Advocacy & Issues
Standing Committee on Status of Women and Human Rights
The Standing Committee on Women and Human Rights focused on networking, and featured presentations from two women’s networking groups:
The Women’s Group Network of Kitchener-Waterloo and Area (Liz Simpson and Barbara Spronk)
The Women’s Group Network of Kitchener-Waterloo and Area started by talking to the local Social Planning Council, which took the lead in inviting groups to join. Initially seventy-one groups were contacted. A notice for an organizing breakfast was posted in the K-W record. It was attended by fifty-one people representing forty organizations.
The Advancement for Women Halton started in 2007 by three women, two from CFUW Oakville and the third, a woman very involved in a local organization called WHAM (Women of Halton Action Movement). They started with a base of groups brought together thanks to a local politician. The first meeting which started with eight groups meeting at City Hall, has now grown to twenty-three organizations with diverse interests. The network is an ad-hoc, non-partisan, issue oriented umbrella coalition of groups promoting the advancement of women. They meet once a month in the early afternoon. Many members are paid employees representing their organizations. There are three CFUW groups as members with the past president acting as liaison. The organizational structure includes a chair, agenda and minutes and an annual report. Each organization can make announcements at the meetings. There are no fees and no funding. Space is donated by one of the organizations. Key to success is having a high profile leader with credibility in the community and a consistent secretary to keep the group informed.
Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women in Canada
Advancement of Women Halton (Anne Douglas)
On Wednesday, October 10th, in a talk hosted by the Aboriginal Student Centre of Wilfrid Laurier University, Brantford campus, Beverley Jacobs spoke of the more than 600 aboriginal women who have been documented by friends and family as having gone missing. Some of these women have been murdered, but the whereabouts of the remainder continue to be an unsolved mystery. Beverley, a Mohawk from the Grand River Six Nations and doctoral candidate at the University of Calgary, knows whereof she speaks: she was for five years President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, and during her tenure was principal author of a report titled “Voices of Our Sisters in Spirit: A Report to Families and Communi-ties” (March 2009, 2nd edition). She met with hundreds of families, and was driven by their stories to be their voice, and to ensure that violence against aboriginal women was put on the agenda at the meetings leading up to the Kelowna Accord.
Why focus on these women? Throughout her talk, Beverley laid emphasis on the central role of aboriginal women in their communities. They are the life givers and life creators, yet they have also borne the brunt of the violence that has been brought about by the colonization of aboriginal peoples over the past 500 years. Aboriginal women are three times more likely than are non-aboriginal women to experience violence, and those between the ages of twenty-five and forty-four are five times more likely to die by violence than are their non-aboriginal sisters.
There is a growing movement to bring this violence to the attention of the Canadian public and to prompt governments at various levels to pay attention, via official enquiries, in an effort to end both the violence and the all-too-common blaming of the victims. These women are missed, grievously, by their families, friends and communities. A number of organizations at national, provincial and local levels are holding ceremonies, vigils, walks, feasts and powwows, to honour the memory of these missing women and bring some healing to their communities as well as to bring public attention to the issue. One such organization, Embracing Families, organizes online benefit concerts, the proceeds from which go to support the families of these women in their search for their missing loved ones, or in their attendance at the trials of men who have been charged with their murder. To participate in this cause, visit the group’s website.