Indigenous Women on the Front Line to End Violence

Wildflower, Women of Turtle Island Drum Group was started by Brandy Kane, former Indigenous Women’s Program Manager when she joined the team in 2012.

Wildflower, is a hand drum group that meets weekly. Together, healing from trauma, finding our voices and standing strong in our power through drumming and singing.  Many nations believe song and dance are sacred, and the drum beat itself is often referred to as the heartbeat of Mother Earth.

The drum group has grown immensely since its start and is often asked by local community and beyond to drum and sing at events, bringing empowerment and healing to the community.

The above photo of Wildflower, Women of Turtle Island Drum Group was taken at Fair in the Square, an annual event hosted by our friends at Central City Foundation.

Central City Foundation also held the Hope Dialogue Series focusing on Women in the Inner City, which was led by the women leaders of our community discussing how we can work together in new ways to make changes, to improve women’s lives and build hope in our community.

For more information or to join the Wildflower, Women of Turtle Island Drum Group, email Summer Rain at

BWSS is Offering Counselling and Crisis Support Services During and Beyond the #MMIWG Inquiry

BWSS is offering counselling and crisis support services during and beyond the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry hearing scheduled for Vancouver on April 3rd to 8th 2018  at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel, 7551 Westminster Highway in Richmond.

Counselling and crisis support is available for survivors and families while participating at the inquiry including during statement taking and or giving testimony.

After inquiry support services are available.

All counselling and crisis support is individual and group and is trauma informed and centered in informed cultural practices.

For more information and to contact our team call 604-652-1867

BWSS will hold two days of statement taking at our confidential location in April. Information to follow or call 604-652-1867.


National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls “Where We Are At”

National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous women and Girls

“Where We Are At”

On December 8, 2015, the Government of Canada announced the launch of an inquiry to seek recommendations on concrete actions to address and prevent violence against Indigenous women and girls.

The Mandate of the Commissioners:

  1. The commissioners are required to examine and report on the systemic causes behind the violence that Indigenous women and girls experience, and their greater vulnerability to violence, by looking for patterns and underlying factors that explain why higher levels of violence occur. The commissioners have been mandated to examine the underlying historical, social, economic, institutional and cultural factors that contribute to the violence.
  2. The commission will examine practices, policies and institutions such as policing, child welfare, coroners and other government policies/ practices or social/economic conditions.
  3. The commissioners, as part of their mandate, will examine and report on institutional policies and practices that have been put in place as a response to violence, including those that have been effective in reducing violence and increasing the safety of Indigenous women and girls.

We know at Battered Women’s Support Services from extensive experience that over 1,700 recommendations for action have been previously made, and yet only a handful have been put into practice ; Indigenous women and girls in Canada are disproportionately affected by all forms of violence. Although Indigenous women make up 4 per cent of Canada’s female population, 16 per cent of all women murdered in Canada between 1980 and 2012 were Indigenous. While homicide rates for non-Indigenous women in Canada are declining, the homicide rate for Indigenous women has remained unchanged. Underlying causes, such as socioeconomic factors like poverty and homelessness as well as historical factors like racism, sexism and the legacy of Colonial practices and the impacts and intergenerational impacts of the residential school system are other reasons Indigenous women and girls experience disproportionate rates of violence. To summarize “Canada has a war against our women”

A message from the National Inquiry:

“Our women and girls (including heterosexual, Two Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered,  queer, and those with disabilities or special needs) are sacred. We would like to recognize every single family member and loved one of the missing or murdered Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ2S people in Canada. We want to express our deepest sympathies for your loss and we are grateful for every story that you will choose to share with us in the search for truth.”


About Battered Women Support Services Involvement:

Battered Women Support Services has been standing in solidarity with Indigenous women across Turtle Island in calling for a National Inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada since before British Columbia’s Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry (MWCI). On top of running a crisis line and offering legal, advocacy and counselling services, Battered Womens Support Services is actively involved in a coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls formulated out of the failure of both group and family participation in the MWCI. Our efforts working in western Canada and northwest British Columbia through an initiative called Women’s Leadership and Training brought together Indigenous women to organize local responses to violence toward We are an active long-time member of the February 14th Women’s Memorial March committee to honour Indigenous women who have lost their lives to violence in downtown eastside Vancouver.


The Recommendations Battered Women Support Services Made to the Ministers last year about whose voice must be included:

The following groups must have an opportunity to meaningfully participate in the inquiry process:

  • The families, adopted families and families of the heart and community members of Indigenous women and girls who have experienced violence must be able to participate in the inquiry to share their experiences of the broad-reaching impacts of violence as well as how the police and justice system responded to their experiences.
  • Indigenous women and girls who have experienced and/or are currently experiencing violence: Indigenous women must be central participants in the inquiry process, as well as organizations that represent the interests of Indigenous women, people and organizations that work directly with them and those that advocate on their behalf.
  • Women’s-led and women serving organizations, service providers, outreach and support workers, and advocates whose expertise and service mandates in the issues facing murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls must be able to both provide support to and represent women and girls directly affected by the issues.
  • Indigenous communities and Indigenous organizations must be fully included in the inquiry given that they are integrally connected to the murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, and have critical and unique experiences that draw upon their intimate first-hand knowledge of the very same racism, sexism and colonialism that the inquiry will be examining.
  • Experts in socio-economic marginalization and systemic discrimination based on race and gender must participate in the inquiry process so that the inquiry can take advantage of existing expertise on these issues.


Battered Women Support Services is honored to say we will be applying for standing within the National Inquiry into missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. And would like to encourage and support family members, loved ones, and survivors to reach out and identify themselves to the commission.


How to contact the Commission:

Please email the National Inquiry at

Phone: 1-844-348-4119

Include your name, contact information, and location. A member of the team will contact you.

Your testimony is wanted and needed!


Battered Women Support Services is dedicated and committed to finding ways of providing support to you if you choose to participate in the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous women and girls. In addition, we are committed to finding ways to foster, strengthen, support, and encourage Indigenous women who are stepping up and leading in their home communities to provide these essential services and support while walking alongside family members, and survivors through the National Inquiry process and along their healing journey after the Inquiry. If you would prefer to participate with our support in contacting the Commission, please contact our crisis line at 604-687-1867, complete an intake and ask for an appointment with a woman from our Indigenous Women’s Program team.

NEWS RELEASE: Coalition Responds to Launch of National Inquiry

coalition responds national inquiry

Coalition Honours Families and Advocates as Canada Launches National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C.- December 10, 2015) Earlier this week, the Canadian Government announced the launch of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, beginning with pre-inquiry consultation. The Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls honours families and advocates who fought tirelessly for the national inquiry, and looks forward to participating in the pre-inquiry consultation and the inquiry itself.

The Coalition invites the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and the Honourable Patricia Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women to meet with us as part of the pre-inquiry consultation to be undertaken in British Columbia. Coalition members would also like to invite the ministers to the north to meet with the families and organizations there. The Coalition membership includes representation from families, survivors, Indigenous organizations, front-line service organizations, feminist and women’s organizations, legal advocacy sector, faith-based groups, and provincial organizations. Our breadth of representation and our experience with the Oppal Commission of Inquiry make the Coalition well-positioned to help inform this first stage of the inquiry.

For decades, Indigenous women and supporting organizations called for an inquiry into the disappearances of the many marginalized women from BC and we particularly recognize the hard work and commitment of the February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee. For twenty-six years, the February 14th Women’s Memorial March has walked to protest the forces of colonization, misogyny, poverty, racism and to celebrate survival, resistance, struggle and solidarity to make women’s resistance visible. We also recognize the hard work of the Indigenous women and communities in Northern BC who have been instrumental in bringing forward the National Inquiry since the Highway of Tears Symposium in 2006.

The Coalition is encouraged that the Government of Canada will begin immediately engaging with survivors, family members and loved ones of victims, women’s groups, as well as National Indigenous, provincial, and territorial representatives, as well as frontline service providers to seek their views on the design and scope of the inquiry. We have provided preliminary recommendations for a sufficiently thorough pre-inquiry consultation process, and advised that the BC Missing Women Commission of Inquiry led by Wally Oppal cannot be used as a model for any aspect of a national inquiry, given its exclusion of key voices, narrow mandate that failed to address root causes, and only partially implemented recommendations.

Learning from BC’s mistakes in the Oppal inquiry, we are asking that family members and organizations with relevant knowledge of the issues be appropriately resourced by Canada to allow for full participation in the process. We also ask that the inquiry mandate meaningfully address root causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls, and that Canada put in place resources and mechanisms to ensure that recommendations coming out of the national inquiry will be acted on in a comprehensive way.

The Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls initially came together in response to the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in British Columbia overseen by Commissioner Wally Oppal. Unfortunately the groups who formed the Coalition were shut out of the inquiry; however, the Coalition continues to meet regularly to pursue justice for murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls and has grown in number and strength.

Media Inquiries:

Amnesty International Canada, Craig Benjamin, (613) 744-7667, ext. 235
Battered Women’s Support Services, Angela Marie MacDougall, (604) 808-0507
BC Assembly of First Nations, Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson, (250) 318-8527
BC Civil Liberties Association, Josh Paterson, (778) 829-8973
Butterflies in Spirit, Lorelei Williams, (778) 709-6498
Canadian Federation of Students- BC, Simka Marshall,
Carrier Sekani Family Services, Mary Teegee, (250) 612-8710
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, Tribal Chief Terry Teegee, (250) 640-3256
Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, Alice Kendall, (604) 681-8480
Ending Violence Association of BC, Christina Entrekin Coad, (604) 633-2506, ext. 13
February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee, Fay Blaney, (778) 714-0161, Mona Woodward, (778) 714-6448
First Nations Summit, Colin Braker, (604) 328-4094
First United Church, Genesa Greening, (604) 681-8365
Neskonlith Indian Band, Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, (250) 319-7383
PACE: Providing Alternatives Counselling & Education Society, Laura Dilley, (604) 872-7651
PHS Community Services Society
Pivot Legal Society, Kevin Hollett, (778) 848-3420
Poverty and Human Rights Centre, Shelagh Day, (604) 872-0750
RainCity Housing, Amelia Ridgway, (604) 662-7023
Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, (250) 490-5314
Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre Society, Lillian Howard, (604) 253-9575
Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, Keira Smith-Tague, (604) 872-8212
Union Gospel Mission, Derek Weiss, (604) 253-3323
West Coast LEAF, Kendra Milne, (604) 684-8772
WISH Drop-in Centre Society, Mebrat Beyene, (604) 669-9474
Beverley Jacobs, Jacobs Law, (778) 877-7402
Jenny Kwan, Member of Parliament for Vancouver East
Melanie Mark, BC NDP Candidate Vancouver- Mount Pleasant, contact Nathan Allan, (604) 338-2967

Download the Media Release in PDF format here.

International Human Rights Day

International Human Rights Day

Resisting the Backlash Against Women’s Human Rights

by Ela Esra Gunad

December 10th is International Human Rights Day, a day to bring attention to the fundamental proposition in the Universal Declaration that states each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights which belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values. It was sixty-six years ago that this milestone document in the history of human rights, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), was adopted.

Where are we as a global community at today in terms of the rights of women?

Every day, all over the world, women and girls continue to face violence and abuse in their homes, schools, workplaces, online, and on the streets. Globally one in three women has experienced abuse or subjected to gender-based violence in their lives.  Here in Canada, every six days a woman is killed by her intimate partner. Women are facing this violence simply because they are women. There are currently 1,181 missing and murdered  Indigenous women and girls throughout Canada due to the historical and present day systemic and social oppressive forces.

Throughout history and still today, there has been an ongoing battle on women’s bodies during times of conflict and warIn Rwanda, between 100,000 and 250,000 women were raped during the three months of Rwandan Genocide in 1994. According to the UN agencies, more than 60,000 women were raped during the civil war in Sierra Leone (1991-2002), more than 40,000 in Liberia (1989-2003), up to 60,000 in the former Yugoslavia (1992-1995), and at least 200,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1998. And, the history repeats itself today from Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iraq to Syria. Even in the absence of conflict or war, being a woman in these regions is being on continual alert of being harmed or killed. It cannot be ignored that during waves of militarization threaten women’s lives all the more.  Women have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, physically abused, harassed, and tortured in ways you may not even want to imagine.

Living free from violence is a human right, yet millions of women and girls face this violence both in times of peace and in war, at the hands of the state, in the home, and in the community. A vast number of women experience forced migration and have to leave their homelands in order to escape gendered systemic violence including gender oppression, gender persecution, political persecution, femicide, war, economic violence, land theft, and the impacts of colonization and globalization. We know through our support and advocacy work at Battered Women’s Support Services, migrant women have always faced structural barriers and there are many inequalities that migrant women face within Canada’s economic, social, legal, and political systems. It is crucial to understand that human rights are linked to each other and these inequalities often deny the basic rights of migrant women and their families. Freedom of movement and residence within any country is a human right, yet migrant women’s lives continue to be threatened by unsafe alternatives that force them to flee their countries, and once they make it into Canada the immigration process makes them even more vulnerable to further violence by the state, by employers, and within their relationships.


Violence is one of the most common causes of homelessness for women and children. Our work on homelessness and violence against women shows that women leave their homes because of physical and/or sexual violence. On any given day in Canada, over 8,200 women and children are living in emergency shelters and transition houses to escape violent partners. Every woman and her children are entitled to safe, affordable, and adequate housing, yet many women face homelessness and/or further violence as a result of that. BWSS works very hard to get women into social housing and we know the demand supersedes the available resources.  One women’s shelter reported turning away eight to ten women per day at both of the shelters it operates. At BWSS we know many women with children will do almost anything to avoid sleeping on the streets out of fear of losing their children. With no place to go and not wanting to lose their children, many women stay in the abusive relationship.

This reality will not change until we each own our role in ending violence and do what is in our power to advocate and act ( activism ) to end gender-based violence. Women around the globe are rising against the pandemic of gender based violence, standing in their power, mobilizing and organizing to end all forms of violence against women and girls. From Indigenous women warriors’ who took to social media with #IAmNotNext campaign to women survivors who are standing in their power and coming forward with #WhyIStayed, #WhyILeft, and #WhyIChooseNowtoTellMyStory hashtags; from women of the Arab Spring who carried their voices far and wide on the winds of revolution to women in Nigeria who started #BringBackOurGirls campaign to demand the return of hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian girls.

As it has been said, ending violence against women and girls remains one of the most crucial social issue to be obtained, since it weakens all other efforts towards a future just society. To come to grips with today’s most prevalent human rights violations in world, we have to work together towards a world in which women are safe and free everywhere from their very own intimate environments to the wider world at all times.

In the past 35 years, BWSS has been working on this frontline to end violence against women and making a positive change in the lives of girls, women, families, and communities.

On this International Human Rights Day, we ask you to take an effective action to stop violence against women. We need you to create a future free from violence for all.

Use your power today to end violence against women by:


Read more about our 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign:

International Day to End Violence Against Women in Canada

Culture Shifts Recognized as Women’s Group Commemorates 35 years of Work to End Violence Against Women

Women’s Leadership for One Future Without Violence

The Dynamics of Power and Control After Separation in Relation to the Family Law Processes

16 Steps for Discovery and Empowerment 

Decolonizing and Healing Through Ceremonies

The Power of Support Groups at BWSS

Volunteering on BWSS Crisis and Intake Line

Wildflower Women of Turtle Island Drum Group

A Space for Every Woman to Grow

If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?


Bridging The Gap Between Community And Care

Bridging The Gap Between Community And Care With The Wildflower, Women of Turtle Island Drum Group

A chance encounter between Carol Kellman, Aboriginal Nurse Practice Lead, and a patient with a broken ankle several years ago has spawned a partnership between Providence Health Care and Battered Women’s Support Services that has resulted in better support and more culturally safe care for Aboriginal patients at St. Paul’s Hospital.

IMG_4756“I met a patient here named Brandy Kane when she had fractured her ankle, and we became friends,” Carol recalls. “She said, ‘I’d really like you to come and be a collaborator with Battered Women’s Support Services. Can you sing and drum?’ And I said, ‘I carry a few songs but I’m really shy about singing, it’s not something that I do all the time.’”

With Brandy’s encouragement, Carol began attending the weekly Thursday drum group sessions, held at Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS), and saw the opportunity to create linkages between participants and the services provided at Providence.

“It’s about creating trust. And raising the profile of the hospital so we’re seen as a hospital that’s friendly to Aboriginal people, and that has Aboriginal services embedded in the work, as well as access to support and advocacy.”

IMG_4757For Carol, the partnership has become a cross-referral community outreach program, where she’s able to accompany patients who are ready and interested to the drum group. Once there, they can choose to participate in the group and access other services offered by BWSS.

“When I first started attending the drum group there were probably 3 or 4 of us, and now there are 10. Some of the women have accessed services through St. Paul’s at one time or another, so they know that I’m here to support them if they have health concerns or follow-up appointments,” says Carol.

As the Wildflower, Women of Turtle Island Drum Group has grown, the Aboriginal Health Team has been able to showcase the women’s drumming at a number of events both in and out of the hospital, including opening Eating Disorders conference, Canac, nursing conference, mental health and additions conference, the Positive Women’s Network retreat and welcoming Maori health executives during a visit to St. Paul’s earlier this year.

The Tuesday Night Talking Circle, held weekly in the Sacred Space at St. Paul’s Hospital, has also benefitted from the participation of women from the group who come to sing, drum and support the patients. As a result, some of the Tuesday patients who had previously been shy about participating in songs have blossomed and become more active and vocal in the group.

PicMonkey Collage

The hope of the Aboriginal Health Team is that St. Paul’s will soon have a contingency of women singers who will be able to go to the bedside as requested by patients and community members.

“One of the most sacred things that we have are our songs, because they have so many meanings,” says Carol. “Each woman in that group carries a song. So when we’re at a gathering, it’s their job to explain the meaning of the song, and how that song came to the group and what the intention is behind the song. So it instills pride and it also shows non-indigenous people the depth and breadth of the culture, and the strength and resiliency of the women.”