BWSS Commemorates the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

BWSS Commemorates the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, marks the anniversary of the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa when police opened fire on hundreds of South Africans protesting Apartheid’s passbook laws, killing 67 and wounding 186.

Though largely unknown, it is important to remember that the apartheid laws introduced by South African governments were adapted from Canadian colonial polices, including the reserve system, pass system, and Indian Act.

Canada’s very inception and living history is one marked by settler-colonial genocide targeting Indigenous women and two spirit people, enslavement of Black people, and mass migrant exclusion since the Chinese Exclusion Act and Komagata Maru.

During the pandemic and with the racist and misogynist so-called “Freedom Convoy” in Ottawa, there has been escalating racism against Indigenous, Black, Asian, Muslim, migrant/refugee and other racialized communities, especially racialized women and gender-diverse people. For example, more than two-thirds of recent reported victims of anti-Asian racism are women.


Why We Center Anti-Racist Practice in our Anti-Violence Work

The founding women at BWSS recognized that gender-based violence does not only take place between two individuals in isolation, but, rather, in a social context and a world view that systemically reinforces the power of some people to oppress others, including through race, ability, citizenship, sexuality, and more.

Multiple forms of oppression are simultaneous and cannot be separated from another; ending gender-based violence requires dismantling racism and all structural oppression.

This is why we work from an intersectional, anti-racist, decolonial and feminist perspective to eliminate gender-based violence and promote gender equity.

Responding to gender-based violence through working to end racism is challenging, but necessary.

At BWSS, we are committed to addressing systemic racism that racialized survivors of gender-based violence experience and to increase access and safety for Indigenous, Black, newcomer immigrant/refugee, and racialized survivors of gender-based violence. White supremacy shapes our understanding of gender-based violence, produces the narrative of the perfect victim, and reinforces exclusions in the delivery of anti-violence programs and services.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada points out how “mainstream gender-based analysis fails to meaningfully address the social, political, and cultural realities of Indigenous women.”

This means that survivors of gender-based violence who are also racialized are often shut out of the institutional supports and services that are necessary for them to attain justice and healing.

According to our recent “Colour of Violence: Race, Gender & Anti-Violence Services” report, an alarming 78 percent of racialized survivors whom we surveyed said they felt never comfortable, almost never comfortable, or only sometimes comfortable contacting anti-violence services after experiencing gender-based violence. Racialized survivors reported that the police were the least helpful anti-violence response system, while most survey respondents said they relied on and found their informal network of friends and family to be the most helpful.

Indigenous, Black, newcomer immigrant/refugee, and racialized survivors face numerous barriers to accessing justice when they experience gender-based violence, such as lack of access to culturally safe services; mistrust of the legal system and other state systems; and being minimized or disbelieved. Indigenous, Black, and newcomer immigrant/refugee survivors face heightened barriers to justice as survivors of gender-based violence, including often being criminalized for reporting violence, having their children apprehended, or facing deportation.

We, at BWSS, have consistently noted “[O]veremphasizing a criminal justice response and largely ignoring social structures that contribute to violence against women in relationships can strengthen the social/structural underpinnings of oppression.

The model of intimate partner violence service provision, which has largely been developed from a white, able-bodied, heterosexual, middle-class woman’s perspective, is encouraged to become more inclusive by adding multicultural components. But simply adding inclusive components does not necessarily shift the perspective that anti-violence service provision was developed from.”

In our work at BWSS, we know that safety changes everything. We are motivated by the urgency of dismantling racism and the absolute necessity of placing Indigenous, Black, newcomer immigrant/refugee, and racialized survivors at the center of our anti-violence work.


Resource Spotlight for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Earlier this month, BWSS launched our Gender Equity Learning and Knowledge Exchange providing a centralized hub for over 300 resources related to Gender-Based Violence from organizations across British Columbia, as well as key national and international resources.

Today, to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we are spotlighting twelve resources from our Gender Equity Learning and Knowledge Exchange.

1. Colour of Violence: Race, Gender & Anti-Violence Services

A community-based research project by BWSS to better understand and raise awareness on the experiences of Indigenous, Black, newcomer immigrant/refugee, and racialized survivors accessing gender-based violence services in B.C.

2. The Road to Safety: Indigenous Survivors in BC Speak Out against Intimate Partner Violence during the COVID-19 Pandemic

This report by BWSS and BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centers highlights the experiences of Indigenous survivors in B.C experiencing intimate partner violence during the pandemic. For Indigenous women and gender diverse people, the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the pre-existing reality of gendered colonial violence, and survey findings show that Indigenous women and gender diverse people are experiencing an increase in the frequency and severity of intimate partner violence (IPV).

3. Canada: Equality and Non-Discrimination with a Focus on Indigenous Women and Girls and Intersecting Forms of Discrimination

This report details the Union of BC Indian Chiefs submission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women with an emphasis on how Indigenous women and girls living on Turtle Island experience destructive and intersecting forms of gender and racial discrimination that have been fostered, strengthened, and protected by colonial structures, institutions, and legal orders.

4. Telling Our Stories: Immigrant Women’s Resilience

Telling Our Stories: Immigrant Women’s Resilience is an online graphic novel by OCASI created through a series of creative writing workshops with immigrant and refugee women who came together to learn, share, and compile their stories on sexual violence and harassment.

5. Webinar: Unravelling the Complexities of Domestic Violence and Criminalization in Black Women’s Lives

This webinar with Dr. Patrina Duhaney identifies trauma and violence informed frameworks that are both relevant and responsive to the intersecting realities in Black women’s lives, especially with an increasing number of Black women being charged with perpetrating violence against an intimate partner.

6. Health and Well-being Among Racialized Trans and Non-binary People in Canada

For the first time, researchers have survey results about the health and wellbeing of trans and non-binary Canadians who also identify as people of colour. The report by Trans PULSE Canada shows increased levels of physical violence, harassment and sexual assault experienced by racialized trans and non-binary people in Canada.

7. Hear My Cry: Breaking the Code of Silence around Intimate Partner Violence among Black Women in and Beyond Midlife

In this qualitative study, researchers utilized an intersectional approach to examine how IPV is experienced and managed by Black Nova Scotian women in and beyond midlife and their experiences of seeking support.

8. Caught in the Carceral Web: Anti-Trafficking Laws and Policies and Their Impact on Migrant Sex Workers

This report by Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network and the HIV Legal Network evaluates the combined impact of four areas of law on migrant sex workers and places the regulation of migrant sex workers in a broader historical context; maps the specific laws that create this carceral web; reviews the literature on the impact of these laws on migrant sex workers; and provides a qualitative study of migrant sex workers and their advocates regarding the impact of these laws.

9. Policy, Program, and Practices Review Guide: Strengthening Supports and Services for Muslim Women and Girls Facing Gender-based Violence

This guide has been developed as part of Canadian Council of Muslim Women’s Gender-Based Violence (GBV) project, which focuses on identifying and addressing the barriers to supports and services for Muslim women and girls facing GBV.

10. Webinar: Supporting Women with Precarious Immigration Status

In this webinar, the BC Refugee Hub and Battered Women’s Support Services launch a safety assessment and safety planning tool for supporting women with precarious immigration status and refugees facing domestic violence.

11. Video: Indigenous Women Land Defenders: Canadian State Violence and Forced Removals

This is the video of a panel discussion on Indigenous women land defenders in Canada and the efforts of these Indigenous women to protect Indigenous rights and Indigenous territories from state violence, dispossession, and environmental degradation.

12. The Decolonial Toolbox: An Educational Pathway

This toolkit by Mikana, Montreal Indigenous Community Network, and Concordia University de-centers and unlearns the colonial narratives that non-Indigenous people have learnt and encourages reflection on the role of settlers.