Girls Group Mentoring Toolkit

This Girls Group Mentoring Toolkit provides the tools, resources and support to create, implement, deliver and evaluate a quality group mentoring program for girls, ages 9-13, in your community. The Toolkit is intended to be used in a range of communities, and can be adapted to the unique values, needs, strengths and challenges that each community encompasses.

Program Population

Aboriginal Girls

"Aboriginal peoples" is a collective name for the original peoples of North America and their descendants.The Canadian constitution recognizes three groups of Aboriginal people: First Nations (referred to as Indian in the constitution), Métis and Inuit. These are three distinct peoples with unique histories, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs (Government of Canada, 2013). It should be noted that some girls may not identify with any of the terms Aboriginal, First Nations, Métis or Inuit. Program leaders should be reminded that each Aboriginal community brings with it unique approaches, customs and traditions. It is important not to generalize these experiences and communities.

First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples comprise 4% of the population of Canada, or approximately 1.4 million people (Statistics Canada, 2011). Between the years of 2006−2011, the Aboriginal population increased at a faster rate than the non-Aboriginal population by 20.1% (Statistics Canada, 2011). Children aged 14 and under also accounted for 28% of the Aboriginal population, compared to 16.5% for the non-Aboriginal population, and their average age is much younger than the rest of the Canadian population (Totten, 2009). 

Some additional statistics and things to consider about Aboriginal girls in Canada:

    "Historically, Aboriginal women commanded the highest respect in their communities as the givers of life and were the keepers of the traditions, practices and customs of the nation. It was well understood that women held a sacred status; they were revered for their ability to create new life and, by extension, create new relationships with the Creator."

    - Native Women’s Association of Canada (2014)

  • The history and colonization of Aboriginal peoples, families and land, "has created a situation in which Aboriginal teenage girls are one of the most oppressed groups in Canadian society” (Czapska, Webb & Vasquez, 2008).
  • The average child on reserve gets $2,000 to $3,000 less in education funding. More than 500 reserve schools lack access to basic amenities such as running water and libraries (Thorkelson, 2013).
  • Half of status First Nations children in Canada live in poverty, which is unlike any other poverty rate for any other disadvantaged group in the country, and triple that of non-Indigenous children (Macdonald & Wilson, 2013).
  • Aboriginal children are significantly overrepresented in child-in-care populations across the country, especially in western Canadian provinces (Blackstock, 2007; Blackstock, Prakash, Loxley, & Wien, 2005; Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates, 2011).
  • Sexual exploitation and trafficking of Aboriginal girls continues to be a problem in Canada (Sethi, 2007). 1,017 Indigenous women and girls were murdered from 1980−2012, according to the RCMP. That number is likely much higher due to gaps in police and government reporting (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2014).
  • “The first—and most important—step towards understanding Aboriginal history is to recognize that Aboriginal people are strong people. In spite of the severity of the many issues that individuals, families and communities face, Aboriginal people are demonstrating their resiliency.”

    - Alberta Education (2014)

  • According to Native Women's Association of Canada: “The number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada is disproportionately high. NWAC’s research indicates that, between 2000 and 2008, Aboriginal women and girls represented approximately 10% of all female homicides in Canada. However, Aboriginal women make up only 3% of the female population.” (Native Women’s Association of Canada, date unknown).

Despite these staggering numbers, Aboriginal girls are strong and resilient! The Manitoba Research Alliance (2006) shares that “Aboriginal peoples unparalleled historical ties to the land puts them in a unique position to develop and understand their own cultural heritage. Aboriginal young women want and need supports that uphold their traditional cultures and teachings; it is crucial for their identity formation and well-being.”

To support and include Aboriginal girls in a girls group mentoring program, programs and mentors can:

  • Respect and celebrate history and tradition in their practice and teaching to guide girls to embrace their identity and culture.
  • Recognize the unique strengths each girl possesses and celebrate their talents.
  • Consider including Elders in the mentoring program through cultural teaching, activities and crafts.
  • Ask girls what their culture—whether they’re Aboriginal or not—means to them. Allow them to lead and teach about cultural practices or values that are important to them.

Historically, mentoring in Aboriginal communities was embedded in cultural practice, in which the entire community contributed to raising and teaching its youth. Many of these social and cultural structures have now been eroded, and reintroducing the practice of mentoring into Aboriginal communities can be a great support for youth and girls in these communities. Group mentoring in particular can be effective for Aboriginal youth because groups are fundamental to Aboriginal culture (Government of Alberta, 2007).


Contact: mentoringgirls(at)canadianwomen.org