National Symposium on Intersections of Violence Against Women and Precarious Immigration Status

National Symposium on Intersections of Violence Against Women and Precarious Immigration Status

June 5, 2014 – Toronto, Ontario Canada

On June 5, 2014, the Migrant Mothers Project and Woman Abuse Council of Toronto will host a National Symposium to address how immigration policy changes are impacting immigrant women’s safety and rights and Battered Women’s Support Services is thrilled to be involved in this important event at this critical time.  The symposium brings together thought and practice leaders who work in immigration settlement, ending violence against women, immigration and refugee law and advocates for temporary foreign workers.

Battered Women’s Support Services is looking forward to collaborating again with Migrant Mothers Project to illuminate how forced migration is gendered and in that gendering exposes women to a broad spectrum of violence.  BWSS Rosa Elena Arteaga will present “Immigration Policy Does Not Recognize the Spectrum of Violence Against Women”.  And as she wrote last November in Women are continually forced to leave their land and migrate to a foreign country where they will be discriminated against based on their social location. Racialized and marginalized migrant women face the most oppressive and unsafe alternatives to flee from their countries and they, are not just simply allowed to enter Canada, they are screened and chosen based on the immigration laws and the policies implemented by the current governmental administration.

Once a migrant woman makes it into Canada, she might have been trafficked-or she might have come as a refugee claimant, through sponsorship, on visitor’s visa, under temporary work permit or undocumented, among other alternatives.  Her immigration status will play a huge role on the level of barriers and oppression that she will face as well as the services available to her. Many migrant girls and women will continue experiencing all forms of violence such as physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse from intimate partners, family members or extended family. The process of migration and a precarious immigration status makes girls and women more vulnerable to experience further violence, by the state, by employers, and within their relationships.

With this in mind, we, at Battered Women Support Services support migrant women with precarious immigration status, non-status, refugee claimants and permanent residents who have or are experiencing violence. We are strongly committed to understanding and recognizing that migrant women don’t “just come” to Canada, migrant women flee from their countries under extreme circumstances and with an immense need for support to overcome the impacts of gendered violence, the impact of migration and the complex process of adaptation.  We have taken many steps to ensure that we provide the appropriate support but also that we affect systemic change.

Here’s more about the National Symposium and Migrant Mother’s Project

For details go to:

Register at:

June 5th 2014 Symposium Poster Invitation Final-page-001

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



Lucia Vega Jimenez – and the Many Women with Precarious Immigration Status

Lucia Vega Jimenez

and the many women with precarious immigration status

by Rosa Elena Arteaga

BWSS Manager, Direct Service and Clinical Practice

Lucia Vega Jimenez lived and worked in Metro Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories.  On December 28, 2013, Lucia strangled herself while in custody at Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) at Vancouver International Airport awaiting deportation to Mexico. News of Lucia’s death one month ago was only made public Monday, January 27, 2014, though the news of her death has been buzzing through the community for some time. The confirmed factual record about Lucia’s death is thin and what we do know is well documented and raises very serious and troubling concerns about CBSA practices.  The calls for an independent and thorough inquiry including a coroner’s inquest would be essential in order to get to the facts and to ensure this never happens again.

Another part of the unconfirmed fact pattern in Lucia’s situation is the presence of a male partner (boyfriend). There are reports that he allegedly alerted CBSA to her precarious immigration status and failed to bail her out of detention. In addition, he allegedly stole the money she had been saving from her job as a hotel cleaner.

As reported by Andrea Woo in The Global and Mail, Lucia Vega Jimenez was fearful of being deported due to a “domestic situation” at home, according to the Mexican consulate in Vancouver.

“She was fearful of going back to Mexico – not to the country, but specifically to some domestic situation that she might face.” Claudia Franco Hijuelos, Consul-General of Mexico


An image of the Canadian border

The interconnections between gender violence, gender persecution and precarious immigration status have been well established through our work at Battered Women’s Support Services and as a woman from Mexico, Lucia’s life, death, work, and precarious immigration status are red flags for us.

In our experience working with migrant women we understand that a vast number of women experience forced migration and leave their homelands in order to escape very gendered systemic violence.  We are talking about a broad spectrum of violence that girls and women face through their lives which includes gender oppression, gender persecution, political persecution, femicide, war, economic violence, land theft, and the impacts of colonization and globalization. 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. These inequalities often deny the basic rights of migrant women and their families. Racialized and marginalized migrant women face the most oppressive and unsafe alternatives to fleeing from their countries.  They are not just simply allowed to enter Canada. More often than not they are screened out through the application of immigration policies and laws.

Once a migrant woman makes it into Canada, she may have been trafficked-or she may have come as a refugee claimant, through sponsorship, on visitor’s visa, under temporary work permit, or undocumented among other alternatives.  Many migrant girls and women will continue to experience all forms of violence such as physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse from intimate partners, family members, and/or extended family. The process of migration and precarious immigration status makes girls and women more vulnerable to experience further violence by the state, by employers, and within their relationships.

In relation to Lucia’s case, we acknowledge her fear of deportation which would force her to return to her country of origin, Mexico, and force her to face what she was fleeing. Many reports have been released about violence against women in Mexico and the increase of violence in there where over 50,000 people have died under “the war on drugs” for the last six years.

Ecatepec de Morelos


It is virtually impossible for a Mexican woman to escape from violence and to make it into Canada, a country known to offer protection to people who are being persecuted, including those who experience gendered persecution. We have learned of several migrant Mexican women who have been deported and murdered in Mexico upon their return.  A number of Mexican women who seek refuge in Canada have been rejected because according to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), “Mexico has a system of functioning democratic institutions”. Nevertheless, according to a UN report Mexico was ranked first globally in sexual violence against women, reporting 120, 000 violations in 2010. The Ministry of Health estimates that in Mexico one woman every four minutes is raped, yet to date there is no comprehensive care for the victims, because there is no effective follow-up cases. In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, since 1990 women continue to be murdered and go missing.  2012 was one of the years with the highest femicides in that city.

According to the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNODC) and the Trafficking in Persons Report of the Department of State United States of America, Mexico is listed as a source, transit, and destination for trafficking in persons. Just in the state of Mexico, between 2005 and 2010, 89% of femicide cases have been unresolved. As violence against women continues in Mexico, whether because of the war on drugs or gendered violence, the country has been desensitized regarding violence and has forgotten about protecting its own citizens.

In response to The Balanced Refugee Reform Act (Bill C-11) in 2011, Battered Women’s Support Services published an article on Gender Persecution and Law Reform in Canada. At the time we expressed our concerns about the possible consequences of these reforms on women whose fear of persecution relates to their gender. Many of the comments about the possible consequences for women refugee claimants would also apply to refugee claimants, generally, who are severely traumatized and vulnerable.  We exposed that instead of making it easier for the most vulnerable claimants to present their stories, in our view, the amendments to Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) under Bill C-11 and the proposed regulations would make it much more likely that the full facts of these types of cases would not be presented to refugee decision-makers therefore severely impacting the refugee claim.

The proposed regulations also deemed that for a country to be named a “Designated Country of Origin (DCO)“ the Minister of Citizenship of Immigration would consider a number of factors, including the opinion of a panel of experts on human rights. Government of Canada defines DCOs as countries where it is less likely for a person to be persecuted compared to other areas in the world, and also countries that respect human rights and offer state protection. Mexico is on the list of “Designated Country of Origin”. Mexico has “one of the highest rates of gender violence in the world, with 38 percent of Mexican women affected by physical, sexual or psychological abuse, compared with 33 percent of women worldwide.” We believe that this provision does not reflect the reality in Mexico and it is already having a detrimental impact on groups like women who have experienced gender related persecution.

Ultimately, we strongly believe that there are systemic policies and practices that deny a fair process to refugee claimants and they need to be changed. In addition, we want to join a call for an independent, civilian investigation to review Lucia Vega’s refugee claim and a thorough investigation on her detention and her death as well as a comprehensive review of migrant detention policies.

We have learned that the detention center at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) it is the only one of its kind that does not allow lawyers to visit detainees. As an organization that works to end gender violence, we believe that lawyers and women’s advocates must be permitted to visit all CBSA holding cells including the YVR facility in order to provide the adequate legal and emotional support to people in detention.

There are serious questions being raised and we echo the call for a civilian inquiry and coroner’s inquest into the tragic death of Lucia Vega Jimenez.


Please read and share these links and also the petition:


Petition: Migrant dignity, not migrant death! Order full independent civilian inquiry & investigation into Lucia Vega Jimenez’s death


“Coroner confirms woman in CBSA custody attempted suicide. Lucia Vega Jimenez died eight days later in Vancouver hospital”

Read more:


“She had no family, no close friends and worked illegally as a hotel cleaner, sending all her earnings to support her ailing mother in Mexico.

In the week before her suicide last month in a Canadian Border Services holding cell, the 42-year-old Vancouver woman was despondent.”

Read more:


“The organizations below call on the BC Coroners Service to hold an inquest in the death of Ms. Vega Jiménez.  We also call on the Government of Canada to immediately appoint an independent public inquiry into the death of Ms. Vega Jiménez”

Read more:


“Karla Lottini, is a freelance journalist from Mexico, has been following the news of Jimenez’s detainment and death closely. She told CBC News that being on the verge of deportation can make people desperate.

“It’s like you are not wanted, like you don’t belong, like you don’t deserve to stay in a safe place,” she said.

Josh Paterson, with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, questioned why Jimenez’s death was only made public now.”

Read more:


“The B.C. Civil Liberties Association says it wonders what took so long and whether there have been other in-custody deaths with the Canada Border Services Agency that have not been reported.”

Read more:


“McLintock said there have been “very, very few” CBSA in-custody deaths in B.C. An inquest may be ordered into Jimenez’s death, which RCMP has concluded was not criminal in nature. Both BC Civil Liberties Association and No One Is Illegal are calling for an independent civilian inquiry.”

Read more:


“Nobody should die while they are in the custody of law enforcement. The Canada Border Services Agency must be accountable for this tragic death of a woman who was in their care and custody. The public needs answers. How did this happen? Could this tragedy have been prevented?”

Read more:


Mexico is Number one in sexual violence against women: according to the UN

Read more:


Refugee advocates are calling for civilian oversight of the Canada Border Services Agency after a Mexican woman who had been working in a hotel died in hospital following her detention in the immigration holding centre at Vancouver airport.

Read more:


“The immigration detention centre at YVR is shrouded in secrecy and is the only one of its kind in Canada that does not allow lawyers to visit detainees.”

Read more:



Publications & Resources

Gender Persecution and Refugee Law Reform in Canada

Read more:


Empowering Refugee and Immigrant Women Who Experience Violence

BWSS has embarked on several initiatives to facilitate change in our communities and to end violence against women. Empowering Non-Status, Refugee and Immigrant Women (NSRIW) Who Experience Violence – A woman-centred approach to managing the spectrum of needs from settlement to empowerment manual- is one of them. Though not meant to be conclusive, it is written as an exploration of ideas, to present recurring issues and to critique existing practices.

Read more:


The Resource Manual For Lawyers Working With Battered Immigrant Women

The lawyers’ toolkit provides lawyers with practical tools which will foster effective communication with and legal representation of battered Immigrant women. The toolkit emphasizes the importance of placing women within a larger social context by providing a broad analysis of the various social and psychological factors impacting Immigrant women’s lives. More importantly, this resource offers practical tools and strategies for lawyers.

Read more:


The Resource Manual For Immigrant Women Working With A Lawyer

The Toolkit for Immigrant Women Working with a Lawyer provides practical tips and tools for Immigrant women working with lawyers. The toolkit is framed in the cultural background of Immigrant women; it is designed to be accessible and informative. Currently the toolkit will be translated into Farsi, Spanish and Punjabi.


For Immigrant Women: Online Publications & Resources for Immigrant Women

This is a list of legal publications and resources that are available online through external websites; they are helpful for immigrant women who are negotiating the legal system in BC.

Read more:


Community Forum on Responding to Changes to Immigration Policy

Read more:


Engaging Immigrant Women in the Legal System-Community Engagement Report

Read more:


Women, Violence and BC’s New Family Law: Applying a Feminist Lens

Read more:


Proposal for Conditional Permanent Residence Would Increase Violence Against Women

Read more:


When Battered Women Are Arrested: A Growing Problem

In recent years, Battered Women’s Support Services has become increasingly alarmed by the growing number of women accessing our services who have been arrested for allegedly perpetrating domestic violence against their partners. In our experience these arrests are occurring despite the fact that in all cases women were in relationships where they were being abused.

Read more:


Women’s Worlds 2011–Breaking the Cycles of Violence Against Women

Read more:


Conflict Profiles: Mexico
Read more:

Community Forum on Responding to Changes to Immigration Policy

On November 15, 2013, BWSS organized a community forum to discuss responses to changes in immigration policy and ways to improve service delivery in collaboration with the Migrant Mothers Project and YWCA Metro Vancouver. We came together with 55 people including educators, front-line workers, management and volunteers who work in the areas of immigration and refugee settlement, immigration law, child protection/children’s aid, health care services, adult education, anti-violence against women services and community development.

Following the forum Rosa Elena Arteaga wrote Community Forum on Responding to Changes to Immigration Policy: Supporting Non-Status, Refugee and Immigrant Women Survivors of Gender Violence blog to share our knowledge and analysis on the discussed topics. Today, we are pleased to share a summary of the Forum to respond your requests for hearing more about the discussion and to share our knowledge to improve service delivery in our community.

Please read the Forum Summary, prepared by the Migrant Mother Project. You may download the document here.

Discussion Themes

Many topics emerged at the Vancouver Forum which commenced with acknowledgement that we are on Unceded Indigenous land belonging to the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. Throughout the forum, the connections between colonialism, global capitalism, and migration were integrated with analysis of the marginalization of women living with precarious immigration status in Canada. Here we expand upon some of the core themes that were raised at the Vancouver forum.

1. Linking Indigenous Sovereignty in Coast Salish Territories with Forced Migration

The Forum commenced with an opening ceremony led by Brandy Kane (Thunder Eagle Woman) who gave recognition to the traditional lands where the forum took place and led us in singing the Wonder Warrior song. Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director at BWSS added to the introduction and noted that the significance of the Women Warrior Song and the central role that Indigenous women are playing as leaders in anti-Violence Against Women work in Vancouver. It was evident that the women’s movement in Vancouver is committed to Indigenous sovereignty and recognizes the suffering of Mother Earth as inseparable to anti-violence work. This was further reinforced through linking the aboriginal plight of disputed lands in Canada, but also worldwide, to circumstances that lead to forced migration and oppression faced by immigrant women who are denied citizenship in Canada.

brandy kane2. Globalization and the Live-in-Caregiver Program

Linkages between global capitalism, the displacement of people worldwide, and gendered migration to Canada were especially pronounced in the Vancouver forum. It was noted that globalization and corporate culture have a transnational influence on government policies that result in environmental degradation, human displacement and cultural genocide. Live-in-caregivers were discussed as a group of women that represent a major source of income for the Philippines, but who must endure economic insecurity, forced cohabitation with their employers and family separation for several years. Through a series of case studies, forum presenters illustrated the layers of women face as live-in-caregivers and through their efforts to establish permanency in Canada and reunify with their families. The Vancouver forum attendees were congiscent of the tragedies unfolding in the aftermath of typhoon Hainan, which in part contributed to heightened awareness of the structural violence associated with migration and global inequalities.

3. Social Assistance for Mothers without Legal Status

In Vancouver, the Mothers without Legal Status Project, YWCA Metro Vancouver, began their research investigating the growing concerns for mothers without legal Canadian status and who have Canadian born children. Over five years of advocacy efforts, critical communication tactics and working with various ministries at the provincial level gave this group sufficient leverage to change certain policies in the Vancouver region including: 1) having children attend school without international student fees 2) allowing a mother to access British Colombia housing while waiting for permanent residency, and 3) providing social assistance to single parents without status who are fleeing abuse The importance of these changes were echoed by other forum attendees that noted the positive impact that these changes have had on women attempting to access services, especially within the shelter system. Moreover, the YWCA wishes to continue their advocacy efforts with other YWCA’s nationwide in order to make this a Federal campaign.

4. Developing Allies for Community Organizing and Policy Advocacy

The Vancouver Forum provided a space for attendees to discuss strategies around supporting women with precarious immigration status in Vancouver, but also to consider ways to develop networks with allies across the province and Canada-wide. The YWCA Metro Vancouver has been reaching out to YWCAs across Canada to explore the potential to expand their campaign for Mothers without Status to a federal level. There was a large desire to rally public awareness on this concern and doing so through sharing of women’s narratives, especially through social media and public awareness campaigns. In particular, the attendees noted the need to hold more events to raise consciousness on this topic in Vancouver.

community forum

The Vancouver forum created a space to discuss precarious immigration status, within a larger context of colonialism, globalization and subsequently forced migration. It is these factors that continue to impact and create links between Mother Earth, Indigenous sovereignty, as well as women with precarious immigration status seeking safety in Canada. Women’s experiences and resilience were honoured and shared amongst the group, which gave us a glimpse into the lives of the women that are caught in the middle of such global forces.

Service providers in the Vancouver area have been generating strong networks and are committed and able to discuss the injustices that are faced by their clients with precarious immigration status. Forum attendees highlighted the potential for networks amongst service providers to influence policy change at the local and provincial level.. However, additional efforts to mobilize networks that are able to engage media and policy makers to influence ministries at the provincial level and subsequently the federal level are critically needed. There was a strong sentiment of continuing to connect with one another in order to push for fair and equal policies for women, as well as their families, with precarious immigration status.

Within the anti-violence movement in Vancouver, there is an understanding that violence is significantly felt by women with precarious immigration status and that there is a need to prevent this violence from occurring by challenging and shifting unjust practices. Although more work remains to be done, the forum in Vancouver was an inspiring example of how to service providers, immigrant women and Indigenous leaders can work together to support women whose full humanity remains unrecognized in Canada.

Please read the article written by Rosa Elena Arteaga here: Community Forum on Responding to Changes to Immigration Policy: Supporting Non-Status, Refugee and Immigrant Women Survivors of Gender Violence

On November 15th 2013, Battered Women’s Support Services hosted a Community Forum on Responding to Changes to Immigration Policy, in partnership with The Migrant Mothers Project and YWCA Metro Vancouver. Over 50 front-line workers, counsellors, settlement workers, and community activists came together to learn and share knowledge. We reinforced our commitment to continue our collaboration and to increase our networks so we can affect change and attend to the inequalities that migrant women face within Canada’s economic, social, legal and political systems. Inequalities that, more than often, deny basic rights to migrant women and their families. Read full article…

Immigration Policy Community ForumDownload the poster here.

Battered Women’s Support Services responded to over 10,000 crisis calls from women and girls to get help and end violence in 2012. We could not provide this essential support without your contribution.



This blog was updated on December 23, 2013.

Women’s Worlds 2011–Breaking the Cycles of Violence Against Women

Women’s Worlds 2011

Breaking the Cycles

of Violence Against Women

The first Women’s Worlds Congress was held in 1981 at Haifa University.  Billed as the first world-wide inter-disciplinary gathering to focus on research pertaining to women’s issues open to researchers and activists.  Taking place every three years in different parts of the world, Ottawa-Gatineau is the location of the 11th Women’s World, this year a global convergence of 1,600 women from July 3 to July 7 to examine what it means for women to live in a globalized world and Battered Women’s Support Services is there.

Today’s theme, Breaking Cycles discussed during the morning plenary spoke to us, well, Andrea Smith, spoke to our collective spirit of activism.   Andrea Smith, one or our favourite feminist thinkers and anti-violence activists from the Cherokee nation, Andrea has garnered international respect for her advocacy on violence against women of colour, specifically Native American women. Co-founder of “INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence“, Andrea currently teaches in the Department of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside.

“…the government informed us yesterday that they are going to fix the problem of violence against Indigenous women…To do that they’d have to dismantle themselves”  said Andrea and her words reminded us of the day previously when Status of Women Canada Minister Rona Ambrose, was booed during her welcoming address.  Imagine that, the Minister of the Status of Women Canada, the primary funder of Women’s Worlds 2011 was booed.   A revealing moment where it was clear that women have watched the dismantling of women’s equality in Canada for several years now.  As we wrote on Mother’s Day 2011:

In 2006, Canada placed 14th out of 115 countries in terms of the World Forum’s “gender-gap index” – a complex calculation that takes account of wages, education, health and political power. In 2009, Canada had slipped to 25th place. Further, the phrase “gender equality” has been eliminated from the mandate of Canada’s primary institution responsible for gender equality in Canada: Status of Women; and while the word equality was re-introduced to the mandate, the spirit of equality has not been re-established. With the closure of twelve of sixteen Status of Women offices we are coming from behind in our efforts now to redress and achieve equality.

The current situation, sees Canada facing a national tragedy of 582 missing and murdered Aboriginal Women and eliminating funding to Sisters In Spirit. Women are facing proposed changes to Immigration where Sponsorship conditions would jeopardize Immigrant women’s safety and women fleeing to Canada due to Gender Persecution. Over the years we have witnessed the dismantling of the social safety net that would assist to level the playing field for women as represented in this List of Women’s Organizations That Have Had Funding Cut by the Federal Government. And don’t get us started about federal, territorial, provincial Justice Ministers and their funding decisions related to missing and murdered Indigenous women.

And it is within this challenging context that we do our work at Battered Women’s Support Services, where last year we responded to over 9,500 direct service requests.  When we went to Women’s Worlds 2011 we went to say that violence against women is the most pressing social issue of our time.  We went to Women’s Worlds 2011 to ask and answer the question what would it take to end violence against women?

Rosa Elena Arteaga (below) at the registration table on Sunday



Andrea Canales (above) lining up to register for Women’s Worlds 2011 on Sunday


At our Vancouver office, we about 25% of the women who access our services are Aboriginal women and about 52% are Non Status, Refugee or Immigrant Women (NSRIW).  In 2006, 51% of Vancouver’s total population identified as Immigrant and increase from 49% in 2001 and 44.8% in 1996 (City of Vancouver, 2009). The immigration of racialized people from “developing” countries is regulated and influenced by the historical development of Canada as a colonized capitalist country. Principally, the entry of poor and racialized Immigrants has been determined by Canadian’s labour need. The class and racial bias of the history of Canada can be clearly shown through its immigration policies. Poor people and racialized people are only allowed into Canada to fulfill the country’s needs for cheap labour.  For more about immigration and violence against women see our manual.

Our presentation today at Women’s World 2011 was to name and take on the various systems of oppression that persist as cycles around the world, colonialism, patriarchy, and capitalism that grind down in the individual lives of women who access our services everyday that trace a woman through her life cycle as illustrated by Spiral of Gender Violence and to provide practical tools for front-line workers to support women who are living with violence.

Spiral of Gender Violence

Microsoft Word - LifetimeSpiral-HANDOUT-2007.docThe Lifetime Spiral is designed by Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence (2007)

Gender oppression follows girls and women through infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and as elders.  Violence against women in intimate relationships is one of the many forms of violence against women and it is experienced in the context of additional oppressions based on colonialization, migration, immigration/refugee status, race, ethnicity, age, type of labour performed, access to/level of education, class, ability/disability and sexual orientation.  We illustrate the layers and barriers experienced by women through our version of the power and control wheel for Immigrant and Refugee women.

Immigrant and Refugee Power and Control Wheel


We recognize that it is of critical importance to identify the historic, legal, attitudinal and behavioural discrimination women experience that is embedded in mainstream Canadian culture and within Immigrant communities.  Women internalize our oppression in order to make sense of the our family, our community and the world around us.   Internalized oppression is one reason for the following graph illustrating percentages of women aged 15-49 who think that a husband/partner is justified in hitting or beating his wife/partner:




We had an incredible turn out for our presentation on Empowering Non Status, Refugee, and Immigrant Women, today.  And we are honoured to contribute to Women’s Worlds 2011, the largest ever feminist gathering in Canadian history. Women from all over the world came together to learn and enhance their knowledge violence against women, both in general and specifically on how to support and empower NSRIW, from a women-centred, an anti-oppression, feminist perspective that comes from a desire to end oppression at a personal and social level.

This is Rosa Elena Arteaga, front-line worker at Battered Women’s Support Services and she led the presentation with Andrea Canales, front-line worker, behind the camera.



Our approach at Battered Women’s Support  Services is to address the individual, relational, legal, community and society factors.  We focus on raising awareness about the complex prevalence of violence against women and the damaging impact of intimate partner violence on Non-status, Refugee and Immigrant women, their children, their family and their community and through that we are identifying the root causes of violence the various tactics of power and control, the devaluation of women, the lack of accountability of men who use abuse and violence, and the complicity of communities both mainstream and Immigrant.  Here’s our recent blog post on The Role of Men in Ending Violence Against Women from our presentation at the Canadian Council For Refugees Spring Consultation 2011 held in Hamilton, Ontario.


Participants, today, shared that they were thrilled with BWSS emphasis on advocacy work, approach and practices. Print resources were disseminated among all of the participants who expressed a deep appreciation for all of the work accomplish thus far. Women commented on the difficulty of doing this work and of feeling validated to have an organization leading the way in supporting NSRIW. Participants were impressed on the work being done with Non Status and Refugee women, as usually these two groups are at the fringes and mainstream organizations do not address their real needs or even serve them.



Advocacy – A Strategy of Empowerment

The overwhelming statistics relating to violence against women is evidence of the social and political inequality that women experience. Power and control are understood to be at root of violence against women, empowerment of NSRIW survivors is at the heart of intervention and sharing power through advocacy at the centre of any intervention.

At the core of the concept of empowerment is the idea of power. Power is often understood and related to our ability to have influence over people, regardless of their own desires or wishes. Through our work at Battered Women’s Support Services we have found that empowerment as a process of change has been effective.

As another participant, a researcher from Taiwan, commented: “I got a lot of information and I have become aware that the dynamics of abuse are the same everywhere, but I have just learned more effective ways to support women who experienced abuse. Advocacy is the key as a strategy of empowerment”



Participants had access to our print resources that synthesize theory and practice. As one woman said: “I am an Executive Director at a transition house in Toronto and I already had loads of information about the issues affecting NSRIW; however, these resources would be extremely helpful for my staff and I’ll readily be sharing them with all our staff.”

Here’s the online version of Empowering Non-Status, Refugee and Immigrant Women Who Experience Violence, Women Making Waves Publication, and a few other relevant Battered Women’s Support Services Resources and Publications .


Finally, one of our youngest participants, whose mother had worked at a transition house, commented on how appreciative she was of being part of the workshop and receiving the information, which she plans to bring to her mother, while re-emphasizing what we had shared regarding how “abuse is not cultural, patriarchy is, and we must stop using culture as an excuse and explanation for abuse.”

We have promised at least one more instalment of our blog series for Women’s Worlds 2011…it will be done some how, some way…

Battered Women’s Support Services is grateful for the financial support of Women’s World 2011 and The Law Foundation of BC for making our appearance at Women’s Worlds 2011 possible.

A Journey to Freedom

A Journey to Freedom: Supporting Refugee Women Who Are Dealing with Violence
By Rosa Elena Arteaga, Manager, Direct Services & Programs

At BWSS we have been supporting a number of refugee women who have experienced violence and who are going through their refugee process. During the last twelve months a high percentage of the women who accessed our services and who were going through their refugee process had their claims accepted.

It has been a long journey for the women to reach an official answer that acknowledges that they have the right to protection and freedom from abuse. Each woman has a journey that stems from their strength to escape from their abusive partners, from their country of origin, to the strength to come to an unknown country with the only hope to finally become free from violence. However, at their arrival, they had to face a system that does not understand violence against women and its effects as well as a system that does not understand the migration of abuse across the lifecycle, which follows girls and women through infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and as elders.

What did it take for the women to succeed with their claim for freedom? For some of them, it took the support from a family member, a friend, or a neighbour who helped them to escape to Canada. In Canada, it took the support of an anti-violence women’s organization, BWSS, which assisted them to access the right lawyer, the right interpreter, and the right counsellor. BWSS team supported each by identifying and understanding the range of needs from forced migration, sexual violence, and intimate violence to the spectrum of cultural needs. It took an approach which identifies the strength, barriers, needs and support needed from settlement to empowerment.

It took the consistency and commitment of the BWSS team to support each woman’s journey through its programming such as legal advocacy, Stopping The Violence counselling, language specific support groups, and employment program. For the majority of the women their refugee process took more than a year and during that year they were consistently accessing BWSS programs. In addition, it took the willingness of their immigration lawyers to learn and understand about the impacts of abuse. The lawyers became aware that women’s lost of memory, lack of trust, and their overwhelming fear does not relate to their intellectual capacity, cultural background or the veracity of their story, rather it relates to the impact of the violence that they have experienced though their whole life.

Finally, it took the women’s strength and resilience to escape from violence, to expose themselves to strangers and tell their stories, their consistency in contacting their friends, neighbours, family, women’s organizations in their countries of origin so they could gather evidence and expose that gender violence is a social issue and that women’s right to protection is not merely granted.

After a long and painful journey each woman has identified her unique strength, her value, her success and her right to live free from violence. We at BWSS stand and work in solidarity with all women who are on a journey to freedom.