International Women’s Day 2022

When will Canada and BC say enough is enough when it comes to femicide?

As we celebrate the achievements of women, girls, and femmes all around the world today on International Women’s Day, we must also recognize that women, girls, and femmes still face gender-based violence, misogyny, and oppression every day.

A girl or woman is killed in Canada every day.

Canadians and British Columbians and their leaders ignore everyday misogyny as a motivation for many killings.

Despite our efforts to bring a visible and a focus to femicide in Canada and British Columbia, our political and social leaders have ignored racist/misogyny as an everyday reality for women, girls, and femmes and an underlying motivation for many/most of their killings.

There is some evidence that COVID-19 may have led to an increase, particularly in 2021, as shown by the most recent Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability statistics.

 

For the past two years, there has been a gradual rise in the number of girls, women, and femmes killed, mostly by men, in Canada.

Compared to the pre-pandemic year 2019:

  • 2020:  17% increase
  • 2021:  26% increase

In 2021, 18 women were killed by their sons and this represents 69% of women killed by family members.

So far in 2022, 11 women and girls have been killed in BC.

It doesn’t matter if it is correlated with or caused by the COVID-19 pandemic what is most important is what we plan to do about it?

Similarly, those groups of women, girls, and femmes that have been made most vulnerable to violence, including femicide, also largely remain unchanged. For example, women and girls remain at most risk from men they know, primarily male partners and sons.

Indigenous women and girls, women and girls who live in rural, remote, and Northern regions of our country, and women aged 18 to 54 years also remain at greater risk of femicide. And elder women remain at very high risk and over-represented.

Through our Colour of Violence project, we are learning more about the risks experienced by Black, South Asian, and other racialized women, girls, and femmes and we are learning more about how intersecting identities such as race, age, sexuality, disability compound the vulnerability to violence and femicide.

We asked the question in 2021 and we will ask it again – when will BC say enough is enough when it comes to femicide?

And for every woman, girl, or femme that is killed there are thousands more who live in fear.

You Can Just Walk Away, Some Women Can’t

So at BWSS, we stay on the frontline – our crisis line continues 24/7/365 receiving an average of 50 calls daily.

Our crisis line volunteers, support workers, legal advocates, and counsellors work tirelessly 7 days a week responding to tens of thousands of requests for service annually

This International Women’s Day help keep BWSS on the front line and give the gift of safety.

Thank you from the BWSS Team.

International Women's Day 2022; a woman or girl is killed every day

Two Events for the 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-based Violence

As part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence and our new multi-year Colour of Violence project, Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) is thrilled to invite you to two upcoming events and to participate in our survey centering racialized survivors.
Youth Survivors and Dating Violence: Let’s all Recognize the Signs
Event Nov 25th 

Youth Survivors and Dating Violence – Let’s all Recognize the Signs

To launch the international campaign 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence and to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25, 2021, we are delighted to invite you to this event.

Eternity Martis is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author

This event features Eternity Martis – Eternity Martis is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author whose debut memoir, They Said This Would Be Fun, was a “Best Book of the Year” pick by Globe and Mail, Apple, Audible, and Chapters/Indigo. CBC called the book one of “20 moving Canadian memoirs to read right now” and PopSugar named it one of “5 Books About Race on College Campuses Every Student Should Read.” This year, They Said This Would Be Fun won the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Non-Fiction.

Intimate partner violence in high school and on university campuses is an everyday occurrence—still, there is so little recognition of the prevalence and very little discussion about it.

Eternity Martis’ keynote will highlight the prevalence of dating violence, the experiences of young women, femmes, and non-binary people, and what high schools and universities can do to address it.

Also read this important thread by Eternity Martis for last year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women:

Save the date and join Battered Women’s Support Services for a webinar
Event Dec 9th

Race, Gender, and Anti-Violence Services

We are thrilled to invite you to a powerhouse online discussion with Black, Indigenous, immigrant/refugee, and racialized women on race, gender and anti-violence services on December 9, 2021.

This event will feature speakers Audrey Huntley, Sarah Jama, Farrah Khan, Elene Lam, Kelendria Nation and Andrea Ritchie, with a territorial welcome by Cecilia Point and moderated by Angela Marie MacDougall and Leslie Varley.

More information and registration at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-colour-of-violence-gender-race-and-anti-violence-services-registration-208296007967

Survey Nov 1 – Dec 9th

Have you taken our brief, anonymous survey?

We recently launched a short, anonymous survey focusing on issues of accessibility, safety, and the structural barriers of anti-violence services in British Columbia for Black, Indigenous, immigrant/refugee, and women and gender-diverse survivors of colour.

This is a completely anonymous survey with no identifying information collected that will take less than 15 minutes to fill out with 11 questions. 

Anyone who does the survey can enter a draw for $50-gift certificates to My Sisters Closet.

 

We are seeking the participation of those who are:

  • Black, Indigenous, immigrant/refugee, racialized
  • Identify as a cisgender or transgender woman or femme, or as a gender diverse person
  • Live in BC
  • Are 19+

 

The survey can be completed in different ways between November 1 and December 9, 2021:

  1. Available online: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BWSSColourofViolence
  2. Hard copies of the survey will also be available at BWSS’s Vancouver office and at both My Sister’s Closet locations. These surveys can be returned in the labelled survey return boxes at the BWSS front desk and at both My Sister’s Closet locations.
  3. There are PDF’s available for download in English, Spanish, Punjabi, Tagalog, French, Simplified Chinese, Vietnamese, and Farsi at: https://www.bwss.org/colour-of-violence/. Completed PDF copies can be emailed to [email protected] or call 604-616-7528 to arrange return.
Take the colour of violence survey to end Gender-based Violence

Reproductive justice: Beyond safe abortions

Reproductive justice is more than just safe abortions

This article uses the terms “pregnant people,” “mothers,” and “women” based on the context. We are aware that there are separate statistics on trans men and non-binary people and we acknowledge that there is information available beyond this article.

Women who experience violence and abuse are less likely to have access to reproductive justice.

They experience more difficulty using contraceptives effectively than women who don’t face abuse due to the power exerted and control exhibited by their abusive partners to further subjugate them. This layer of abuse results to more unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and pregnancy at an earlier age.

Since COVID-19 has taken over many aspects of our lives as we know it, many women are currently living with extended families. Some of the women that Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) serves, report to have no access to birth control as there is increased pressure from her extended family to have a child, making it difficult to break free from reproductive coercion. By the time she gets pregnant, she gets pressured to keep her child. Before COVID-19, she may have had access to BWSS, but COVID-19 limits everyone’s freedom to move around, and access to services.

This pandemic requires isolation: a perfect scenario for abusive men and sometimes, enabling extended families, who use isolation as a tactic. With more families isolated, many abused mothers who are either pregnant and/or have children cannot reach out for support.

Women who experience violence and abuse are less likely to have access to reproductive justice.

When women are pregnant, violence increases.

According to a study in Australia, pregnant women are more vulnerable to physical abuse, which lead them to experience depression and high usage of substances leading to difficulty in gaining much-needed weight for them and their child. Pregnant women who are abused are less likely to have access to pre-natal care, which leads to an early death for their children, who are more likely to die before they reach their fifth birthday.

Men use different tactics including financial abuse, and sexual coercion to control women.  It is common for men who support a woman’s immigration to Canada to impregnate her right away as a form of controlling her.

Reproductive rights are less than 30 years old

In 1994, a group of Black women in Chicago gathered to launch a movement demanding for reproductive justice:

Sharing frustration about the global reproductive health status of Black women and the limitations of a privacy-based ‘pro-choice’ movement when women of color had minimal choices, the Black Women’s Caucus of the Illinois Pro-Choice Alliance determined the necessity of adopting a human rights framework for women of color and low income women that addressed issues of bodily autonomy with reproductive decision-making. 

Adopting human rights, social justice and reproductive rights tenets, these women created a transformational and grassroots-based movement for social change. With the definitions and concepts of Reproductive Justice in place, the Black Women’s Caucus sought affirmation and support from the cadre of women of color working domestically on reproductive health and rights.

National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda

They define reproductive justice as:

The human right to control our sexuality, our gender, our work, and our reproduction. That right can only be achieved when all women and girls have the complete economic, social, and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, our families, and our communities in all areas of our lives. 

At the core of Reproductive Justice is the belief that all women have

  1. the right to have children;
  2. the right to not have children and;
  3. the right to nurture the children we have in a safe and healthy environment.
Canada has one of the most progressive abortion laws in the world, although is stiffened with limitations

Abortion procedures are common in Canada, with up to one of three women getting an abortion in their lifetime. Yet, although Canada has robust abortion laws as the only country in the world to not have any specific legal restrictions on abortion, and with abortion partially funded by the Canada Health Act, access to abortion in the country is still problematic.

Many pregnant people are restricted by their financial status, location, immigration status, and doctors who refuse to perform the procedure due to moral and religious grounds. Only one in six hospitals across Canada provide abortion services, with most providers located in major urban centres. For people who live in rural settings, abortion clinics are hard to get to because of lack of available transportation, the clinics are unavailable and are at capacity, which result to many people who end up having a child they were not prepared for. For pregnant people in Nunavut, they face restrictions to universal cost-coverage for medical abortion. As a matter of fact, there are actually no abortion clinics available at any northern regions of any provinces in Canada, and pregnant people have to be flown into a major urban centre should they face complications during their pregnancy.

In addition, for people who could get pregnant and also happen to not communicate in English or French, and/or are immigrants or refugees, they are presented with less to no options that are culturally appropriate and sensitive to their needs.

Pursuing abortion still carries plenty of stigma from families to pro-life activists who are often seen harassing pregnant people even at the time when they arrive at the abortion clinic. Beyond the reasons outlined, there are still plenty of barriers that halt pregnant people from making decisions over their own body.

Beyond abortion rights

Although access to abortion has been available for many white, able-bodied women who have financial resources and live in major urban centres, reproductive justice urges for a broader vision that includes Black, Indigenous, women of colour, and trans and non-binary people in health care and social policies. After all, it is Black women in the US who fought for abortion rights, access to contraceptives, sexual health education, rights to have children, rights to have birthing options, rights for parents to keep the children they have, and the right to raise their children in thriving communities.

Canadians shriek in horror over the US Trumpian imagery of children of migrants crying inside cages as they are willfully separated from their parents at detention centres. Many are children of parents fleeing violence from South American countries including El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, as well as children of migrants from the Caribbean who experience the effects of colonization and imperialism (which are US-sanctioned and supported). In September 2020, an African-American nurse, Dawn Wooten, made a whistleblower complaint reporting a doctor who performed hysterectomies (surgical removal of surgeries) on detained women without their knowledge of consent.

However, Canada has been guilty of separating families for far longer that what is officially recorded. The currently existing Indian Act had officially formalized the removal of 150,000 First Nation, Inuit, and Métis children in hopes “to kill the Indian in the child” in residential schools that operated from 1876 until 1996. Two thousand eight hundred children died in residential schools as per the report of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.  Furthermore, starting in the mid-1950s, dubbed as “The Sixties Scoop,” 20,000 kids were removed from their homes, mostly in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and adopted by non-Indigenous families in Canada and the US. This practice placing Indigenous children in the child welfare system continues to this day, where Indigenous children represent more than half of children in foster care in private Canadian homes but account for only less than ten per cent of the overall child population.

The right of parents to keep their children further target Black, Indigenous, and racialized, immigrant parents. Up until as recently as July 2020, the government of Ontario ended “birth alerts,” a practice that notifies hospitals of newborns who are deemed to need protection from their mothers: a high percentage of whom happen to be Indigenous and Black women. To date, only BC, Manitoba, and Ontario have ended this systematic separation of families, a recommendation made from the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The Ontario Native Women’s Association has told the government that 450 Indigenous families a year will benefit from the ending of birth alerts based on the programs they administer and sites they have in place instead.

In addition, a class action law suit is underway as one hundred Indigenous women have come forward with their unique stories of forced and coerced sterilization further exposing the systemic racism at play in Canada’s health care system. Many women have had their fallopian tubes tied without their proper and informed consent. This practice of eugenics –determining who should or should not have children—was mentioned multiple times in the National Inquiry for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls which states, “…the forced sterilization of women represents directed state violence against Indigenous women, and contributes to the dehumanization and objectification of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.”

Eco-fascist ideals continue for calls against people’s autonomy to have children. In September 2020 in Vancouver, an advertising campaign by One Planet, One Child has featured a Black baby with the ad copy, “The most loving gift you can give your first child is to not have another.” This campaign raised outrage from anti-racist climate justice activists, who highlighted that the myth of overpopulation targets families from poor, and racialized communities globally when “research has shown that an unequal distribution of resources is actually more to blame for the climate crisis than increasing numbers of people.”

In addition, transgender and non-binary people need reproductive justice, too. American journalist and trans woman Parker Molloy says: “Abortion is an issue of bodily autonomy. Being trans is an issue of bodily autonomy. Abortion is a trans issue.” Many non-binary people and trans men need reproductive justice as well, as they are often left out of conversations. Inequities that trans and non-binary people face especially in health care make it another barrier for them to access safe and great quality care, due to medical transphobia, income inequity, effects of organized religion, erasure, feeling judged and shunned by loved ones and many more.

Organizations such as Options for Sexual Health have put together a manual for Trans-inclusive Abortion Services to help service providers provide trans-inclusive services in abortion settings.

What good are rights when only a few could access them? Although reproductive rights have been granted in various ways, reproductive oppression limits many people from having autonomy and self-determination when it comes to their own health and wellbeing. Reproductive justice addresses the power imbalance within colonial and patriarchal institutions, social structures, economies, and the intersections that people face including their access to reproductive and sexual healthcare and information, their race, class, sexuality, geographical location and vulnerability to experiencing violence.

BWSS liberates victims from violence

For the past decades, BWSS has been responding to calls for reproductive justice through public education and by supporting women, non-binary people, femmes and girls through different programs suitable for their unique situation. Our wrap-around services understand the intersections women, non-binary people, femmes and girls live within when faced with unjust legal systems; precarious immigration status; unsecure and unstable financial supports; no access to maternal health care; ableist laws; a society that thrives in white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy; and settler-colonial state violence.

BWSS services include:

  • Black, Indigenous, and Latin American Women’s programs
  • Thrive, a program that supports people involved in sex economies
  • AWARE, a program that leads women to financial empowerment
  • 2SLGBTQIA+ support
  • Counselling
  • Legal advocacy
  • And more

If you are experiencing abuse –whether it is mental, physical, sexual—, please know that you have options. When it is safe to do so:

Financial Literacy Program for Black Immigrant Women

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 [email protected] or phone 778-628-1867.

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

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

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.”