Financial Literacy Program for Black Immigrant Women

Occasionally, we proudly amplify the work of grassroots organizations who contribute to improving the lives of women, femmes, non-binary people, and children. In this case, we are excited to support the work of Vancouver Eastside Educational Enrichment Society (VEEES) led by Adaeze Jannette Oputa and Doriane Kaze who are looking for focus group participants that will lead Black immigrant, refugee, and migrant women to financial independence through their Financial Literacy Program for Black Immigrant Women.

This program is the first of its kind in Metro Vancouver, that will offer a range of courses designed specifically to educate and empower Black immigrant, refugee, and migrant women, helping them and their families reap the benefits of being financially confident and savvy.

VEEES will offer an independent and unbiased financial curriculum in an enjoyable and engaging environment. The courses are taught by Black women who have created and simplified the complex financial verbiage into everyday language to help women make better-informed financial decisions.

This program intends to highlight the concepts and significance of financial literacy and how it can contribute to improving socio economic wellbeing, financial sector development, poverty reduction and sustainable growth in black immigrant communities within and beyond BC.

They will be conducting a focus group to understand Black women’s

  • level of financial knowledge that already exists in the community;
  • needs as a Black immigrant, refugee, and/or migrant woman, so that VEEES can build strong wrap around services to support them

The focus group will be held online, on Thursday, September 17 from 11 am to 1 pm PST.  A $20 gift card will be provided for sharing your valuable time with VEEES.

If you:

  • Are a Black newcomer woman (immigrant, refugee or migrant) between 20 and 55 years of age
  • Live in Metro Vancouver
  • Have access to the internet

Please register to join the focus group by filling out the form on their website.

Financial literacy and independence is also important for survivors of gender-based violence, and this program is specific to support the needs of Black immigrant, refugee, and migrant women.

For survivors who look for additional supports, our employment program called AWARE is available to provide one-on-one help in navigating and accessing government, community, and peer supports as well as offering workshops on relevant topics that will set you up for success. If you or anyone you know is seeking employment services or supports, contact us by email claudia@bwss.org or phone 778-628-1867.

Supreme Court of Canada’s anti-SLAPP judgments endanger survivors of gender-based violence

On September 10, 2020, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) released judgments in two cases concerning the interpretation of Ontario’s anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) laws on which BC’s Protection of Public Participation Act is modeled. In response to the decisions, the anti-violence sector urges the Supreme Court to centre the voices of survivors of gender-based violence who can be faced with SLAPP suits when they speak out.

These cases – 1704604 Ontario Ltd. v Pointes Protection Assn and Bent v Platnick – are the first opportunities that the Supreme Court has taken to interpret anti-SLAPP laws. Though the cases were not about expression concerning sexual assault or gender-based violence, these judgments (linked below) were anxiously awaited by members of the anti-violence sector who anticipated the impacts that the rulings would have on survivors of marginalized genders. 

In November of 2019, West Coast LEAF, Atira Women’s Resource Society, Battered Women’s Support Services, and WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre intervened in these cases in Ottawa, as a coalition of anti-violence organizations that work to combat gender-based violence and advance gender equity.

The coalition focused its arguments on the impact that strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) have on survivors of gender-based violence. SLAPP suits filed by those accused of gender-based violence are of grave concern, as they intimidate and silence individual survivors, further chilling the reporting and disclosure of gender-based violence. Gender-based violence is already a grossly under-reported crime, and the coalition shares concerns that these rulings may result in additional trauma for survivors.

The Supreme Court does not specifically address the impact that SLAPP suits have on survivors of gender-based violence in these decisions. The Court does recognize that, in considering what weight to give expression, judges may need to consider whether the expression at issue, or the underlying legal claim, may provoke hostility against identifiably vulnerable groups or groups protected by equality and human rights laws.

“We are concerned that today’s judgments will result in additional barriers that survivors of gender-based violence and sexual assault will face when seeking justice, or sharing their experiences of sexualized violence,” says Dalya Israel, Executive Director, WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre. “The potential for SLAPP lawsuits to cause survivors further traumatization will disproportionately affect those who are Indigenous, racialized, trans and gender diverse. These decisions are another example of how the criminal justice system continues to fail at providing protections for marginalized survivors and perpetuates the systemic oppression already faced by these communities.”

Amber Prince, Staff Lawyer with Atira Women’s Resource Society, says: “We appreciate that the SCC has defined the public interest broadly. It is critical that vulnerable groups, such as sexual assault survivors, be able to speak up about what happened to them, in order seek support, safety and redress without fear of being sued. It is also critical that sexual assault survivors have meaningful access to legal support and the Courts to protect themselves from SLAPP suits. The legal system must be responsive to the particular needs of sexual assault survivors, and the chilling trend of SLAPP suits being brought against sexual assault survivors across Canada.”

“These judgments have potentially serious implications for survivors of gender-based violence,” says Raji Mangat, Executive Director of West Coast LEAF. “Defamation claims against survivors of gender-based violence are of increasing concern. They have become more common in the backlash to the #MeToo movement and are often brought in cases where deep power imbalances exist. Without having their disclosure and reporting protected as a matter of public interest, survivors of gender-based violence face an unacceptable choice. They risk being sued in defamation and dragged through a lengthy civil court proceeding if they disclose or report their violence for any reason, including seeking support or ensuring safety for others. Or they lose their right to this expression.”

“We are working with women right now who are being sued for defamation for exposing their abusers,” says Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director of Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS). “Today’s decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada appears to have affirmed the power of those who perpetrate sexualized violence. However, we are undeterred. We will continue to take action on the front line, where the law meets the lived experiences of sexual assault survivors.”

Read the judgment in 1704604 Ontario Ltd. v Pointes Protection Assn by clicking here.

Read the judgment in Bent v Platnick by clicking here.

For information on BC’s Protection of Public Participation Act, click here.

Get a limited edition Dorothy Grant face mask and support BWSS programs and services

With more public spaces requiring face masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we are ecstatic to present this partnership with the one and only, Dorothy Grant.

Dorothy Grant is a legendary Haida artist, and she has created limited edition face masks with 10% of proceeds supporting survivors and victims of gender-based violence through Battered Women’s Support Services.

These masks are made of breathable 70% cotton and 30% silk, and have double layers with an open insert pocket for a filter, should you choose to use one. Say goodbye to single-use masks, and re-use these washable, long-lasting masks.

Not only are you supporting a local Indigenous artist, you are also helping women, femmes, non-binary people, and children access safety through BWSS programs and services.

Wear a piece of art while making a statement about your care for others through one or all four fabulous designs.

😷 Keep one at home
😷 Keep one at your work place
😷 Keep one in your bag
😷 Give one to a friend!

About Dorothy Grant


Dorothy Grant’s connection to her culture and Haida identity has been the driving creative force and her foundation as a contemporary fashion designer for over the past thirty-two years.

In 1988, Grant became the first to merge Haida art and fashion utilizing her formal training at the Helen Lefeaux School of Fashion Design. Dorothy believes that her clothing embodies the Haida philosophy Yaangudang meaning “self respect.” The driving force behind her clothing designs is “empowerment, pride and feeling good about oneself.”

Battered Women’s Support Services in need of more crisis line volunteers as support for domestic violence victims and survivors expand

Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) has been taking calls from victims and survivors at their most vulnerable times for the past four decades. As of March 2020, BWSS expanded their community-based crisis line to support 24/7, and added a texting service in addition to communicating by email. BWSS’s crisis lines rely on dedicated, trained volunteers to support, educate, and empower callers to a life free from violence. More volunteers are needed and BWSS’s world-renowned Violence Prevention and Intervention Training Program is now accepting applications to join the fall cohort starting on September 18, 2020.

Participants of the free training program are provided skills-based knowledge grounded in a strong theoretical framework for understanding violence against women and girls in relationships and systemic oppression. The training program covers crisis intervention, peer counselling, safety assessment, safety planning, advocacy, referrals, group facilitation, and public education.

The crisis line typically gets 18,000 calls annually. However, this year, calls have increased by 300 per cent as the crisis line is now open 24/7 and as COVID-19 exposes more victims to danger and lethality for having to stay at home. Most calls from the crisis line are from victims and survivors, family members, children and youth, and coworkers. Forty per cent of callers are calling for the first time.

“The crisis line is where we learn of the unique and changing needs of survivors and victims across various demographics and we build our systemic advocacy based on the calls we receive,” said Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director of BWSS. “Volunteering with us is a way of giving back to the community for those who deeply care about ending gender-based violence. Our volunteers make a difference in the lives of thousands of victims and survivors as they are the first point of contact, becoming a gateway to accessing services including counselling, legal advocacy, and our various specialty programs that centre the needs of our callers.”

The training is now mostly virtual, which creates more options for participants who need the flexibility. Many of BWSS’s services are also offered virtually and in person. There are many shifts that need to be filled as the line is always open, and the crisis line offers shifts online and from home. Volunteers are supported and supervised by experienced and trained BWSS staff while on shift.

“Our goal is for victims to become survivors, and to live free from violence,” said Elza Horta, Crisis Line and Intake Coordinator at BWSS. “We also receive calls from people who want to help survivors and want to be active in the community especially during the increased rates of domestic violence during COVID-19. There are lots of education, life-changing and life-saving conversations happening over the phone.”

For more information about the Violence Prevention and Intervention Program and to apply for the fall training now, visit bwss.org/volunteer.

The BWSS Crisis Line is available 24/7 and can be reached by phone at 604-687-1867 or 1-855-687-1868; by texting 604-652-1867 or email intake@bwss.org.

 

BWSS Legal Services and Advocacy Program will be resuming our clinics

We’re happy to be resuming our Legal Forms Clinic

Our Legal Forms Clinic are for Supreme and Provincial Court Family forms. They are offered for no fee and are facilitated by legal advocates and interns who can help women draft very specific family law court forms. We’re able to  help women who know which forms need to be filled out (e.g Affidavit, NOFC, NOA, F8, etc.).
 

The clinic will happen twice a month, every other Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Each appointment lasts two hours, and we ask women to come 15 minutes prior to their appointment so we can efficiently work together. There will be two BWSS legal advocates (Mayra Albuquerque and Summer Rain Bentham) and a legal intern from UBC Allard School of Law, allowing us to help three women per clinic. Legal advocates and interns will not be providing legal advice.

 

We are pleased to have family law lawyer Tanya Thakur who will be available as the duty counselor at each clinic, and will review the forms filled out by legal advocates and interns, and in some cases, will swear affidavits or F8.

 

The Legal Forms Clinic is available on the following dates from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.:
• Thursday, September 10
• Thursday, September 24
• Thursday, October 8
• Thursday, October 22
• Thursday, November 5
• Thursday, November 19

 

If you are interested in attending a Legal Forms Clinic, please contact the BWSS Intake Line at 604-687-1867 or 1-855-687-1868 (toll-free) or email intake@bwss.org.
Our Family Law Clinic is here to help women access justice

Our Family Law Clinic are staffed with pro-bono family law lawyers who will give free legal advice to women who are low-income (including division of assets & debt), and help them prepare to go to court. Please note that the pro-bono family law lawyers cannot prepare typed legal documentation or go into court on behalf of women.

 

Typically, the pro-bono family law lawyer advises women, and then, women will have to make a separate appointment with BWSS legal advocates to figure out their next steps. Appointments with the pro-bono family law lawyer will last approximately an hour, which will allow us to help three women per clinic.

 

Thank you so much to our pro–bono lawyers for their time and expertise in helping increase women’s access to justice. All too often women are self-representing in their family law cases without the benefit of legal support, and these services are extraordinarily important in dealing with abusive partners who often have lawyers to represent them.

 

The Family Law Clinic is available on:
• Saturday, August 29: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Wednesday, September 9: 5 to 8 p.m.
• Saturday, September 26: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m
• Wednesday, October 14: 5 to 8 p.m.
• Saturday, October 24: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Wednesday, November 4: 5 to 8 p.m.
• Saturday, November 21: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

 

If you are interested in attending a Family Law Clinic, please contact the BWSS Intake Line at 604-687-1867 or 1-855-687-1868 (toll-free) or email intake@bwss.org.

Work and volunteer at BWSS

Apply to come work with us

We are a feminist ending violence organization with an entrepreneurial spirit known for our commitment to creating and implementing programs and services that empower women from all walks of life. We offer the opportunity to work within an accomplished team making a difference every day on the frontline and beyond. If you are looking to work in an organization engaged in making a real difference in the lives of children and women in our community, please apply to work with us!

The following positions are currently open:

  • Research and Policy Analyst
  • Indigenous Women’s Legal Advocate
  • Housing Advocate
  • Latin American Women’s Counsellor
  • Volunteer Coordinator for My Sister’s Closet

Sign up for our Prevention and Intervention Volunteer Training

Our Prevention and Intervention Volunteer Training Program is offered to self-identified women who want to obtain the necessary skills to contribute to end gender-based violence, and will be offered again starting on September 18 to December 4, 2020.

We’re proud to say that our training is well-respected and well-known in the anti-violence community. Program training participants gain skills in crisis intervention, peer counselling, safety assessment, safety planning, advocacy, referrals, group facilitation, and public education.

With our crisis line and intake now extended to 24 hours a day and seven days per week, we are grateful for the commitment of our volunteers who help us respond to victims and survivors on the other side of the crisis line.

Consider these when helping your loved one suffering from domestic violence

For those that are experiencing domestic violence, reaching out to a loved one is extra challenging under COVID-19.

Now that we are in a different phase of the pandemic, it has been recorded that more than a million Canadian women lost their jobs in the first two months of the pandemic, and are facing additional stressors related to finances, and health. Some are torn about the next steps for their children’s futures.

Our crisis line continues to take calls from people who are concerned about their loved ones experiencing domestic violence. Although there are so many factors that are even more frustrating at this time, your friend or family member may still be unable to contact you because of their abusive partner. Your support, involvement and presence continue to be vital.

Please consider the above thoughts when talking to your loved one who is suffering from abuse.

You can also call our crisis line and we can help you determine how you can support your loved one.
📞 Call 604-687-1867 or 1-855-687-1868
📱 Text 604-652-1867
✉️ Email intake@bwss.org

Wear your support for BWSS

We’re selling shirts with 100% of proceeds going towards our mandate to end gender-based violence.

If you’re interested in other fashionable wear, check out our social enterprise My Sister’s Closet – social enterprise of Battered Women’s Support Services. We have an online shop and our store at The Drive (1830 Commercial Drive – Wednesday to Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm) is now open!

Thank you very much for your support.