Women on the Front-Line

Ending Violence Workers at Battered Women’s Support Services

Buffie Irvine





Buffie Irvine is First Nation’s Women’s Support Worker at Battered Women’s Support Services

Why do I do this work?

The first answer that came to my mind is why wouldn’t I? I was brought up with a strong anti-oppressive analysis, which includes a commitment to ending all forms of violence. This has been something I have been passionate about for most of my life. When I applied to volunteer at BWSS it was because I felt that I had the resources (emotional and situational) to contribute to an organization like BWSS. I am honoured to have been offered the position as the First Nations Short Term Support Worker. The opportunity to support others in their healing is very precious to me. I have had people support me in my journey and it is important to me that I pass on that kind of support.

What value, impact does this work have? 

BWSS is a safe space and unfortunately that is a rare thing. I do my best to help create this safety so that the women who come seeking support and the women who volunteer and work here, including myself, can have a refuge and a place where healing is possible. One thing that is essential in creating this safe space is the awareness that people at BWSS have about the complexity of women’s lives and the intersecting systems of oppression that we face. It is my sense that most of the services available in our broken society do not address this truth and so fail to provide adequate support to many women.

Why do I work at BWSS? 

I came to BWSS because I knew that it did good anti-violence work in the community and I was really excited to go through the volunteer training. I enjoyed the training and learned a lot. Once I started volunteering I found the work rewarding and I liked being in the office with the other volunteers and the staff women. One of the things that I liked most about the approach used at BWSS is that the people here hold to the feminist value that each person knows what is best for themselves – we are not experts who tell women what to do, rather we support women in making their own choices.

Throughout the training I dreamed of working at BWSS at some point in the future. When this position was posted, I never once thought that I would be seriously considered. I was ecstatic when, having been encouraged to apply, I was offered the position. For me this is the fulfillment of what I thought was a dream that would hopefully come true “eventually” – I so appreciate that Angela, Lisa, Rosa and Jaclyn were willing to provide the mentoring that has enabled me to transform that dream into my present-day reality.

What brought you here?

I remember that we were asked this exact question on the first day of our training at BWSS. It was very powerful to listen as each of us shared what in our lives had brought us to this organization. It is important to realize how much each of us has gone through, and how our experiences have shaped us. For me, I and my family have a long history of sadness and grief because of colonialism. I want to break the chain of violence and hurt and help to create a future that passes healing down through the generations. I have been shaped by strong people, and I have ties to many communities – my parents and the Gitxsan and Coast Salish communities, my activist, anti-oppressive foster mom, my passionate, political chosen sister – and I take pride in all aspects of my heritage. Through these and other people, I am descended from long lines of survivors who have shown their strength over and over again.
– Buffie Irvine,  First Nations Women’s Short Term Support Worker, BWSS