief George Ginnish said the new shelter in his community is a necessary service to provide a safe place for Indigenous women, children and 2SLGBTQ people.   “What is happening is not good, but this will help people escape and find safety and a fresh start,” said Ginnish. He said he’s proud his community can provide safety for vulnerable people.

Gignoo Transition House is a shelter for First Nations women that operates off-reserve in Fredericton. Boyle said her next step is securing transitional housing for women leaving the shelters. “We are pursuing a second stage housing project that we hope will be funded and that’ll give those women an opportunity to take that next big step towards independence and empowerment,” said Boyle. 

For anyone affected by family or intimate partner violence, there is support available through crisis lines and local support servicesHope for Wellness at 1-855-242-3310 (toll-free) or the online Hope for Wellness chat is available to Indigenous people across Canada. ​​If you’re in immediate danger or fear for safety or that of others around you, please call 911.


Oscar Baker III

Oscar Baker III is a Black and Mi’kmaw reporter from Elsipogtog First Nation. He is the Atlantic region reporter for CBC Indigenous. He is a proud father and you can follow his work @oggycane4lyfe