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This 2-year substance use and addictions program is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada and delivered in Winnipeg, Manitoba. 13 Moons was informed by the Native Youth Sexual Health Network’s Four Fire Model of Harm Reduction. They include cultural safety, reclamation, self-determination and sovereignty. The program is operationalized under the leadership of Indigenous youth, service providers and organizational leaders through 6 related program activities across various organizations, community groups, and helpers or volunteers:


Executive Circle: similar to a board of directors, but do not engage in decision-making processes that rely on quorum and complex bureaucratic processes.

Peer Advisory Circle (PAC): is a group of people that represent the program’s target population. The PAC acts as a mechanism to ensure direct involvement in the 13 Moons programming activities.

Support Staff: helps coordinate all activities. They are a direct link to the Executive Circle and are responsible for making frontline programming decisions. Support staff may also include the involvement of elders and knowledge keepers.

Peer Workers: work closely with support staff to deliver daily programming and host the weekly sobriety gathering. They support peers and perform other roles based on the needs of peers.

Advocacy: is shared among various stakeholders involved in the program and can take on a number of forms at a grassroots level and at an institutional level.

Weekly gatherings: are a safe and non-judgemental space for people who use drugs and other community residents to access resources, training, ceremonies, storytelling, fun activities, safety, and a place to go during the evening where they can be introduced to the program.


Target Population

The target population for the 13 Moons Harm Reduction Project are youth (11-35 years old) living in the North End neighbourhood, and by extension the Downtown area. Since the program is grounded in Indigenous and local knowledge to support a culture-based approach to harm reduction, the focus is on supporting Indigenous young people – including First Nations, Metis, Inuit and others that self-identify as Indigenous. However, 13 Moons also includes other youth from Winnipeg’s inner-city experiencing addictions and considerable disadvantage. Given the high rates of methamphetamine use in Winnipeg, people who use methamphetamine are prioritized to begin closing gaps in service related to methamphetamine use


Wise Practices

Relationships are key: Although the program is modelled on a relationship-based approach, engagement so far has further demonstrated the importance of relationships that are founded on respect, trust and reciprocity. When relationships are approached from a healing and trauma-informed perspective, they are most valuable and effective to support young people.

Youth require relational approaches: Recognizing that young people continue to face systemic challenges related various systems and policies, we employ a relationship-based approach, we find that providing fundamental life teachings and developmental needs such as meaning, purpose, belonging and identity are crucial.

Social media usage: Social media has become an instrumental tool to facilitate the development and communications of the 13 Moons project. Social media has also been vital to ensure peers, support worker and the PAC are able to stay connected.



During the first year, these are some milestones and project activities:

  • Provided substance use and harm reduction training to over 500 people;
  • Established a support network through various community spaces and social media;
  • Trained 12 community youth in First Nations culturally based harm reduction practices ;
  • Provided Naloxone overdose prevention training to 40 peers, service providers and community members;
  • Reached over 40,000 people through social media;
  • Established a working relationship with Street connections; a mobile health resource that travels through Winnipeg’s inner-city delivering harm reduction resources;
  • Hosted a conference in collaboration with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to understand and apply Iceland’s drug primary prevention model to Winnipeg.



Over the first year of the project, there have been challenges based on the delivery of a peer-based and culture-based harm reduction model:

Peer Worker Management: It has been difficult to manage relationships between peers, PAC members and support staff due to the blurring of personal and professional relationships. Although there is respect for the principle of non-interference and individuals are expected to manage their relationships, meeting this challenge requires process of redefining roles and mechanisms to deal with personal conflict.

Inflexibility of Necessary Systems/Service Delivery: the systems and services that young people often have to access or require urgently have waiting lists that are months long, complicated forms, stringent entrance requirements and other bureaucratic elements that make accessing services for our people who use drugs (PWUD) difficult.


For more information:

Email: 13moons@ayomovement.com

Website:  https://www.ayomovement.com/13moonswpg.html

Social media: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/13moonshr/  

Instagram: 13moonshealing


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