In the News

7th Annual Montreal Memorial March to Honour the Lives of Missing and Murdered Women

The 7th Annual Memorial March for Missing Murdered Women and Girls took to the streets on February 14th, 2016.  Although the march commemorated women of all backgrounds, emphasis was given to Indigenous women, who are the disproportionate victims of such violent crimes. While Aboriginal women constitute only 4 per cent of population, they represent 16 per cent of all murdered females. This march, founded in Vancouver in 1991, first came about in response to the murder of a Coast Salish woman that received little attention by police or media. 

Press Release – English

Communiqué de presse – Français

Media Coverage 

 

Montreal holds memorial march for missing and murdered women

March serves as memorial to missing women and girls

March for MMIW goes on despite frigid weather

Seventh annual march honours missing and murdered Indigenous women

March for MMIW goes on despite frigid weather

Marchers Call for Action in Canada’s Crisis of Missing and Murdered Women

De l’amour pour les femmes assassinées ou disparues

Une Saint-Valentin en l’honneur de femmes autochtones victimes de violence

Une septième marche en hommage aux femmes autochtones disparues et assassinées

 


 

10th Annual Memorial March and Vigil for Missing & Murdered Native Women. Montréal, 4 octobre 2015

Missing and murdered indigenous women remembered in annual march

Sisters In Spirit march and vigils held across Canada to remember missing, murdered aboriginal women

CBC News Posted: Oct 04, 2015 5:18 PM ET Last Updated: Oct 04, 2015 5:45 PM ET

A hundred or so people attended a march and vigil in Montreal to remember missing and murdered aboriginal women.

A hundred or so people attended a march and vigil in Montreal to remember missing and murdered aboriginal women. (CBC)

More than 100 Montrealers gathered in Cabot Square to mark the 10th annual memorial march and vigil for Canada’s missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls.

The national Sisters In Spirit march and vigils was founded in 2005 by Bridget Tolley, an Algonquin from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg in Quebec, about 135 kilometres north of Ottawa. Her mother was hit and killed by an RCMP cruiser in 2001.

‘We may have lost one sister, but it’s kind of like we all died with her too.’– Cheryl McDonald

“It’s 10 years later and nothing has changed. We are still asking for help, we need help now,” she said.

Tolley and others in attendance at events in Montreal and across the country are part of a national call for a public inquiry into the matter.

Some people hung red dresses outside as a way to commemorate lost loved ones.

Indigenous activists estimate more than 3,000 aboriginal women have been victims of homicide since 1980.

The RCMP’s latest reports estimate there have been about 1,181 cases of murdered or missing aboriginal women since then.

‘She just never came home’

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MMIW: ‘For years I was angry, but it was a silent pain’3:41

Cheryl McDonald from Akwesasne, a Mohawk territory in southwestern Quebec, said her sister went missing in 1988. Since then, she’s battled a silent but persistent anger.

“She just went away one night and she just never came home. We looked for her, we searched the fields. We huddled together as a family, but it was a hunter that found her. And so we still have questions we ask ourselves that we don’t talk too much about as a family. But it forever changed my parents, and her three children who she left behind, as well as myself and my sisters. So we may have lost one sister, but it’s kind of like we all died with her too,” McDonald said.

She said greater co-operation and collaboration by federal, provincial, municipal and First Nations police forces is needed to truly help address the frequency with which indigenous women go missing or are killed.

“They need to speak together, they need to work together, they need to share expertise with one another. They need to create a network where families can go to police agencies with more equipment, more skills, more detectives who can deal with this,” McDonald said.

Une journée pour les femmes autochtones disparues ou assassinées au pays

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Des rassemblements pour protester contre les violences dont sont victimes les femmes autochtones ont eu lieu un peu partout au pays hier le 4 octobre 2015.  À Montréal, ils étaient plusieurs centaines à manifester dans les rues afin de réclamer une enquête nationale sur ce phénomène.

Des femmes autochtones sont venus dire au gouvernement que 1200 femmes disparues ou tuées depuis 30 ans, c’est trop.

« Ça équivaut [toutes proportions gardées] à 8000 Québécoises et à 30 000 femmes canadiennes. On ne peut pas s’imaginer un tel silence de nos médias, une telle inaction de nos gouvernements si l’on annonçait la disparition de 8000 Québécoises », dénonce Alice Lepetit, de la Fédération des femmes du Québec.

Pour John Wilde, qui est sans nouvelle de sa fille portée disparue l’année dernière, le pays ne peut plus se fermer les yeux sur ce phénomène. Il presse d’ailleurs le gouvernement fédéral d’agir. « C’est de pousser pour une enquête publique, une enquête qui pourrait pousser plus loin que ça », dit-il.

 

Source : Radio-canada.ca

Femmes autochtones disparues ou assassinées

Un 4 octobre pour les femmes autochtones disparues ou assassinées

Mise à jour le dimanche 4 octobre 2015 à 20 h 00
Le reportage de Michel Marsolais

Des rassemblements pour protester contre les violences dont sont victimes les femmes autochtones ont eu lieu un peu partout au Canada aujourd’hui. À Montréal, ils étaient plus de 300 à manifester dans les rues afin de réclamer une enquête nationale sur ce phénomène.

Des femmes autochtones et plusieurs sympathisants sont venus dire au gouvernement que 1200 femmes disparues ou tuées depuis 30 ans, c’est trop.

« Ça équivaut [toutes proportions gardées] à 8000 Québécoises et à 30 000 femmes canadiennes. On ne peut pas s’imaginer un tel silence de nos médias, une telle inaction de nos gouvernements si l’on annonçait la disparition de 8000 Québécoises », dénonce Alice Lepetit, de la Fédération des femmes du Québec.

Pour John Wilde, qui est sans nouvelle de sa fille portée disparue l’année dernière, le pays ne peut plus se fermer les yeux sur ce phénomène. Il presse d’ailleurs le gouvernement fédéral d’agir. « C’est de pousser pour une enquête publique, une enquête qui pourrait pousser plus loin que ça », dit-il.

Des dizaines de personnes soulignent la disparation et l'assassinat de nombreuses femmes autochtones.Des dizaines de personnes soulignent la disparation et l’assassinat de nombreuses femmes autochtones à Ottawa, le 4 octobre. Photo :  Radio-Canada/Laurie Trudel

Plusieurs personnes présentes au rassemblement à Montréal ont d’ailleurs déploré que les enjeux autochtones aient été à peu près absents de la campagne électorale.

« Les sujets autochtones devraient être mis plus à l’avant dans cette élection », dit Mélissa Mollen-Dupuis, du mouvement Idle No More. « Présentement, il y a la dérive du niqab qui voile tout le reste. »

Les néo-démocrates et les libéraux sont d’accord avec la tenue d’une enquête nationale sur la disparition et les meurtres des femmes autochtones, mais les conservateurs s’y opposent et préfèrent plutôt laisser la GRC enquêter sur ces meurtres ou disparitions.

D’après le reportage de Pierre Côté

NEWS | OCTOBER 7, 2015
Demanding justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women
Montreal police signs agreement regarding Indigenous issues
Written by | Visual by Clare Olson | The McGill Daily

Hundreds gathered at Cabot Square on October 4 to demand justice and accountability from the federal government at the 10th Annual Memorial March and Vigil for Missing and Murdered Native Women. Called to action by advocacy groups Missing Justice, Quebec Native Women, and the Centre for Gender Advocacy, the crowd marched for roughly an hour and a half from Cabot Square to Phillips Square and was met with cooperation from the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM).

When the march arrived at Phillips Square, a vigil was held, with performances and speeches from Indigenous speakers and performers. Many of the speakers had lost a relative or close friend because of the systemic violence that afflicts Indigenous peoples.

The upcoming federal election and its potential consequences for Indigenous communities in Canada was a major topic of discussion throughout the demonstration.

One speaker from the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Nation ended their speech with a call to oust Prime Minister Stephen Harper from office. “I am so tired of a man so smug that he can look at any one of our victims, any one of our missing women, and say ‘you don’t matter.’ Well I’m gonna tell Stephen Harper one thing and one thing only. And that is, Stephen Harper, you don’t matter. We are done with inept leaders,” the speaker said.

“We need Canadians to stop with the apathy, to stop with the stereotypes. We need love. We need support, we need equality. Because everyone knows that good will always triumph over evil,” the speaker continued.

Also present were a variety of Montreal-based groups that work with various Indigenous communities to provide services that help them connect with each other and the broader Montreal community. Megan Kasudluak, an Inuit participant at the march from Inukjuak, Nunavik, had recently arrived in Montreal and marched with a group representing Ivirtivik, a project that aims to help Inuit adults with employability and skills development, with a centre located in Verdun. Kasudluak told The Daily that the Ivirtivik centre has helped her enroll in school and find work, and is a great service for Inuit youth in Montreal.

Tanya Lalonde, president of the Aboriginal Peoples’ Commission for the Liberal Party of Canada, said “Well it makes me sad that a march like this is necessary, but I think that this year there’s been sort of a gathering of momentum towards addressing the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women. There’s been a lot of talk about a call for an inquiry because families are fed up with just having to march. They want answers. They want solutions and a way to fix it because that gives them hope.”

Speaking with The Daily, Wayne Robinson, an Indigenous activist and coordinator at Projets Autochtones du Quebec, expressed hope that recent initiatives taken between the SPVM and the Indigenous communities in Montreal will make life better for Indigenous people, who are disproportionately affected by violence and crime.

“I think in Montreal we’ve seen an overall change [and an increased] understanding that Aboriginal homelessness is an issue that isn’t going away. [There is a] really cool project happening this year with the SPVM. We’ve signed an agreement where they’ve agreed to four points,” Robinson told The Daily.

This agreement was signed by the SPVM and the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network (MUACSN) and mandates the SPVM to create an Aboriginal Advisory Committee, choose an Aboriginal Liaison officer, enact a force-wide mandatory education program, and develop a protocol for addressing cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

While the protocol is not yet finalized, the earliest parts of it include regular contact with the families of missing and murdered women during investigations and the creation of a support network for Indigenous women who arrive in Montreal with few connections and resources.

Robinson emphasized the importance of this community-based response, saying, “One reason we use the term ‘Missing and Murdered’ is that all too often, when Native women go missing, they’re not runaways. When our women go missing, they come back in the morgue.”

http://theconcordian.com/2013/11/marching-in-montreal-to-take-back-the-night/

“Marching in Montreal to take back the night”
Hundreds of participants speak out against gendered violence

By Jocelyn Beaudet, November 26, 2013

The streets of Montreal were rocked on Friday night as hundreds marched through, calling for an end to gendered violence and discrimination.

Take Back the Night is a global organization that seeks to expose the issues of violence against gendered minorities. Internationally known, the march has been an annual event in Montreal. This year’s march, on Nov. 23, was organized by the Centre for Gender Advocacy’s A Safer Concordia Campaign.

“We are marching for a safer community, free of harassment, sexual abuse, and assaults,” wrote the Centre for Gender Advocacy on their website. “We are reclaiming our right to be free of violence and to walk without fear, any time of day or night.”

After a passionate speech on the values of consent by Mirha-Soleil Ross, a Montreal transsexual videographer, performer and sex worker; the droves of participants walked from Bethune square and made their way down St. Catherine Street towards the McGill campus. Men, women and children carried their signs under the pouring rain, shouting “Take back the night.” Julie Michaud, the Center for Gender Advocacy’s administrative coordinator, was at the front with a megaphone in hand.

“We want to feel safe in our streets,” said Julia Nadeau, speaking for A Safer Concordia. Discrimination against minorities, whether against women, or disabled and transgendered people, is a widespread issue plaguing Montreal and has been a longstanding problem in the Western world. As stated on the Take Back the Night website, “at least one out of every three women worldwide has been beaten, forced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime by a partner, relative, friend, stranger, employer, and/or colleague,” while less than 50 per cent of these crimes are reported to the police.

Gendered violence is not limited solely to physical abuse; psychological violence is common, and the widespread fear of walking alone late at night is among the issues that organizations like the Centre for Gender Advocacy are trying to bring to light.

The march was not as big of a success as it was in prior years, though. According to Michaud, the heavy rain heavily affected the attendance for the walk.

“I’ve been told we’re about 175 people,” she said.

Despite the smaller numbers, there were many passersby taking pictures, cheering, and choosing to participate in the march, adding to its momentum.

The event came to a close inside McGill’s campus due to the rain, with hot chocolate being passed around. A room was shared by those who had decided to stick around for the remainder of the night, and each guest speaker was readily available to answer questions and further inform those present.

Since Take Back the Night’s first documented event in 1975, the organization has continued to raise awareness on gendered violence. The annual marches have become internationally known as a way to speak out against such issues.

More information on Take Back the Night can be found at takebackthenight.org and genderadvocacy.org

 

http://thelinknewspaper.ca/article/5126
Still Plenty of Reasons to Take Back the Night
Centre for Gender Advocacy: ConU Sexual Assault Policy, Idea of Consent Still Lacking

By Michael Wrobel, November 26, 2013

While denouncing gendered violence and demanding a safer community free of harassment and sexual assault, the roughly 100 participants of the Take Back the Night march on Friday also had a success story to celebrate this year.

“Last time we marched, we carried a banner through the streets of Montreal calling [on] our university to open a sexual assault resource centre, and one year later, we mark a milestone with the opening of the centre’s doors just two weeks ago,” Concordia student Julia Nadeau, a volunteer with the “A Safer Concordia” campaign, told the crowd.

The march began at Norman Bethune Square and proceeded along Ste. Catherine St. and McGill College Ave. It ended in front of the building of the Students’ Society of McGill University on McTavish St.

Concordia’s Sexual Assault Resource Centre officially opened its doors Nov. 11 with a mandate to provide sexual assault survivors with resources and referrals, as well as raise awareness of sexual violence.

The Concordia-based Centre for Gender Advocacy, which originally petitioned the university to open a safe space for sexual assault survivors, organized the march for a second year in a row, although women’s groups, rape crisis centres, colleges and universities have organized Take Back the Night rallies in Montreal and internationally for years.

“As we celebrate this important success, there’s more work to be done to create a safer Concordia—most crucially, to push for mandatory consent workshops in all residences and university sports teams,” Nadeau continued.

On Nov. 1, the Montreal Gazette reported that three McGill fourth-year students were charged in July 2012 with the sexual assault and forcible confinement of a then-Concordia student the previous year. They continued to play on the university’s football team despite the allegations, only quitting after their situation was made public.

This sexual assault case at McGill reveals the ongoing need to “keep universities accountable and stop them from turning a blind eye to this issue,” Nadeau said.

“School administrations must actively promote consent and support survivors, not perpetrators,” she added.

Now that Concordia has its own sexual assault centre, Julie Michaud, the Centre for Gender Advocacy’s administrative coordinator, says the Centre will support the SARC’s new coordinator, Jennifer Drummond, in rolling out consent education programs.

The Centre will also continue to push Concordia to formulate “an actual sexual assault policy,” according to Michaud.

“There are a lot of different elements to a good sexual assault policy,” Michaud said. “Some things that are important to have […] are provisions that would exempt a survivor reporting a sexual assault [from] repercussions for any unrelated, disallowed behaviour at Concordia.”

For example, a sexual assault policy might shield a victim from repercussions if they consumed alcohol or drugs on campus and then happened to get sexually assaulted, Michaud said, adding that it would also clarify what the university’s expectations are in terms of behaviour.

“Currently, the slight mention of sexual assault that does exist in the [university’s] Code of Rights and Responsibilities is very vague, and it really needs to be made clear what the whole breadth of sexual assault is,” she said.

“A lot of people just don’t really get it and they think that sexual assault is just a stranger violently raping you in a dark alley, and that’s not usually how it happens. We need to be really clear that sexual assault is any unwanted act of a sexual nature.”

Olivia Wong, another Concordia student and volunteer with the “A Safer Concordia” campaign, said perpetrators don’t always recognize that they’ve raped or sexually assaulted someone because of a lack of education on consent.

“When someone’s intoxicated, someone’s drunk […] they can’t really consent in that state of mind,” Wong said. “A ‘yes’ that’s under pressure is being coerced—[it] is not a yes.”

Bianca Mugyenyi, the Centre for Gender Advocacy’s programming and campaigns coordinator, said she thinks “we do still unfortunately live in a rape culture.”

She said the media’s tendency to often ignore or trivialize sexual violence and the existence of “rape jokes” that don’t take sexual violence seriously are indicative of a society that continues to minimize sexual assault.

“When people come forward, they’re treated with suspicion […] by the police, by courts, by the media,” Mugyenyi said. “That makes it very, very difficult to seek justice, because people are made very vulnerable when they do speak out.”

First-year Concordia student Mandy Martel-Perry said she believes the root cause of sexual violence—the “systemic violence against women” that includes unequal access between genders to different resources—isn’t discussed enough.

She said she decided to participate in the march because “there’s still validity in wanting to walk the streets safely at night.”

“Personally, I find I have to take a lot of precautions whenever I go [out] at night,” she said. “Such is not the case with everyone that I know. Gender, I think, does play a role in that—but that doesn’t mean that all genders don’t experience violence or threats of violence when they’re walking at night.”
http://thelinknewspaper.ca/article/4752

Glen Canning Says the RCMP Failed his Daughter Rehtaeh

Colin Harris–Oct 08, 2013

In the packed ballroom of the Students’ Society of McGill University, over 300 people sat and listened to the story of Rehtaeh Parsons, as told by her father Glen Canning. It was the first time Canning had spoken in front of a large group of people since his daughter’s death in April.

His keynote speech gave a rare look into the person Rehtaeh was—a straight-A student from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia who loved animals. He remembers how his daughter would always bring little critters into the house, and how she once made him spend over $100 on a stray cat that immediately bolted.

He remembers a pug they adopted together from the SPCA, which he says was her last gift to him.

Although the story of Rehtaeh being sexually assaulted—and the bullying that followed for two years until she took her own life in April at 17-years-old—has often been told in the media, Canning went through it slowly and in far more detail.

Canning said Rehtaeh had always wanted to be a scientist or veterinarian before becoming tormented by her peers.

After seeing how no one in the justice system could help her, she wanted to become a lawyer. He dispelled notions that his daughter had gone to a party the night of her assault, and that she came from a broken home.

Canning also recounted his experience with the police investigation into the sexual assault of his daughter, and what he sees as failings of the Nova Scotia RCMP to do real police work. “[Rehtaeh] was not just raped, she was humiliated and destroyed,” said Canning.

Canning’s story is a hard one to hear: of how the school system and police volleyed the issue back and forth, of the victim-blaming Rehtaeh went through for two years following the assault and how her parents still face similar harassment today.

“There are people who believe Rehtaeh shouldn’t have been there, that it was her fault. And that’s classic victim-blaming,” Canning told The Link in an interview the day before his speech. “In messages I receive online they’ll openly say this was my fault for not raising my daughter properly, but they won’t say anything about the people who raped her or their parents.”

It’s an example of what Rehtaeh had to deal with, and what survivors of sexual assault face when they consider coming forward.

“That kind of message is directly responsible for [how] nine out of 10 women who have been sexually assaulted won’t say anything,” said Canning.

At his hour-long speech in Montreal, the crowd of mostly young women listened in silence. The Concordia University-based Centre for Gender Advocacy’s Peer Support volunteers sat in the back of the room, wearing big pink hearts, ready to help anyone who needed to talk about what they were hearing.

Canning’s story was the keynote speech for the Centre’s Another Word for Gender event series. The theme of this year’s series was finding men’s place in feminism.

“Rehtaeh Parsons Was My Daughter”

The night of her assault in 2011, Rehtaeh was staying with a friend from school.

The two girls went over to a boy’s house, who had invited other boys who brought a bottle of vodka. Because they were minors at the time, the boys cannot be named.

Canning said his daughter woke up the next morning at the house, unsure of where she was. She asked one of the boys for a cigarette and walked home.

Days after the assault, Rehtaeh saw the picture that was being shared around her high school, showing one of the boys giving the camera a “thumbs up” sign while having sex with her as Rehtaeh’s head was out the window.

After her death two years later, Rehtaeh’s mother Leah Parsons received a Facebook message from one of the boys, depicting the night’s events.

The message recounts that Rehtaeh was so drunk she couldn’t walk, that she had to be carried to a bedroom. Canning says the police report has photographs of his daughter’s bruised wrists.

The message goes on to depict Rehtaeh, unable to walk and vomiting, having her head put out the window. A first boy has sex with her, as does a second, who is pictured behind Rehtaeh in the photo that would soon be spread around Cole Harbour.

She was later brought to another boy’s room, where he was left alone with her. The Facebook message writes that he left the room with a smirk on his face.

“One of the boys who raped my daughter Rehtaeh admitted that while he was having sex with her, she was vomiting and essentially unconscious,” said Canning of the boy who sent the message.

The message ends with the boy pleading to Rehtaeh’s mother that she has to understand that he did not rape her daughter.

“I believe he actually believes he didn’t rape her,” said Canning during the interview. “That’s the state of consent right now.”

The Facebook account was deleted soon after, but Leah had taken a screenshot of the message

However, police said that the message could not be used as evidence because they couldn’t prove it was that boy typing out the message.

“That’s your job to find out,” said Canning at the talk. “That’s police work. You’re not paid to make assumptions.”

“Educating This Away”

Canning says the case illustrates how ill-prepared the police were to deal with sexual assault involving high school students.

Rehtaeh suffered a nervous breakdown soon after learning of the photo. Her parents called the crisis hotline and she spoke to the RCMP.

A sexual assault case was opened, but after a year they called to say the case would be closed and no charges would be laid.

The police never spoke with any of the boys who were in the house that night, and the mother who lived there declined to give a police statement.

The RCMP said Rehtaeh’s testimonial contradicted what she had initially told police, that she hadn’t remembered saying “no” when giving her first statement.

During his speech, Canning says the RCMP were talking with the attorney general, who likely told the police there was not enough evidence to win the case.

“It’s horrifying to look at those numbers,” said Canning of the low conviction rate in sexual assault cases.

Canning said the RCMP also had said they would come into Rehtaeh’s school to speak to students about consent, but that never happened.

He spoke of a girl Rehtaeh had later met, who said one of the boys had done the same thing to her. Despite his daughter’s pleas, Canning said the girl would not come forward. “That’s something I lay at the feet of the RCMP in Halifax,” said Canning.

Two of the boys are currently facing charges of child pornography for distributing the photo of Rehtaeh taken the night of her assault.

“They’re not learning anything from this,” said Canning. “They’re kids, that’s just sex.”

A lack of education, from what real consent is to the power and permanence of social media, is what Canning hopes can be fixed leading from this tragedy.

“I don’t believe in legislating this away, I believe in educating this away,” said Canning to applause during his speech.

In his interview with The Link, Canning highlighted the need for consent to be discussed in sexual education courses, and said work must be done to combat media imagery that depict women as “objects to be conquered.”

This, combined with kids having access to media technology their parents don’t fully understand, has lead to a deadly environment for young people growing up today.

“I know right now if your kid is being terrorized and tormented online, the police will say it’s not a police matter, the school will say it’s not a school matter, and you’re left on your own,” said Canning.

“No one would do anything, no one did a thing. That, more than anything, destroyed our child’s life.”

Telling the story of his daughter has become Canning’s work; the only way to bring some semblance of justice is to get a conversation started about how sexual assault survivors are treated in Canada—to “admit it’s broken.”

Canning is also working to have a sexual assault centre opened in Cole Harbour in his daughter’s name.

“We can’t remain silent about this. I saw what it did to my child, and I’m never going to shut up about it,” said Canning.

“I know there’s injustice going on right now.”

 

http://thelinknewspaper.ca/article/4749

Marching for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: Missing Justice and Centre for Gender Advocacy Hold 8th Annual Vigil

7ca_MissingMurderedWomen(ErinSparks)1_820_544_90

Geoffrey Vendeville–Oct 08, 2013

To the sound of drums and chanting, hundreds of people marched on the night of Oct. 4 in remembrance of missing and murdered indigenous women.

The eighth annual Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Native Women met at Cabot Square and moved east along Ste. Catherine St. before reaching Phillips Square, where the crowd held a candlelight vigil and minute of silence.

Organizers say the event was one of more than 200 held across the globe, including the United States, Malaysia and Nicaragua.

The Montreal vigil was held by Missing Justice, a local grassroots campaign to end violence against indigenous women, in collaboration with the Concordia-based Centre for Gender Advocacy.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada says 600 indigenous women have gone missing or have been murdered since 1980.

Mourners—some holding pictures of victims—filled Cabot Square to listen to speeches by Maya Rolbin-Ghanie from the Centre, Aurélie Arnaud of Quebec Native Women, Norman Achneepineskum from the Pays Plat reserve near Thunder Bay, Ont., as well as Melissa Dupuis of Idle No More, among others.

“Not a month goes by at Quebec Native Women that we don’t hear of a native woman that has disappeared or been murdered,” said Arnaud.

“So what must be done before this government acts?” she added to supportive calls of “louder, louder!” from a voice in the audience.

Born to an Ojibway father and Cree mother, Achneepineskum told the crowd about his harrowing experiences growing up on the reserve, helping his mother to take in battered women and children.

“My mom was fearless,” he said. “I had no choice but to run after her because if I didn’t someone else would have to do the job.

“At the time, being 15, 16, 17 years old, I had seen this all my life and figured there’s nothing to live for here,” he continued.

“There’s no hope. So the best thing that could happen is I get killed so that I wouldn’t have to do this anymore.”

Achneepineskum came to Montreal 21 years ago.

“I moved to heal myself from the things I’ve seen back home,” he said.

Sisters in Spirit

Organizers called on the government to restore funding to Sisters in Spirit, a former initiative of the Native Women’s Association of Canada that provided support for Aboriginal women and kept a database of the missing and murdered.

The group was founded by Bridget Tolley in 2005, whose mother, Gladys, was killed by a Sureté du Québec squad car on Highway 105 on the Kitigan Zibi reserve four years earlier. The memorial march and vigil is held every year on the anniversary of her death.

Tolley could not appear at the vigil in Montreal because she was participating in the one in Ottawa.

The founder of the local chapter of Sisters in Spirit, Mohawk journalist and activist Irkar Beljars, was present at the rally.

“[The federal government] has failed on every level when it comes to dealing with First Nations,” he later said in an interview with The Link. He referred to the government’s decision in 2010 to cut funding to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, which financed First Nations programs that address the abuses caused by the residential school system.

“It’s clear that native women aren’t getting the justice they need,” Beljars added.

Beljars’s mother was sexually assaulted by several men when she was 18.

Hundreds gathered on Oct. 4 to honour the memory of missing and murdered indigenous women while calling for more government action. Photo Erin Sparks

“The police need to start doing their jobs,” he said, adding that sexual crimes against non-indigenous women are investigated more thoroughly than those against natives.

Many in the crowd held up signs criticizing the police.

“What would you do if it were your mother, your sister, your cousin that disappeared, and the police stayed silent?” read one.

In an email to The Link, the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs said, “The government of Canada is deeply concerned about the high number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, and we are taking firm action to achieve lasting change.”

The email also said the government is working to improve native women’s access to education to promote self-sufficiency.

As the marchers reached Phillips Square, organizers blared First Nations electronic group A Tribe Called Red from a set of speakers. The mood soon became more somber as the crowd held a moment of silence for the missing and murdered women.

Achneepineskum sat near the foot of the bronze statue of King Edward VII.

“I feel helpless with the situation personally,” he told The Link. “I grew up feeling that we are neglected. I know the government—for the existence of Canada—have always wanted to put the natives away, get rid of the ‘Indian Problem,’” he continued.

“But we’re not a problem, we are people. We are human beings, and we deserve to be treated respectfully.”

 

http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2013/10/rehtaeh-parsons-father-speaks-at-mcgill/

Rehtaeh Parsons’ father speaks at McGill: Addresses victim blaming, consent, prevalence of rape culture

mcgill rp

Jordan Venton-Rublee–Oct 07, 2013

The Centre for Gender Advocacy’s “Another Word for Gender” series closed with an emotional keynote event on October 3 – a talk by Glen Canning, the father of Rehtaeh Parsons, about the failure of the justice system, and the forces that normalize sexual assault in Canada, including victim-blaming.

Canning told the audience of around 100 people in the Shatner Ballroom that it was his first time speaking in front of a large group of people, but that he wanted to share the story of his daughter.

Parsons’ case first gained media attention last year, following the teen’s suicide after aggressive and prolonged bullying in response to her sexual assault. In November 2011, Parsons was gang-raped after attending a house party. A cellphone photo of the rape was shared days later by students at her school across social media sites.

According to her father, the photo was taken by one of the rapists and was not only shared at her school but across her district.

“It was going everywhere, and everyone knew about it,” said Canning, adding, “She wasn’t just raped, she was humiliated and destroyed.”

Not long after the photo was shared with the community, Parsons and her family came forward to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to report the incident – which is where the victim-blaming began, Canning said.

“I think it is outrageous that this happened, I think it’s inexcusable for the police to bungle this case the way that they did, and they did it right from the start.”

The investigation went on for one year, with few updates given to the family and no arrests made. The case was declared closed in March 2012, without questioning or consulting any of the people who were involved with the allegations of sexual assault.

The police told her mother when the case was deemed closed that “there [were] mistakes made that night, and Rehtaeh made mistakes too.”

“They were essentially saying she shouldn’t have been drinking at that party, and to us that is just wrong. It didn’t matter what she did that night, no one had the right to rape her,” said Canning.

He noted that his daughter was heartbroken by the case being closed. “She felt she did the right thing by speaking up and it was used against her.”

Parsons, Canning revealed, turned to drugs and self-harm to cope with the pain and feelings of isolation spurred by the events. Eventually, Parsons and her father decided that she would seek medical treatment at a local hospital.

Canning also pointed to faults in the hospital system. “Taking her to that hospital was the biggest mistake of my life,” he said. “I think she learned nothing in that hospital that she could use to cope with the issues she was going through.”

“The hospital that she was admitted to treated her like a drug addict because [the drug treatment program] is the only program they offer teens that age,” he told the audience. “So you have to be a drug addict, you are not a sexual assault victim.”

Not long after she was admitted, Parsons was discharged. She committed suicide shortly thereafter. Canning believes that her time in the hospital made her worse off.

Shortly after her death, her mother posted a Facebook status regarding her suicide that quickly gained international media attention, with her parents receiving calls from CNN and MSNBC.

However, not all the attention was positive. A “Support the Boys” campaign started in the community, with people rallying around the assault suspects, declaring their innocence.

The group printed signs and went to the police system to protest, alleging that Parsons lied. They also created Facebook groups claiming that since the boys were “good-looking [and] cool guys, that she probably wanted her assault because they never would have committed the crime,” Canning explained to the audience.

The cyber-bullying continued even after Parsons’ death – Facebook groups were created with tormenting titles and photoshopped pictures mocking her suicide. Some of the content was sent to her family.

When Canning wrote a letter to Facebook to take down one of the groups, they responded that the group did not “violate their standards.”

Canning posted the message on his blog, where it was picked up by the hacktivist group Anonymous. Anonymous tracked down the Facebook group owners and shut down the groups.

Charges of creation and distribution of child pornography have now been laid against two of the boys. “[However] despite them sending it to hundreds of kids, who then sent it to hundreds of [other] kids, [those are] the only two charges they came up with in this entire thing.”

Canning is adamant that the police never investigated the sexual assault aspect of the crime. “For them to say they have no evidence to substantiate a charge of sexual assault is a blatant failure on the side of the police to do their job.”

“This is just wrong, this is a failure in a system here. Her school didn’t even call her once, the police never investigated her crime at all.”

Canning hopes that by talking about his daughter’s case, change will occur. He noted that the sexual assault centre he took his daughter to prior to her death is faced with wait times of several months and is desperately in need of funding. “[It is] inexcusable that this is happening in our community and people aren’t getting the help that they want.”

“We have a problem in our system in Nova Scotia with young people, because they don’t know what consent is, what healthy relationships are,” said Canning. “They don’t know what healthy sex means, they don’t know about respect or empathy or compassion.”

“I think there is a failure in investigating sexual assault in Canada, and hopefully by sharing our daughter’s case we can highlight that and we can try and fix it. We are not going to be able to do that though if we don’t admit it is broken.”

 

http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2013/10/vigil-and-march-honours-murdered-and-missing-indigenous-women/

Vigil and march honours murdered and missing Indigenous women

Dana Wray–Oct 07, 2013

For the eighth year in a row, Missing Justice held the Vigil and March for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women in Montreal. The vigil was one of 360 similar events held across the world, according to organizers.

Around 200 protesters gathered at Cabot Square, where speeches were given to an emotional and applauding crowd by Viviane Michel, Joey Shaw, John Cree, and others. Afterward, the march winded down Ste. Catherine and ended at Phillips Square with a candlelit vigil and various performances.

Those who spoke at the rally talked about the long-lasting effects of residential schools, the ongoing colonization of Indigenous people and lands, and the injustice of missing and murdered Indigenous women from their communities.

“I want justice. I want justice for my mother. I want justice for myself. I want justice for everyone here. I want justice for the hundreds of missing and murdered Native women across this country,” said Irkar Beljaars, a Métis journalist and activist, in one of the speeches. “And more importantly, I want justice for everyone across this country.”

“There’s a phenomenon of native women going missing and being murdered across Canada,” Bianca Mugyenyi, Programming and Campaigns Coordinator at the Centre for Gender Advocacy, told The Daily in an interview.

One demonstrator, who identified only as Caroline, shared that she was at the march because of a close personal connection to the issue. “My auntie went missing from Winnipeg in 1992 and she was supposed to go home to Vancouver after our grandfather passed away and she was never heard of again. We don’t know where she went, we don’t know if she made it, there has been nothing that has come to light.”

According to the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), there are around 600 missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. Activists argue that this figure is too low, citing a shortage of data due to a lack of funding and political support, while police claim that the figure is too high.

“One person, one woman, one girl, is way too many already,” said a member of Missing Justice at the march.

Bridget Tolley began the annual march in 2005, when her mother, Gladys Tolley, was struck and killed by a Surêté du Québec police cruiser. The officer in question was never charged, and an independent investigation was denied.

According to Mugyenyi, this lack of resolution is not uncommon, and is instead a major problem when dealing with the issue of violence against Indigenous women. “When the police don’t take these cases seriously, as indicated in that these cases are not solved, and when the justice system does not give the same support, people need to act.”

“If women keep going missing, and there will be this silence around it, which means that they are more vulnerable [… and] in even greater danger,” she said.

Many demonstrators felt that it wasn’t remarkable that they were attending, but that it was their duty.

“I am not doing anyone a favour by coming here, I am not doing anything excellent [by coming here …],” said Sara Sebti, a McGill student, adding, “As a privileged person you have the responsibility to use your privilege in a productive way.”

Others pointed to ongoing colonization in Canada as a concern, and as motivation for attending the march.

“Our whole Canadian, Quebec [sic] society is built on colonization,” said Cleve Higgins, an attendee. “You can see it in the banks we are walking past, and the tar sands and all those things that destroy the lands Indigenous people are living on.”

Mugyenyi echoed this concern. “All Canadians have a historical obligation to right the wrongs of the colonial legacy.”

When asked what the next steps were for the movement in the future, Mugyenyi highlighted the vastness of the issue. “In terms of research and awareness, we need funding for it,” she said, referring to the fact that the only federally funded initiative – the Sisters in Sprit database – lost its financial support in 2010.

“[We also need to] counteract stereotypes of Native women, which increase their susceptibility to violence. […We need] cultural sensitivity for police forces; they don’t have the tools to investigate completely and thoroughly, or with the will to do so,” Mugyenyi continued.

Many of the demonstrators at the march and vigil agreed that while the government had a role in helping with funding and broader support, there needs to be more power given to Indigenous communities.

“We only [march] one evening a year but it should be a lot more than that,” said Higgins, “[We should protest] until it is taken seriously by the government [and] they actually put some effort in helping these Indigenous women.”

 

http://jhrconcordia.com/2013/10/06/8th-annual-march-vigil-for-justice-for-the-missing-murdered-aboriginal-women-of-canada/

Eighth annual march & vigil for justice for missing & murdered Aboriginal women of Canada

Lee-Ann Mudaly & Marilla Steuter-Martin–Oct 06, 2013

img_0440

Montreal, Oct. 4, 2013– The drums echoed throughout the streets, as the voices chanted “No justification for racist nation(…)Investigate crimes of hate(…)Bring our sisters home!”

The 8th annual march for missing and murdered aboriginal women took place Friday Oct. 4, beginning at Cabot Square. The event was organized by Sisters in Spirit along with Missing Justice.

The march commenced at the corner of Atwater and St-Catherine St., and ended with a candlelit vigil at Phillips Square. Several hundred people gathered Friday evening to commemorate the unresolved cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and to raise awareness about the issue.

Protesting Against Systemic Violence, Raising Voices for Awareness

Photo Credit: Marilla Steuter-Martin
Protestors and supporters for the awareness of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. [Photo Credit: Marilla Steuter-Martin]

This is an issue that is impacting people every day. Indigenous women are going missing and being murdered every day and we don’t see true justice being served, explained Candice Cascanette, a media representative for Missing Justice.

Along with drawing attention to the matter, she says one of the goals of the event is to put pressure on the government to investigate.

There is a demand from the united nations to conduct a public inquiry into the violence that indigenous women face and the Canadian government, for over a year now, is refusing to allow the inquiry to happen,” said Cascanette.

Drumming by locals of the community.
Drumming by locals of the community.[Photo Credit: Lee-Ann Mudaly]

The crowd fell silent as the event kicked off at around 7:30 p.m., with a prayer given by John Cree in his native language.

“I think it’s very important that we talk more about the injustice that’s going on,” Cree said.

This is a longstanding issue, where Aboriginal women have gone missing or have been murdered. Reported cases alone since before 1980, have tallied approximately 600 Native women who have gone missing or have been murdered, according to the Native Women’s Association. While other organizations and activists suspect that the actual number is as high as 3000, according to Missing Justice.

Bridget Tolley founded the march and vigil in 2005 on October 4th, which is the anniversary of her mother Gladys Tolley’s death. This year Bridget Tolley could not make it out to the annual gathering in Montreal, but said that her “heart will always be in Montreal on October 4th” and that she would “be there in spirit.”

Since its founding, the march has grown and has been embraced by many supporters nationally and internationally. It has been spread across the country. According to Missing Justice, ‘marches are now held in communities across Canada, in the hundreds, with one march being held as far away as Nicaragua, showing us that the problem of Indigenous women being disproportionately affected by violence is one of colonized Nations worldwide.’

Speakers for Change

Speakers at the 8th annual march and vigil for missing justice.[Photo Credit: Lee-Ann Mudaly]
Speakers at the 8th annual march and vigil for missing justice.[Photo Credit: Lee-Ann Mudaly]

Speakers took to the steps, speaking into the mic words of personal experience and at times outrage at the injustices felt by the First Nations community. Following the speeches, volunteers dutifully seized the banner, together hoisted it up high and took the first steps. The march had begun.

The Montreal police department had car escorts; one inching forward in the front, one on the left flank and one securing the back. Walking down St-Catherine St., volunteers handed out flyers to passers-by informing those watching what the march was all about. Some pedestrians shouted out obscenities at the walkers.

For the most part people stood and silently watched as the mass walked through the streets to the beat of the drum. Voices sang from within the crowd, a song in a native tongue. Then came chants that rang louder and clear:

“What do we want?” and the voices boomed back, “Justice, now!”

The Crowd Marches On

The crowd came to stop and the walkers filed into the square. A few words were spoken and a native song was sung by one of the speakers. A sense of solidarity fell over the gathered crowd as they lit candles. The candlelight vigil began and a moment of silence was observed in honour of those mothers, sisters and daughters who died or have disappeared, and are yet to be found.

Vigil at Phillips Square.

Vigil at Phillips Square.

 

http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/10/04/rehtaeh-parsons-father-says-daughter-wanted-to-go-to-the-media-before-her-death/

Rehtaeh Parsons’ father says daughter wanted to go to the media before her death

parsons_case_20130423

Sidhartha Banerjee, Canadian Press–Oct 04, 2013

MONTREAL — The father of a Nova Scotia teen whose suicide brought the issue of Internet bullying to the forefront says she tried to convince him they should go public on the matter.

Glen Canning said the plan to go to the media was hatched by his daughter, Rehtaeh Parsons, in the months leading up to her death this past April.

Canning told a news conference in Montreal on Thursday that both he and Parsons’ mother decided at the time that going public was not the right thing to do, even though the former photojournalist could have easily made it happen.

With all his daughter was going through, Canning felt at the time she would have been overwhelmed by the media exposure.

But now, he says he would go public under similar circumstances.

“She wanted to do something like that but I felt at the time there was so much going on in her life, it would have been overwhelming,” Canning said. “Looking back, I wish I’d done that.”

He said he would advise parents of kids who have been victimized by cyberbullying and are being ignored by authorities to go that route with the caveat that the child be aware of the cost of going to the press.

Sometimes, that option might be inevitable, he noted.

“If your child is being cyberbullied and getting threats online, on Facebook and text messages and it goes on and on and on and you’ve been complaining, what are your options here?”

Canning was in Montreal to give a lecture organized by Concordia’s Centre for Gender Advocacy and to lend support for better services for sex assault victims at post-secondary institutions.

Bianca Mugyenyi of the centre said Concordia’s plan to open a sexual assault centre is a start, but more needs to be done.

“What we’re dealing with is a cultural problem, a societal problem and so a lot of work needs to be done with respect to consent and consent education,” Mugyenyi said.

“We really need to end rape culture ultimately … we need to believe survivors, we need to protect them, we need to support them and we need to end victim blaming.”

Canning knows this all too well. His own daughter’s death was brought on by months of bullying following an alleged sexual assault.

Rehtaeh’s family has said the girl felt helpless after a digital photo of her allegedly being sexually assaulted circulated around the school.

Parsons was admitted to hospital in March 2012, a few months after the alleged November 2011 assault, and became suicidal.

The 17-year-old girl hanged herself in April this year and was taken off life-support three days later.

Her death drew international media attention after her parents went public in the days that followed.

Canning has pressed Nova Scotia’s political parties to launch a judicial inquiry into his daughter’s death.

Canning said it’s heart-breaking when a child musters up the courage to denounce bullying and the school fails to act, as was his experience.

He believes it is a conversation all Canadians need to be having.

“You need to get people start talking about this and you need to get people to start engaging their governments too,” said Canning.

The bullying that goes on today is not a part of growing up, it’s not a rite of passage for anybody. We’ve given our kids a communication tool that is like a dragon that’s not tamed at all

“Sometimes governments will do what’s most popular or what’s easiest and you can’t let that happen. You have to make them do what’s right — and that’s putting kids first.”

In August, two teens were charged with child-pornography charges. The case was reopened one week after Parsons’ death when, according to authorities, they received new and credible information from someone who was willing to co-operate. Initially, police had said there wasn’t enough evidence to lay charges.

Canning lamented that his daughter never saw justice served while she was alive.

“The bullying that goes on today is not a part of growing up, it’s not a rite of passage for anybody,” said Canning.

“We’ve given our kids a communication tool that is like a dragon that’s not tamed at all.

”They can spread stuff so fast and to so many people and there’s no way to contain it and we’re not teaching kids to use it responsibly and we’re not holding kids accountable when they don’t.”

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/10/04/rehtaeh-parsons-glen-canning-media_n_4039528.html

Rehtaeh Parsons’ Father Glen Canning Says She Wanted To Go To Media

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press–Oct 03, 2013

MONTREAL – The father of a Nova Scotia teen whose suicide brought the issue of Internet bullying to the forefront says she tried to convince him they should go public on the matter.

Glen Canning said the plan to go to the media was hatched by his daughter, Rehtaeh Parsons, in the months leading up to her death this past April.

Canning told a news conference in Montreal on Thursday that both he and Parsons’ mother decided at the time that going public was not the right thing to do, even though the former photojournalist could have easily made it happen.

With all his daughter was going through, Canning felt at the time she would have been overwhelmed by the media exposure.

But now, he says he would go public under similar circumstances.

“She wanted to do something like that but I felt at the time there was so much going on in her life, it would have been overwhelming,” Canning said. “Looking back, I wish I’d done that.”

He said he would advise parents of kids who have been victimized by cyberbullying and are being ignored by authorities to go that route with the caveat that the child be aware of the cost of going to the press.

Sometimes, that option might be inevitable, he noted.

“If your child is being cyberbullied and getting threats online, on Facebook and text messages and it goes on and on and on and you’ve been complaining, what are your options here?”

Canning was in Montreal to give a lecture organized by Concordia’s Centre for Gender Advocacy and to lend support for better services for sex assault victims at post-secondary institutions.

Bianca Mugyenyi of the centre said Concordia’s plan to open a sexual assault centre is a start, but more needs to be done.

“What we’re dealing with is a cultural problem, a societal problem and so a lot of work needs to be done with respect to consent and consent education,” Mugyenyi said.

“We really need to end rape culture ultimately … we need to believe survivors, we need to protect them, we need to support them and we need to end victim blaming.”

Canning knows this all too well. His own daughter’s death was brought on by months of bullying following an alleged sexual assault.

Rehtaeh’s family has said the girl felt helpless after a digital photo of her allegedly being sexually assaulted circulated around the school.

Parsons was admitted to hospital in March 2012, a few months after the alleged November 2011 assault, and became suicidal.

The 17-year-old girl hanged herself in April this year and was taken off life-support three days later.

Her death drew international media attention after her parents went public in the days that followed.

Canning has pressed Nova Scotia’s political parties to launch a judicial inquiry into his daughter’s death.

Canning said it’s heart-breaking when a child musters up the courage to denounce bullying and the school fails to act, as was his experience.

He believes it is a conversation all Canadians need to be having.

“You need to get people start talking about this and you need to get people to start engaging their governments too,” said Canning.

“Sometimes governments will do what’s most popular or what’s easiest and you can’t let that happen. You have to make them do what’s right — and that’s putting kids first.”

In August, two teens were charged with child-pornography charges. The case was reopened one week after Parsons’ death when, according to authorities, they received new and credible information from someone who was willing to co-operate. Initially, police had said there wasn’t enough evidence to lay charges.

Canning lamented that his daughter never saw justice served while she was alive.

“The bullying that goes on today is not a part of growing up, it’s not a rite of passage for anybody,” said Canning.

“We’ve given our kids a communication tool that is like a dragon that’s not tamed at all.

”They can spread stuff so fast and to so many people and there’s no way to contain it and we’re not teaching kids to use it responsibly and we’re not holding kids accountable when they don’t.”

 

http://news.ca.msn.com/top-stories/rehtaeh-parsons-wanted-to-go-public-before-her-death

Rehtaeh Parsons wanted to go public before her death

The Canadian Press, cbc.ca–Oct 03, 2013

The father of a Nova Scotia teen whose suicide brought the issue of internet bullying to the forefront says she tried to convince him they should go public on the matter.

Glen Canning says the plan to go to the media was hatched by his daughter, Rehtaeh Parsons, in the months leading up to her death this past April.

Canning told a news conference in Montreal Thursday afternoon that both he and Rehtaeh’s mother decided at the time going public was not the right thing to do.

But he says he would now go public under similar circumstances.

He is advising parents of kids who have been victimized by cyberbullying and being ignored by authorities to go that route.

Canning is in Montreal to give a lecture organized by Concordia University’s Centre for Gender Advocacy and to lend support for better services for sex assault victims at post-secondary institutions.

His own daughter’s death was brought on by months of bullying following an alleged sexual assault.

Rehtaeh’s family has said the girl felt helpless after a digital photo of her allegedly being sexually assaulted circulated around the school.

Parsons was admitted to hospital in March 2012, about five months after the alleged assault, and became suicidal.

The 17-year-old girl died following a suicide attempt in April of this year.

Her death drew international media attention after her parents went public.

In August, two teens were charged with child pornography charges. The case was reopened one week after her death when authorities said they received new and credible information from someone who was willing to co-operate. Initially, police had said there wasn’t enough evidence to lay charges.

‘I wish I’d done that’

Canning said he now wishes he’d gone public sooner.

“She [Rehtaeh] wanted me to,” Canning said. “When the police called her up and told her they weren’t going to lay charges against anybody, she wanted to go public.”

Canning, who used to work as a photojournalist in Halifax, said he could have easily made it happen. But with all his daughter was going through, he felt she would have been overwhelmed by the media exposure.

“There was so much going on her life, it would have been overwhelming,” Canning said.

“Looking back, I wish I’d done that (gone public), but I would have never have done it had I thought it would have jeopardized her or harmed her in any way, but it was actually her idea.”

 

http://www.cjad.com/blog/BarryMorganShow/blogentry.aspx?BlogEntryID=10598091

“We unleashed a monster”: Glen Canning

Barry Morgan–Oct 03, 2013

Glen Canning is Rehtaeh Parsons’ father. She is the 17-year-old from Nova Scotia who took her own life after she was allegedly gang-raped and photos were sent out on social media.

Canning was in Montreal today to attend a question and answer session at McGill University.

We had a wide-ranging discussion about his daughter’s death. Canning told me what advice he has for parents. He told me what he thought of the police, media and the public’s response to his daughter’s passing. The bottom line is that Rehtaeh Parsons’ death was a tragedy. And Canning is working very hard, doing his best, to prevent another family from suffering the same way.

 

http://www.citynews.ca/2013/10/03/rehtaeh-parsons-father-says-she-wanted-to-go-to-media-before-her-suicide/

Rehtaeh Parsons’ father says she wanted to go to media before her suicide

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press–Oct 03, 2013

The father of a Nova Scotia teen whose suicide brought the issue of Internet bullying to the forefront says she tried to convince him they should go public on the matter.

Glen Canning said the plan to go to the media was hatched by his daughter, Rehtaeh Parsons, in the months leading up to her death this past April.

Canning told a news conference in Montreal on Thursday that both he and Parsons’ mother decided at the time that going public was not the right thing to do, even though the former photojournalist could have easily made it happen.

With all his daughter was going through, Canning felt at the time she would have been overwhelmed by the media exposure.

But now, he says he would go public under similar circumstances.

“She wanted to do something like that but I felt at the time there was so much going on in her life, it would have been overwhelming,” Canning said. “Looking back, I wish I’d done that.”

He said he would advise parents of kids who have been victimized by cyberbullying and are being ignored by authorities to go that route with the caveat that the child be aware of the cost of going to the press.

Sometimes, that option might be inevitable, he noted.

“If your child is being cyberbullied and getting threats online, on Facebook and text messages and it goes on and on and on and you’ve been complaining, what are your options here?”

Canning was in Montreal to give a lecture organized by Concordia’s Centre for Gender Advocacy and to lend support for better services for sex assault victims at post-secondary institutions.

Bianca Mugyenyi of the centre said Concordia’s plan to open a sexual assault centre is a start, but more needs to be done.

“What we’re dealing with is a cultural problem, a societal problem and so a lot of work needs to be done with respect to consent and consent education,” Mugyenyi said.

“We really need to end rape culture ultimately … we need to believe survivors, we need to protect them, we need to support them and we need to end victim blaming.”

Canning knows this all too well. His own daughter’s death was brought on by months of bullying following an alleged sexual assault.

Rehtaeh’s family has said the girl felt helpless after a digital photo of her allegedly being sexually assaulted circulated around the school.

Parsons was admitted to hospital in March 2012, a few months after the alleged November 2011 assault, and became suicidal.

The 17-year-old girl hanged herself in April this year and was taken off life-support three days later.

Her death drew international media attention after her parents went public in the days that followed.

Canning has pressed Nova Scotia’s political parties to launch a judicial inquiry into his daughter’s death.

Canning said it’s heart-breaking when a child musters up the courage to denounce bullying and the school fails to act, as was his experience.

He believes it is a conversation all Canadians need to be having.

“You need to get people start talking about this and you need to get people to start engaging their governments too,” said Canning.

“Sometimes governments will do what’s most popular or what’s easiest and you can’t let that happen. You have to make them do what’s right — and that’s putting kids first.”

In August, two teens were charged with child-pornography charges. The case was reopened one week after Parsons’ death when, according to authorities, they received new and credible information from someone who was willing to co-operate. Initially, police had said there wasn’t enough evidence to lay charges.

Canning lamented that his daughter never saw justice served while she was alive.

“The bullying that goes on today is not a part of growing up, it’s not a rite of passage for anybody,” said Canning.

“We’ve given our kids a communication tool that is like a dragon that’s not tamed at all.

”They can spread stuff so fast and to so many people and there’s no way to contain it and we’re not teaching kids to use it responsibly and we’re not holding kids accountable when they don’t.”

 

http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2013/09/centre-for-gender-advocacy-takes-a-critical-look-at-gender/

Centre for Gender Advocacy takes a critical look at gender: Annual workshop series opens discussion on feminist organizing and action
Emily Saul–Sept 30, 2013
To acquaint people with feminist organizing and action, the Centre for Gender Advocacy is putting on a two-week series from September 23 to October 4 entitled “Another Word for Gender.”

The Centre offers free services and resources to the Concordia and greater Montreal community, and advocates for a number of social justice issues. The workshops in the series address gender and social justice issues, including content on men and feminism, trans* history, missing and murdered indigenous women, and sexual assault awareness.

“These are issues that affect everybody, absolutely everybody,” Bianca Mugyenyi, programming and campaign coordinator of the Centre, told The Daily.

“A lot of the time people think that as a gender advocacy center, we are only dealing with women’s issues or trans* issues, but certainly not men’s issues. A lot of these so called ‘women’s issues,’ are men’s issues. We want to address that, and we feel that everybody needs to be engaged in order to challenge gendered violence.”

“Another Word for Gender” hopes to provide workshops and encourage the community to engage with a deeper understanding of gender. One such workshop dealing  with men and feminism, held on September 30, aimed to facilitate discussion on what it means to be a male feminist, along with other topics.

“The point of the workshop is to talk about our experiences with men and feminism. We’ve prepared questions such as ‘what does it mean to be a feminist man and do men suffer under patriarchy,’” said Dan Parker, one of the presenters of the “Men and Feminism” workshop.

“We also want to talk a bit about how we can see men as part of a feminist movement, as completely intrinsic and essential to the movement. [We want] to try to conceptualize this without stepping on the toes of women who are leading the movement,” said Tim Keen, another of the presenters of the “Men and Feminism” workshop.

“Obviously there is a massive problem if you start showing up as a man in a feminist movement and start taking control because you’re perpetuating the same problem that you’re trying to solve,” Keen continued.

The Centre hopes its annual series will encourage personal development and mobilization. “A pretty important kind of energy is required for social change and social justice, [and we] try to do that by inviting incredible, real people with real stories,” said Mugyenyi.

“[The “Another Word for Gender” series is an] opportunity for people to gain skills; [it’s] an intro to feminist organizing and action. We’re pretty serious about our desire for people to […] become social actors.” With files from Hannah Besseau.

 

http://theconcordian.com/2013/09/another-word-for-gender-starts-up-again/

Another Word for Gender starts up again

The Centre for Gender Advocacy’s series serves as a learning space

CFGA-OPEN-HOUSE-05-300x200

Kelly Duval–Sept 24, 2013

The Centre for Gender Advocacy’s two-week campaign, Another Word for Gender, is in its third year at Concordia, taking place from Sept. 23 to Oct. 4.

The free events, open to the public, act as an introduction to feminist action and organization, demonstrating the type of work in which the centre engages.

“We want to inspire people, pass on skills that will allow them to inspire people and bring people together who are interested in challenging inequality, gender violence and social justice,” said Bianca Mugyenyi, the centre’s programming and campaigns coordinator.

The Centre understands that to get at their root causes, gender oppression and matters like sexual assault need to be spoken about in relation to other social issues.

“[We’re] helping to educate about gender as existing not in a vacuum, but as connected to First Nations issues, environmental issues [and] other social justice struggles in general,” said Maya Rolbin-Ghanie the centre’s publicity and promotions coordinator.

Feminism is often still perceived as something only dealing with women’s issues. The Centre, however, emphasizes these events are open to everyone.

“Everyone has a gender and so we’d like to believe that there’s something here for everybody,” said Mugyenyi.

Photo by Rae Pellerin.

This annual series of events began in 2008, originally called Too Cool for School, while the organizers feel the new name that Rolbin-Ghanie came up with is more inclusive and interesting, while also addressing gender.

“We’ve been making an effort […] particularly in this series to bring men more into the discussions,” said Rolbin-Ghanie.

Norman Achneepineskum will talk about murdered and missing native women through his experience with his mother on Sept. 26 and Dan Parker will host a Men and Feminism discussion Sept. 30. The keynote speaker, Glen Canning, will speak about the role of men in challenging rape culture, among other issues, on Oct. 3, relating his personal experience of his daughter’s sexual assault and suicide.

Other informative events include a media skills workshop on Sept. 24, which will teach attendees how to effectively communicate with the media to reflect their values. A new addition to the program this year is the Trans’ History Workshop on Sept. 25.

Many events are not only informative but fun and engaging. The open-mic night showcases participants’ musical and spoken talents. World renowned dubpoet, d’bi young, hosts the Art and Activism workshop on Sept. 27.

“We can’t really organize sustainably unless we’re having a good time,” said Mugyenyi.

While the events are mostly attended by Concordia students, the organizers are engaging students from other campuses and the community this year especially. Glen Canning, for instance, will be speaking at McGill University.

One of the largest events of the series, the Annual Sisters in Spirit Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Native Women on Oct. 4, is a massive community affair. Founded by Bridget Tolley, participants memorialize her mother’s death and petition for the disregarded murders of Native women.

Canada rejected the UN’s call for a review of violence against Aboriginal women on Sept. 19, which is one of the reasons the march will be timely.

“The government negligence in the rejection of this UN inquiry is something that we’re going to be addressing,” Mugyenyi explained.

The Centre believes Concordia students can get an even broader education from these events.

“We have lots of different ways that people can engage in terms of skills, interests and level of participation,” said Mugyenyi. “The more new faces we see, the more excited we get.”

 

http://theconcordian.com/2013/09/editorial-feminism-when-did-the-meaning-of-this-word-change/

Editorial: Feminism—when did the meaning of this word change?

A word that once meant equal rights for women has taken on a negative connotation

The Concordian–Sept 24, 2013

Feminist. In 1895, the Oxford dictionary defined feminism as “advocacy of the rights of women (based on the theory of equality of the sexes).” It is now the year 2013 and although at its core, feminist principles have remained about the rights and equality of women, the connotation of the word has changed.

Groups like men’s rights activists believe that feminists paint a negative portrayal of men. Just recently, a men’s rights group in Calgary started a “Don’t be that girl” campaign wherein they created posters advocating things such as just because a woman doesn’t remember having sex doesn’t mean it wasn’t consensual. These groups wish to dispel the idea that men are responsible for rape and many of their websites disparage feminists as “man-haters.”

However, it is not only men’s rights groups that have this misconceived notion of feminism. Maria Peluso, who has taught several classes where the focus is on women, noted that many of her female students say they liked feminine thought but did not want to be labeled as feminists.

Writers Beth Larson and Lara Orlandic of the University of Illinois’ paper The Online Gargoyle feel that one of the reasons why the title ‘feminist’, has a negative connotation has to do with the idea that men and women are already equal in North American society and therefore feminists are just complaining needlessly.

“Since the Women’s Liberation Movement changed women’s status in society so drastically, people tend to overlook the present-day gender inequalities. Even though men and women are considered to be politically equal, there is a long way to go until both genders are socially and economically equal” (Larson and Orlandic, “Our favorite “f-word”: The misconceptions of feminism in Uni and mainstream culture,” The Online Gargoyle. Nov. 29, 2011).

At Concordia, we are fortunate to have The 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy and the newly created Sexual Assault Centre working tirelessly to promote awareness of gender issues and advocating for an end to sexual violence. The centre’s latest workshop series, “Another Word for Gender,” is an example of how even though many of the events focus on issues facing women, these issues are not exclusionary to men nor are they meant to blame men. Rather, these workshops look at constructive solutions to problems such as gender oppression and sexual violence. The workshops are pegged as “an intro to feminist organizing and action,” and yet they in no way support the negative connotation associated with the word. Instead, these workshops support the official definition of feminism by promoting equality for all genders.

Nevertheless, women and men hesitate to call themselves feminists. The hypocrisy of media has had a strong influence on the millennial generation, convincing many that to call oneself a feminist is to align oneself with bra-burning extremists. Although people like this do exist, they do not represent all feminists.

The key to defeating the stereotypes surrounding feminism is education. As previously noted, Concordia has excellent resources for this and perhaps by taking the opportunity to learn what identifying oneself as feminist really means more people will proudly declare themselves as such.

 

http://thelinknewspaper.ca/article/4599

Word for Gender: Centre for Gender Advocacy’s Event Series Seeks To Empower And Inspire

Colin Harris–Sept 19, 2013

This is the third year the Centre has put on its Another Word for Gender series, replacing the Centre’s Too Cool for School events which they had held since 2008. The alternative orientation event has a focus on social justice through a gender-issues lens.

“The idea behind it was to have a diverse series because people see inequality and injustice in different ways, and also challenge it in different ways,” said Bianca Mugyenyi, the Centre’s Programming and Campaigns Coordinator.

“We feel that they’re all pretty connected. We wanted to have a series with something for everybody, that was free, public and accessible, and also something that will build people’s strengths.”

Another Word for Gender culminates with the Sisters in Spirit march for missing and murdered Aboriginal women. It’s the Centre’s biggest event each year, bringing together speakers, performers, drummers and more to protest the lack of investigation into the disappearances of these women.

The events are connected to various campaigns the Centre coordinates. Missing Justice, the campaign for missing and murdered women, is putting on its eighth annual march on Oct. 4.

They are also facilitating a talk by Norman Achneepineskum on Sept. 26, who is part of the drum group which plays at the march. All of Achneepineskum’s family went through the residential school system, and he will be telling the story of his mother.

The Centre’s A Safer Concordia campaign, which lobbied the university administration to create a sexual assault centre, is holding consent workshops, which are also offered to students in residence and frosh leaders. This campaign is also welcoming the event’s keynote speaker, Glen Canning, the father of 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons, who committed suicide in April after being sexually assaulted and bullied.

Events put on during Another Word for Gender are complementary to each other, highlighting the greater context of issues pertaining to marginalized members of society. The Centre offers tools to put students’ ideas in action, from how to engage with the media and launch their own campaign, to simply inspiring attendees in a community environment.

“Another way of gaining power is just being straight up inspired,” said Mugyenyi. “People like Glen Canning or last year, [founder of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective] Loretta Ross, that’s a lot of energy, and it goes a long way in terms of building movements and organizing, becoming active.”

“Everything that happens at the Centre is in some way about getting the word out,” said Maya Rolbin-Ghanie, the Centre’s Publicity and Promotions Coordinator. “What every campaign is doing, it’s largely popular education. Not only just that certain issues exist in the first place, but also trying to constantly grow this capacity to spread the word.”

In the spirit of spreading the word, this year several events examine the role of men in feminism.

“We’re asking questions like ‘how are men affected by patriarchy? Is there an interest there in challenging it?’” said Mugyenyi. “We strongly believe the answer is yes, but we want to have that discussion.

“At the end of the day a lot of issues around gendered violence are actually men’s issues,” she continued. “If we don’t bring the other half of the population into the equation I don’t see how we can effectively overcome the various oppressions of patriarchy.”

 

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Concordia+opening+sexual+assault+centre/8345552/story.html

Concordia opening a new sexual assault centre: To be run by professional social worker with help of student volunteers

Karen Seidman–May 7, 2013

MONTREAL — At universities everywhere, sexual assault is a growing problem, both in terms of increasing incidence and of university officials’ reluctance to deal with it.

“There is strong pullback on the part of universities and a real lack of efforts to resolve these types of issues,” said Vanessa Hunt, incoming deputy chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students and a student at York University in Toronto. “Where there are sexual assault support centres, students usually had to fight for it. It is a very challenging culture on campus.”

In that context, the advent of Concordia University’s new Sexual Assault Resource Centre this fall is very good news. But it also took two years of lobbying from students to make the centre a reality.

“We had a petition of over 1,000 signatures and the university just realized they had a responsibility to provide this service,” said Julie Michaud, administrative coordinator of the Centre for Gender Advocacy at Concordia, which fought for the sexual assault centre.

In Montreal now, only McGill University has a dedicated sexual assault centre, although the Université de Montréal and Université du Québec à Montréal provide counselling services. While universities seem prepared to deal with sexual harassment, it is trickier with sexual assault because it is a criminal offence.

Michaud described McGill’s centre as staffed by student volunteers “on a shoestring budget.” Concordia’s will be a step up from that, with a professional social worker running the centre with the help of student volunteers.

“This type of hybrid model is what differentiates us from other campuses,” said Howard Magonet, director of counselling and development for Concordia. “Whereas survivors might feel too stigmatized to seek help, this centre might help them.”

The centre will also help the university better understand the scope of the problem.

Magonet said there are only six sexual assault support centres on Canadian campuses, and Concordia wanted to fund its centre so a professional would be involved.

“It’s important to have a professional involved with this type of sensitive issue,” Magonet said. “It’s not fair to put that kind of onus on students.”

With statistics showing that one in four students are assaulted over the course of a four-year education (more than 80 per cent are women), that many on-campus sexual assaults occur during the first eight weeks of classes and that young women age 15 to 24 experience higher incidences of sexual violence in Canada, it would seem logical for universities to be equipped with support centres.

However, the fact is the statistics are somewhat fuzzy because it’s believed the majority of cases never get reported.

And universities have sometimes handled the issue indelicately, as when Carleton University in Ottawa said a woman who was sexually assaulted on campus — and subsequently sued the university for not ensuring the safety of female students — had contributed to the attack through her own “negligence.”

Universities also have to deal with sometimes bawdy and inappropriate male students. For example, the CFS (which only represents Dawson College in Quebec) says a study showed that 60 per cent of Canadian college-age males indicated they would commit sexual assault if they were certain they wouldn’t get caught.

Even the ivy leagues have had to deal with hostile sexual environments on campus, such as in 2010, when members of a fraternity at Yale University marched around campus chanting, “No means yes! Yes means anal!” and a video of the event went viral.

That is why, Hunt said, the CFS has been working to promote its No Means No campaign on campuses.

“We’re using it to push universities to shift the culture,” she said. “We’re trying to get people to stop blaming the survivor.”

The advantage of having a dedicated sexual assault centre, according to Michaud, is that it means there is someone to not only deal with survivors and to offer prevention tips, but there is someone to advocate for the survivor.

“They can intervene on behalf of the survivor if there was an assault by another student and the perpetrator needs to be moved to a different class, for example,” Michaud said. “Because most sexual assaults don’t happen in an alley. It’s usually someone they know who made them do something they didn’t want to do sexually.”

In terms of protocols dealing with sexual assault, universities are all over the map. Morton Mendelson, McGill deputy provost of student life and learning, aid the university has more of a “procedure” in place to deal with a student who has been assaulted.

It is a matter for the police, he said, but the university’s involvement may depend on where it took place and who was involved.

“Our concern is always for the victim of the assault,” he said.

Hunt said existing policies addressing sexual assault “are lacklustre,” so the CFS is trying to overhaul the approach on campuses.

At Concordia, Michaud said sexual harassment and assault are mentioned in the Code of Rights and Responsibilities, but it’s not a sexual assault policy per se and is written in legalese that is inaccessible.

“We would definitely like the university to create something that is more accessible and comprehensive, and we’ll be working toward this in the coming year,” she said.

For now, though, those involved with the campaign to get a sexual assault centre at Concordia will enjoy their success and try to ensure the centre meets the needs of the student population.

“With one in four students experiencing sexual assault during their post-secondary career, this is a much-needed service,” said Bianca Mugyenyi, programming and campaigns coordinator for the Centre for the CGA. “It is our hope that centres like these will open at universities across Quebec.”

 

http://www.ledevoir.com/societe/actualites-en-societe/377486/concordia-aura-son-centre-sur-les-agressions-sexuelles

Concordia aura son centre sur les agressions sexuelles: Les jeunes étudiantes qui fréquentent les universités sont au coeur de statistiques alarmantes

Caroline Montpetit–6 mai 2013

Fêtes arrosées tournant mal, promiscuité dans les résidences universitaires, rapports de domination entre conjoints ou amis. C’est avant 24 ans que les femmes sont les plus susceptibles d’être agressées sexuellement. Et les jeunes étudiantes qui fréquentent les cégeps et les universités sont au coeur de ces statistiques. Prenant le taureau par les cornes, l’Université Concordia vient d’annoncer l’ouverture prochaine d’un centre de ressources pour les victimes d’agression sexuelle. Ce centre, parrainé par l’administration de l’Université, offrira notamment les services d’une travailleuse sociale qui aidera les victimes de viols et d’agressions sexuelles à surmonter leurs traumatismes.

 

http://thelinknewspaper.ca/article/4326

Concordia’s Sexual Assault Centre is Almost Here: Resource Centre to Open on Downtown Campus

Colin Harris–April 26, 2013

Concordia’s Sexual Assault Resource Centre will hopefully be up and running when students return this fall.

The university announced their plans to open the centre on Wednesday, finding its home in the downtown GM Building.

“We’ll probably have the space before we have the coordinator,” said Concordia Counselling and Development Director Howard Magonet. “But that’s a good thing.”

His goal is to have the centre operating by the fall semester at the latest. But specifics won’t be ironed out until the centre’s coordinator is hired—a full-time social worker position that Magonet says has received two applications before the one-year contract has even been posted by the university.

The new centre will be funded by Concordia’s Vice-President Services office, and will work under Concordia Counselling and Development.

This comes after two years of campaigning by the Centre for Gender Advocacy, an independent student group mandated to promote gender equality and empowerment. Holding events, postering and rallying around the annual Take Back the Night demonstration, the centre worked to show how essential such a space is for the university.

“We know the statistics behind sexual assault on campuses, that one in four students are sexually assaulted during their post-secondary career,” said CGA Programming and Campaigns Coordinator Bianca Mugyenyi, citing a survey done by the University of Alberta.

“When very few people are reporting it at Concordia, these services are much needed,” she added.

Last spring the CGA started a petition asking the university to provide permanent space for a sexual assault centre. It has since received over 1,000 signatures when tallying online and paper petitions. The Concordia Student Union and Graduate Students’ Association also put their support behind the initiative last year.

In the past few months, the proposal was drafted by the university. The full-time coordinator will work with student volunteers to create education, counselling and referral services, and will have access to the counselors and psychologists already working in Counselling and Development.

The space in the GM Building will have two adjacent offices, one for the coordinator and one for the resource centre.

“It’s a really cool example of student initiative being embraced by the university as an institution,” said incoming CSU President Melissa Kate Wheeler, who was involved in initial talks with the university because of her involvement in the “Love Doesn’t Hurt” campaign, an awareness-raising campaign centered around abusive relationships.

Wheeler was quick to point out, however, that the work done by the CGA is the reason why the centre is happening.

With Concordia’s administration providing all the funding, it’s a different model than the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society, which runs on a student fee levy and has been housed in the student union-owned building since the 1990s.

Wheeler says Concordia’s approach makes it easier to get experts involved in the centre, combined with the “skills and sensitivity” of student volunteers.

In the university’s proposal for the centre there are plans for an advisory board, which will meet regularly to provide feedback and recommendations for the centre. It’s a body Mugyenyi wants to see with a substantial student contingent.

“Our hope is that there will be as much student involvement as possible, because to build a genuine culture of consent at Concordia you have to have students integrated,” she said.

 

http://www.concordia.ca/now/campus-beat/concordia-community/20130424/sexual-assault-resource-centre-to-open.php

Concordia centre to provide outreach, sensitivity training and counselling

Tom Peacock–April 24, 2013

Mindful of the well-being of members of the university community, Concordia will establish a sexual assault resource centre this fall on its downtown campus. The centre will serve as a free, confidential resource for students, staff and faculty, providing educational resources, counselling and expert referral services.

“We felt it was necessary that Concordia provide services that specifically deal with sexual assault, given the high rate of sexual assaults on campuses across Canada,” says CGA staff member Bianca Mugyenyi, who worked with her colleague, Julie Michaud, to draw attention to the need for the service.

On its website, Concordia’s 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy (CGA) cites research that states one in four university students experiences sexual assault over the course of a post-secondary career, and that 80 per cent of the survivors are women.

More than 350 students took up the cause, signing a CGA petition calling for the creation of a sexual assault centre on campus, and the campaign received strong support from student groups, including the Concordia Student Union (CSU) and the Graduate Student Association (GSA). “We felt we had a mandate to say that this is what students want,” Mugyenyi says.

The university was certainly receptive to the idea, says Dean of Students Andrew Woodall. But the complexity of an issue that touches on various administrative departments (including Health Services, Security, Counselling and Development, the Office of Rights and Responsibilities, and Legal Counsel) required serious consideration of how the centre would be integrated into existing response structures.

“We know the issue is important; it has always been important. But we had to figure out where to start building the trust and the relationships to move forward,” Woodall says.

“Getting to this point is a testament to the goodwill of multiple members of our campus community,” says Brad Tucker, associate vice-president, Student and Enrolment Services. “The key benefit, however, will be in the centre’s outreach and in its service to survivors.”

The new Sexual Assault Resource Centre will operate within Student and Enrolment Services under the umbrella of Counselling and Development. It will be staffed by a social worker, who will meet with survivors and coordinate the activities of student volunteers.

The students will provide peer support to survivors, and help with outreach and education initiatives. “A lot of our current volunteers at the CGA have already expressed their interest in volunteering with the Sexual Assault Resource Centre,” Michaud says.

“The more that students are involved, the more that there will be the genuine creation of a culture of consent at Concordia,” Mugyenyi adds.

Since students and student groups played a key role in the centre’s realization, their continued involvement will be key to the centre’s success, Woodall says. “This is a collaboration. We will have an advisory committee, with students providing input, which is important.”

Howard Magonet, director of Counselling and Development, says the centre’s incoming director will have to hit the ground running. “They’ll be doing a lot of outreach, meeting with students and student groups, creating sensitization and campus-awareness programs, and meeting with community resources,” he says, adding that his own office has already begun some initial community outreach.

“Our community partners, such as the Montreal Sexual Assault Centre, are all very happy that we’re doing this, and said that they would be happy to support us in any way they can.”

Incoming CSU President Melissa Kate Wheeler, who was involved in supporting the campaign for the new centre, says the realization of the centre is a “wonderful example of how students at a university and people who work for the university can work together on something that benefits the university as a whole.”

Wheeler says her team of student politicians plans to throw its support behind the centre once it opens. “We’d like to focus on promoting it, and making sure that the service is used.”

Listen to the CKUT & CUTV Special Two-Hour Broadcast Sisters in Spirit March & Vigil for Missing and Murdered Native Women

Across the country hundreds to thousands of indigenous women have been found murdered or gone missing over the last several decades. Native women face five times the rate of violence that non-Native women do in Canada. On Thursday, October 4th, at 6pm, women and men come together to commemorate the lives lost early and to call for an end to the tragedies and violence.

CKUT’s Community News Collective and CUTV News went live from the 7th annual Sisters and Spirit Memorial March and Vigil for Missing and Murdered Native Women.

LISTEN BACK TO THE TWO-HOUR SPECIAL ON MISSING AND MURDERED WOMEN HERE

Interviews with: Ellen Gabriel, Indigenous activist, former head of Quebec Native Women Irkar Beljaars, Brother in Spirit Sheri Pranteau, native activist Vivian Michel, Quebec Native Women Clifton Nicholas, Native Activist Elyse Vollant, Native Activist Against Plan Nord Organizers from Missing Justice

Thanks to UpStage for graciously giving us the airtime to broadcast live this important event.

 

http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2012/10/march-and-vigil-honours-missing-and-murdered-native-women/

March and vigil honours missing and murdered Native women: Attendees demand government action
Dana Wray–October 6, 2012
About 350 people gathered at Place Émilie-Gamelin on Thursday evening and marched through downtown Montreal for the seventh annual Sisters in Spirit Memorial March and Vigil for Missing and Murdered Native Women.

Bridget Tolley, an Aboriginal woman whose mother was killed by Quebec police in 2001, founded the annual vigil in 2005. She collaborated with Sisters in Spirit (SIS), an Aboriginal research and policy initiative of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) whose funding was cut by the federal government in 2010.

This year, a record 163 vigils were held across the country, drawing tens of thousands of Native and non-native supporters to honour the missing and murdered Native women in Canada.

A virtual candlelight vigil was also held online, garnering over 542 messages of solidarity.

Stories of negligence in police responses to situations of violence against Native women are common. When a Sûreté du Québec police cruiser struck Gladys Tolley – Bridget Tolley’s mother – the officer in question was never charged. A request for an independent investigation by the Quebec government was subsequently denied.

According to SIS, at least 600 Native women have gone missing or have been murdered since 1980, though activists believe the number to be closer to 3000 – a discrepancy they attribute to incomplete police records.

This year, NWAC issued a petition calling on the government to hold a national public inquiry that involves Native women and communities.

Although the United Nations has repeatedly called on the government of Canada to undertake a comprehensive plan of action against what Amnesty International Canada calls a “national human rights crisis,” the government has thus far refused to cooperate.

“It benefits the government to ignore our calls for a public inquiry,” said Ellen Gabriel, a Mohawk activist who spoke at the vigil. “[Aboriginals] are creating more jails for the Harper government.”

Aboriginal leader John Cree agreed with Gabriel, and had stronger words for the government’s treatment. “They don’t seem to care because they think we’re animals,” he said.

When Métis journalist and activist Irkar Beljaars organized the first Montreal vigil in 2007, only thirty people attended, a stark contrast to the hundreds that gathered on Thursday evening. Since 2009, Beljaars has partnered with Missing Justice, a grassroots solidarity campaign of the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy at Concordia.

Nina Segalowitz, an Aboriginal caseworker, encouraged march-goers to not only mourn for those lost, but to “celebrate all the women that continue to fight every day.”

Drumming and singing from both Native and non-native supporters accompanied the peaceful march to Phillips Square. The evening culminated with both traditional and contemporary cultural acts, several speakers, and a candlelit moment of silence.

Despite the positive mood of the march and the vigil, there was a pervasive current of frustration, evident in comments from speakers and march-goers alike.

Tanya, a Concordia student, criticized the government’s failure to address this issue properly. “I’m ashamed by the fact that you can barely find any information about [the issue]. It’s a real disaster,” she said.

Bianca Mugyenyi, a program coordinator at the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy, echoed these sentiments, calling the situation an “epidemic.”

“The government is not providing solutions. They’re indifferent, and this makes indigenous women incredibly vulnerable to violence,” Mugyenyi told The Daily.

Amnesty International Canada reports that Native women in Canada are five to seven times more likely to be killed violently than their non-native counterparts.

The Missing Justice campaign also criticized the federal government for choosing to increase police power – allowing police to obtain warrants and install wiretaps –rather than continuing to fund SIS. Aboriginal activists maintain that these increased privileges will only be used to further criminalize native communities.

Quebec Native Women President Viviane Michel told the gathered crowd at Place Émilie-Gamelin that she was tired of the stigmatization of Native women.

“You go to the police to ask for help, and they respond with ‘your daughter has been missing for two, three, four days? She’s probably just drunk somewhere,’” she said in French. “I am so sick of Native people being immediately associated with the problem of alcoholism.”

 

http://mcgilltribune.com/?p=16183

Hundreds march for missing, murdered Indigenous Women: Speakers at seventh annual march call for government accountability; number of marches increase across Canada

Andra Cernavskis–October 10, 2012

Last Thursday evening, approximately 300 people participated in Montreal’s 7th Annual Sisters in Spirit March and Vigil for Missing and Murdered Native Women. This year’s Spirit March, held the same night as over 100 similar marches, focused on the theme of government accountability.

The Spirit March has been held annually since 2005, and is spearheaded by Bridget Tolley, an Algonquin woman who has worked with the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC). Tolley started the movement to help seek justice for her mother Gladys, who was killed by in 2001 when she was struck by a police cruiser on her reserve in Quebec.

According to statistics gathered by Amnesty International Canada, Indigenous women are five times more likely to die because of violence than any other group of women in Canada. Furthermore, according to Sisters in Spirit—NWAC’s research initiative—at least 600 Indigenous women have been murdered or have gone missing since 1980.

Bianca Mugyenyi, Campaigns and Programming coordinator at Concordia’s 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy and member of Missing Justice—one of the 2110 Centre’s campaigns—helped plan this year’s march, which Missing Justice has organized since 2009.

The march began at Place Émilie-Gamelin, where people gathered to listen to speakers and musical performances. The crowd then marched to Phillips Square for a candlelight vigil, and more speakers and performances.

While Mugyenyi believes that progress has been made in terms of international and media recognition of violence against Indigenous women, she said she does not think that enough has been done on the part of the Canadian government.

According to Mugyenyi, the federal government has failed to respond to requests for a public inquiry, submitted by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

“There has also been a regression because Sisters in Spirit had their funding taken away [by the federal government],” Mugyenyi said.

Ellen Gabriel—a human rights advocate who has been active at the international level, participating most recently at the UN Expert Forum on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and former president of the Quebec Native Women’s Association—participated and spoke at the march. On her blog, sovereignvoices1.wordpress.com, Gabriel refers to herself as Onkwehón:we. She has attended this march every year since it began seven years ago.

“When [this march] first started, it wasn’t very big, but now with all the vigils happening across Canada—this being one of them—to see the numbers is very inspiring,” Gabriel said. “It’s nice to see the young people interested, and taking part in this kind of movement … I think it means a lot to families who have been affected.”

However, Gabriel mentioned she would also like to see the federal government take more direct action.

“I think the NWAC earlier this year stated that [relations with the government] haven’t improved,” Gabriel said. “It’s gotten worse … and it’s really a lack of political will. All that research the NWAC did, and there hasn’t been any policy made or implemented.”

Even though police escorted the marchers through the streets, the evening remained peaceful. According to Mugyenyi, police were not informed of the route of the march beforehand despite Law 12, which requires that all protest routes be made known to the Montreal Police.

“The city has definitely calmed down since the demonstrations last year, so it’s a different world,” Eli Freedman, U3 arts, said. “Last year, there were so many police officers. It was very intimidating …  [But now] I’m not worried about pepper spray or tear gas.”

Mugyenyi, like Gabriel, was pleased with the turnout and diversity of people present at the Spirit March.

“There [are] Indigenous and non-Indigenous marchers alike, which is very encouraging, particularly given the history around the silence,” Mugyenyi said.

Mugyenyi also noted that 150 similar marches were more prevalent in Canada and around the globe this year than ever before.

“Most of them are in Canada, but [now] there [are] even some marches in South America and in the U.S,” Mugyenyi said. “A movement is definitely building to make our society safer for Indigenous women.”

 

http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/4658

Honouring the Dead, Standing with the Survivors: Seventh annual Sisters in Spirit vigil still seeking answers, action for missing and murdered women

Tim McSorley, October 5, 2012

MONTREAL—Close to 200 people joined Montreal’s seventh annual Sisters in Spirit vigil and march last night. It was one of more than 160 vigils across North America on October 4 in commemoration of the thousands of Native women who have been murdered or gone missing over the past three decades.

Since it was founded in 2005 by Bridget Tolley, an Algonquin woman whose mother was killed when Surete du Quebec officers hit her with their car, organizers of the Sisters in Spirit vigil have argued that government and police need to take the situation of missing and murdered Indigenous women more seriously. Estimates range from 600 (according to police) to more than 3000 (according to researchers and human rights activists) Native women who have faced disappearance or a violent death since the 1980s.

While violence against Indigenous women may have appeared more often in the headlines due to high profile cases like the William Pickton trial in BC, vigil organizer Bianca Mugyenyi said people need to realize that this is a national crisis, where women from across the country find themselves threatened and in danger on a daily basis.

“Our goal is to raise awareness of high rates of violence that Native women face in this country,” said Mugyenyi, who is with Missing Justice, a Native women solidarity group that has helped organize the Montreal vigil since 2009.

Nina Segalowitz, an Innu woman and frontline case worker with abused women, echoed Mugyenyi’s concerns. “We’ve lost a lot of women in Montreal to violence, from partners and ex-partners…While we’re here for Native women, I like to think that we’re here for all women who are abused simply for being women.”

First Nations women are five times more likely than other sectors of the population to face violence, she said.

Speakers at the vigil pointed to two significant places where action is needed: government action to ensure the safety of Native women, but also transformation and education in society to decrease violence against women in general, and against Native women in particular.

Mugyenyi had particularly harsh criticism for recent actions of the federal government. Budget cuts have led to the significant reduction and elimination of resources meant to combat violence against Native women. One aspect has been the federally funded Sisters in Spirit program, organized by the Native Women’s Association of Canada. The federal government provided funding to the program from 2005 until 2011, in order to build a database of information on unsolved cases of missing and murdered Native women. In 2010, the Conservative government announced it would not continue funding the program, and that the group would need to cease operating. The decision came as a blow, since the program had already built profiles of more than 500 cases and was seen as doing effective work.

Instead, the government announced $10 million in funding, mostly for police operations.

Mugyenyi said that this decision, as well as the Conservative government’s “tough on crime” stance, will do little to improve the situation of Native women.

“In the case of missing and murdered women, the police are part of the problem,” she said. “They make assumptions, perpetuate stereotypes. Bridget Tolley’s mother was killed by the Surete du Quebec. She’s been calling for an independent inquiry, outside of the police, which the government has continued to turn down.” In 2001, Tolley’s mother was hit by an SQ police car and died. The investigation into her death, which cleared all involved of wrongdoing, was led by the brother of the officer at the wheel of the car.

Sisters in Spirit has been instrumental in researching and recording cases of native women who have been killed or gone missing.

Instead of more police operations, said Mugyenyi, better education around violence towards women and more social services to help women who are in precarious social situations are needed. She also said the government should heed the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in their support of a national inquiry into violence against native women. That call was put out in December 2011, but the federal government has yet to take action.

While government and police actions play an important role, another significant issue that speakers pointed to is the need for more action against sexism and racism in all communities.

Segalowitz added that she was at the vigil not just to honour the women who have died, but also to stand beside the women who have been able to survive and carry on, and because of her three children, whom she hopes will not have to deal with the same issues of violence and abuse.

Irkar Beljars, a Mohawk man who has helped organize the vigil over the past several years, called on the men in the crowd to make sure they pass the word on and tell their friends where they were tonight, and why it is important to raise their voices against violence towards women.

After seven years of vigils, Mugyenyi expressed hopefulness that the message is being heard. “Every year there are more people, media coverage goes up,” she said. “It’s encouraging to be here to see so many people come out to honour the lives of missing and murdered women.”

Tim McSorley is an editor with the Media Co-op and a contributor with the Co-op media de Montreal.

 

http://thelinknewspaper.ca/article/3300

Demonstrators in 163 cities across Canada took to the streets last Thursday to demand justice for missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Sam Slotnick–October 9th, 2012

The Montreal contingent of the Sisters in Spirit Vigil for Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women—now in its seventh year—marched hundreds strong to the beat of animal-hide drums from Place Émilie-Gamelin to Phillips Square.

Participants lit candles and remembered the women demonstrators’ signs referred to as the “stolen sisters.”

There are an estimated 600 missing aboriginal women in Canada, but some put the number at nearly 3,000. Aboriginal groups and families are in an long-lasting struggle with the government over funding and resources to investigate these cases.

Although Sisters in Spirit is one of the groups whose funding is currently in jeopardy, Montreal’s march has grown exponentially since 2005.

“Seven years ago we had 30 people, the second year we had 50 and it kept growing and growing,” said Irkar Beljaars, a Mohawk activist who has helped organize the event since its inception.

 

http://www.lesaffaires.com/secteurs-d-activite/general/manifestation-innue-contre-le-plan-nord/549286

Manifestation innue contre le Plan Nord

Mathieu Lavallée–September 28, 2012

Moins d’une centaine de personnes ont manifesté contre le Plan Nord ce vendredi au centre-ville de Montréal en marge de l’événement Positionnez-vous sur l’échiquier Plan Nord, organisé par Les Affaires.

Le rassemblement organisé par des membres de la communauté innue demande à stopper l’exploitation des ressources non renouvelables du Nord québécois et à mettre de l’avant un développement qui protègera le territoire.« Nous avons besoin du territoire pour nos générations futures », a plaidé Denise Jourdain, professeure de langue innue et l’une des organisatrices de la manifestation. Cette dernière a fait partie de la grande marche partie du nord de la province pour arriver dans la métropole de 22 avril dernier, en plus d’être du blocus de la route 138 en mars dernier.« Il faut que [le développement du nord] soit propre, qu’il n’y ait pas d’extraction de ressources non renouvelables, que cela n’affecte pas le territoire et qu’il n’affecte pas la vie des générations futures », a-t-elle précisé en entrevue. « C’est quoi notre responsabilité face au Plan Nord ? Si nous laissons tout faire, nous risquons d’offrir un univers pollué à nos enfants».Elle soutient que le projet dans sa forme actuelle crée plusieurs tensions dans les communautés autochtones du Nord québécois, qui s’ajoutent aux problèmes sociaux déjà très importants. Selon elle, le gouvernement n’a pas obtenu le consentement des communautés locales avant de passer à l’action.« Le développement économique, c’est un concept qui appartient aux Québécois. Nous, notre concept, c’est la protection du territoire. Permettez-nous de nous rebâtir avec les moyens que la mère Terre nous donne. C’est avec cela que nous pourrons relancer nos communautés », a-t-elle insisté.

 

http://thelinknewspaper.ca/article/2780

Invisible on Campus

Elysha del Giusto-Enos — March 13, 2012

Nearly a quarter of female university students will have experienced a sexual assault by the time they graduate.

That’s a shocking, horrifying statistic and coupled with Concordia’s culture of social awareness and responsibility, it makes the oversight of these statistics even more unsettling than when they’re ignored in mainstream society.

“It’s pretty clear that universities are a place where a lot of sketchy stuff goes down,” said Maya Rolbin-Ghanie, a 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy campaigner. “The anti-sexual assault campaigns that I’ve seen are generally pretty flawed and target the victim as someone who needs to change their behavior.”

The 2110 has been working since the fall of 2011 to found a sexual assault centre on campus. The university’s position is that there aren’t enough resources for it and that health services offers sufficient aid to assault survivors.

“We don’t have one because if someone comes in after being sexually assaulted then we refer [them elsewhere],” said Julie Gagné, the manager of Clinical Services at Concordia. “We would never turn someone away, but by law it has to be done at certain places so the [perpetrator] can’t deny it in court.”

If they want the rape exam, the university sends students to the CLSC Faubourg or Montreal General Hospital, where they can also book a counseling appointment—but due to demand, they could wait over a month to speak to someone.

For advocates of a sexual assault centre on campus, health services just isn’t specialized enough to address the needs of survivors in a timely and sensitive way.

“An actual sexual assault centre with people trained to deal with sexual assault, non-consensual sex—and that would cover things like rape kits—[is needed],” said Rolbin-Ghanie. “But also to help people navigate the legal system and their legal options on top of medical ones.”

Rolbin-Ghanie added that advocacy is another reason to have a specialized centre, because the stigma surrounding assaults keeps victims invisible. The idea that the survivors brought the assault on themselves is a prominent part of most anti-assault campaigns.

The status of this misconception became obvious last year when a Toronto police officer giving a campus safety information session said that if women wanted to stay safe “they should avoid dressing like sluts.”

This statement is seen as being responsible for the controversial “slut walk” demonstrations that sprung up across North America following his remarks.

This same caricature of sexual assault is echoed at Concordia. The university’s security web page advises that, to prevent assaults, women should avoid dimly lit areas and not consume alcohol to the point that they can’t “react quickly to any situation.”

“They address people that might be assaulted but they don’t address people who assault,” Rolbin-Ghanie said. “A society where that is the primary message in the campaigns is just an indication that we still have values that are kind of sick.”

According to a Canadian study, one in five male college students surveyed said that forced intercourse was alright “if he spent money on her,” “if he is stoned or drunk,” or “if they had been dating for a long time.”

Concordia’s approach to outsourcing sexual assault cases is reinforced by the idea that a special centre for survivors on campus would be counterproductive.

“Most of the time people would not join a group in their own environment,” Gagné said, “because they would see people they see every day within the building. Usually support groups are on the outside so people don’t know each other.”

The 2110 has the goal of collecting 5,000 signatures for their cause to both raise the profile of the issue and put pressure on the administration. On March 5, the signature-collecting campaign was taken to the Hall Building and volunteers talked to several hundred students.

“The vast majority of people are willing to sign [the petition],” Rolbin-Ghanie said. “And most students are quite shocked that there’s not a sexual assault centre, most of them just assume there is.”

—with files from Catlin Spencer.

 

http://thelinknewspaper.ca/article/2698

Signatures of Support

Hilary Sinclair — March 6, 2012

A group from the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy rallied from the top to the bottom of the Hall Building March 5 to raise awareness, gain support and solicit signatures for a sexual assault centre on campus.

The proposed centre would support a 24-hour crisis hot-line, support network and improve university policies on sexual assault.

With a core group of five people, advocates visited each floor in what Programming and Campaigns Coordinator at the 2110 Centre Bianca Mugyenyi said was a successful initiative on Monday.

They added at least 150 signatures to a petition that is currently 1,000 names strong.

“The biggest obstacle at this point is a lack of funding from the university for sexual assault services, a space and someone to coordinate,” said Mugyenyi.

There are also major problems with the policies that the university uses to deal with sexual crimes on campus. The use of inaccessible language and a lack of distinction between sexual harassment and sexual assault, coupled with the absence of sensitivity training for security officers are among the polices that 2110 claims are in need of reform.

“We really need a section out of the policy that is directly related to sexual assault and clear avenues for where people can go to get advocacy and counseling,” said Mugyenyi.

The group is currently working on drafting recommendations to the administration that will ensure university policies can properly address campus sexual safety.

While Mugyenyi says that the rally came on a chaotic day with all the strike actions kicking off, she was able to draw parallels between the fight for education and their campaign.

“It really struck me when I was walking through the Hall Building that what a lot of students are searching for is an accessible campus, a campus that they can afford to go to,” said Mugyenyi. “Similarly, we want an accessible campus where people are safe.”

The group plans to hold more rallies in the future, with the goal of getting 5,000 signatures and getting more students involved.

 

http://www.montrealmirror.com/wp/2012/03/01/what%E2%80%99s-in-a-name/

What’s in a Name?

Jacques Gallant – March 1, 2012

Starting this fall, Concordia University plans to implement changes that would allow students to use a name other than their legal name on some non-official documents, including class lists. In a Feb. 15 press release, Concordia indicated that the modifications came as a direct result of “a request from a student undergoing a gender reassignment that his preferred name replace his legal name on his official transcripts.” But that student, Ben Boudreau, has lashed out at Concordia’s proposal, calling their solution to his complaint a “band-aid” that does not fully rectify his difficulty at being identified at school as he wishes to be. “I doubt they’ll be able to do this effectively,” says the second-year science student. “They talk about class lists, but my legal name, a name that is clearly female, is still going to be a part of my student ID. I’m still going to have trouble renting out study rooms and books at the library using my preferred name.” Extending what it calls a “further accommodation,” the university will also permit students to use the initial of their legal name on their ID cards. But for Ben, that’s not enough, as the initial is part of a name he no longer identifies with.

Ben is presently going through the lengthy process of changing his legal name with the province, but in the meantime, he was hoping his request to go by his preferred name would be accommo­dated by his university. Since his arrival at Concordia in 2010, he has been repeatedly outed in class during roll call, despite his attempts at contacting his professors to plead with them to call him “Ben.”

By contrast, at the University of Toronto, a student who wishes to go by another name on documents, including academic records, simply has to send a letter to the registrar, without having to dis­close a reason. And at McGill, students can change their preferred name through the online portal, which will then appear on class lists and as part of the student’s university e-mail address. But a legal name change is still required for transcripts and ID cards. The change is also necessary to modify documents at UQAM.

Frustrated with what he calls a “lack of progress,” Ben has teamed up with the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy and the Concordia Student Union to push the university’s Senate to acquiesce to his long-standing request.

Gabrielle Bouchard, the 2110 Centre’s trans advocacy and peer support coordinator, says she was angry that the university had not consulted with the Centre before announcing the name-relat­ed changes.

“These changes don’t solve anything,” she says, mentioning that a student’s legal name will still appear on a variety of documents as well as on the online student portal.

Bouchard adds that Concordia is sending the message “that trans students and all students who need this to happen are not worthy of a dialogue.”

For now, Concordia maintains that the Ministry of Education obligates them to use a student’s legal name on transcripts. However, according to ministry spokesperson Esther Chouinard, there is no such rule in place.

She says all the Ministry asks is that it be able to match a student’s grades with a legal name in its database. When asked about this, Concordia indicated that the matter was being looked into, and declined to comment further.

 

http://thelinknewspaper.ca/article/2613

Fear Of Flying

Oliver Leon–February 14,2012

A regulatory change quietly made to the Aeronautics Act by Transport Canada last July could disallow transsexual and transgender people from boarding flights leaving Canada.

The change caused a stir last month after transgender activist Christin Milloy blogged about the discovery.

Section 5.2(1)(c) of the ID screening regulations now says, “An air carrier shall not transport a passenger if the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents.”

The names on all pieces of identification must also be matching—a problem for people who are in the midst of transitioning. If there are major discrepancies with your identification cards, you will not be getting on that flight.

“The only impact it will have is to put into regulation discriminatory practice.

“It will make trans people miserable, it will make gender non-conforming people miserable, it will make boarding agents miserable and it will make cisgender [non-trans] people—mostly women—who could be perceived as the ‘other gender’ miserable,” said Gabrielle Bouchard, a Trans Health Network and peer support coordinator at the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy.

She added that she is working closely with the New Democratic Party and other groups to fight this ban.

The Canadian queer newspaper Xtra reported that NDP Minister of Parliament Olivia Chow noticed Conservatives snickering when pressed for answers by members of the NDP and by Liberal MP Justin Trudeau about the new regulations during the question period on Feb. 1.

At the time, she argued the section of the rule was “unnecessary, it’s backwards and it’s discriminatory,” before putting a motion before the Chair to repeal the identity screening regulation.

“The Conservatives just voted against my motion to stop discrimination against the travelling transgendered community,” Chow tweeted on Feb. 9. “Shame.”

According to Xtra, Transport Canada has stated, “Any passenger whose physical appearance does not correspond to their identification can continue to board an airplane by supplying a letter from a healthcare professional explaining the discrepancy.

“We have no records of any individual being denied boarding in Canada because they are transgender or transsexual.”

It is possible to fly if you have proof that you have had sex reassignment surgery or a letter explaining that you will have the surgery within a year.

This is problematic for trans people who do not want to undergo, or are unable to afford, the expense of surgery. Some provinces will also only pay for SRS if you go to specific clinics in Ontario or Quebec, which would be difficult for trans people to get to, given the current flying regulations.

A Facebook group, À bas l’interdiction aérienne transphobe—Against Canada’s trans flight ban, has formed to provide updates on the situation.

Currently, transgender and transexual people do not have federal protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Bill C-389, a bill that would have amended the Act to add gender identity and gender expression was passed in Parliament and the House of Commons, however it died in the Senate when the federal election was called in 2011.

Details on how to apply for a “Sex-Unspecified” passport in protest can be found at chrismilloy.ca.

 

http://www.montrealmirror.com/wp/2011/02/10/the-front-22

Money and the missing

Christopher Olson– February 10, 2012

Three months after the federal government stripped its funding for the Sisters in Spirit campaign, which aimed to cast a light on the disproportionate number of Native women who have been the victims of violence, some are saying enough is enough.

One of those people is Maya Khamala Rolbin-Ghanie, a member of the advocacy group Missing Justice. The news in November that Sisters in Spirit would lose its funding came just as the gov­ernment announced plans for enhanced police powers, including wiretaps and fast-tracked warrants.

“It’s not rare for police and Native communities to have relationships of mutual distrust,” said Rolbin-Ghanie. “Native men and women are both highly disproportionately represented in prisons in Canada. Even though only 13 per cent of the documented cases have happened on reserves, and the majority have happened in cities, police tend to target the former way more.”

Before the loss of its funding, the SIS had documented 583 cases of missing or murdered First Nations women since 1980. But, says Rolbin-Ghanie, the actual number may be as high as 3,000.

The Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Women will be held on Feb. 14 at 3 p.m. at Cabot Square (the corner of Atwater and Ste-Catherine W.).

Visit missingjustice.ca for more information.

 

http://www.charlatan.ca/2012/02/concordia-still-asking-for-sexual-assault-support-centre/

Concordia Still asking for sexual assault support centre

Jonathan Duncan February 01,2012

While Carleton University recently announced their intention to open of an on-campus sexual assault support centre, students at Concordia University are still asking for one.

Julie Michaud, a member of Concordia’s 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy (CGA), is part of a group of students trying to drum up support for a sexual assault support centre.

The CGA started as a women’s centre, and has since branched out into different social issues. While the group has students trained in active listening, Michaud said there’s no one trained to deal specifically with sexual assault.

“Currently, if somebody were to come to us we would be inclined to direct them to another service in the city, and that’s why we really want to prioritize having that service at Concordia,” Michaud said.

They opened talks with the university about getting space, and sustainable funding, but the university initially turned them down, according to Michaud.

Cléa Desjardins, senior advisor for external communications at Concordia, said the university believes it provides adequate support for victims of sexual assaults.

“We’ve got health services and security,” she said. “Those two groups are on campus, and are ready to respond to any request or issues regarding sexual [assault] support.”

But if students need serious medical attention, or forensic help, they are taken to the Montreal General Hospital, according to Desjardins.

As for emotional support, Desjardins said the university does have councillors on site who will follow up with students to make sure they’re doing well in classes, but any further psychiatric counselling is outsourced from the school.

This raises concerns for Michaud, who believes the experience of sexual assault is enough, and all efforts should be made to make the healing process as comfortable as possible.

Michaud has also taken issue with the wording on Concordia’s website for the Office of Rights and Responsibilities.

“It is important to understand that once you choose this route, you have entered into an adversarial process where others decide the outcome. This is very different from a situation where you deal with the problem yourself, or negotiate a solution with the other party,” the website reads.

“It kind of warns anybody who’s bringing the complaint forward that if any sort of formal procedure is undertaken that it is irreversible,” Michaud said. “So the burden of proof is placed on the person who is reporting, and as we know that’s a major deterrent.”

Directly below the statement, it does let students know that, whatever their choice, they don’t have to do it alone.

Regardless, Michaud said she believes this type of approach to sexual assault leads to the under-reporting of incidents.

At Concordia, 12 sexual assaults were reported during the 2009-2010 school year, the most recent year data is available for, according to Michaud.

“We know that [based on the statistics of one in four], this doesn’t add up,” Michaud said.

While she said she would love to believe Concordia has an abnormally low rate of sexual assault incidents, she said she thinks it’s more likely the lack of support and wording on the website are acting as barriers to students who have been assaulted.

While the 2110 group remains flexible on the specifics of the support centre, Michaud said she wants to see a centre that has a great deal of student involvement.

She also hopes there will be an office that bears the final responsibility for ensuring there are resources available for survivors of sexual assault.

Michaud and the other members of the 2110 group will be petitioning and holding demonstrations until more dialogue with the university takes place.

“Having a sexual assault centre and also having a useful and clear policy should be a key priority,” she said. “People really can’t make the most of their education if their safety, security, and physical well-being are at risk.”

 

 

http://theconcordian.com/2011/12/06/2110-centre-radio-project-aims-to-teach-about-gender-based-violence

2110 centre radio project aim to teach about gender-based violence

Jamie Floyd Contributor December 6th,2011

 

The 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy is taking the next step in its mandate of promoting equality and empowerment by continuing its Blue Print Project. The initiative, which began on Oct. 11 and will continue until April 17, is a collaborative effort between CKUT Radio and the 2110 Centre with the goal of raising awareness about various gender-based violence issues affecting women from different backgrounds.
It is our goal to create a sustainable structure for a radio show that will be hosted and produced by young girls and women of various ages, backgrounds and experiences who have participated in the Blue Print Project, said Bianca Mugyenyi, the programming and campaigns coordinator.
In addition to the guest speakers, there are weekly workshops which alternate between teaching radio skills and technical training as well as exploring various gender-based issues.
On Tuesday, Dec. 6, a member of Montreal sex workers rights organization Stella will host a workshop in coordination with the Blue Print Project which, according to the centres website, will deal with systemic violence and discrimination and the effects of laws and policing on sex workers in Montreal.
The centre is also a haven for those interested in these issues and who wish to volunteer.
People often come to the centre to attend events, check out the books in our library, access confidential peer-to-peer support and find community,said Mugyenyi. People are often interested in volunteering, and there are a number of ways of getting involved. We have campaigns that are always in need of more volunteers, we have a peer-to-peer support program that also centres on volunteers.
The goal is to educate and help as many people as possible with regards to gender issues. One of the ways that the centre does so is by opening its doors to housing events.
The centre acquired a new space on 1500 de Maisonneuve Blvd. West to host events, meetings, gatherings and to deal with campaigns such as their ongoing campaign to create a sexual assault centre at Concordia.
Having two spaces allows all aspects of the centre to flourish and ensures peer support appointments are confidential,said Mugyenyi

 

http://thelinknewspaper.ca/article/2080

Gender Advocacy Boot Camp

Kaylie Whitcher — October 28, 2011

An especially lively and inviting atmosphere set the tone for Trans 101, a lecture from the Peer Support and Advocacy training program from the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy on Oct. 20.

The energy being generated by those present was inspiring, and it manifested itself as a show of genuine interest in personal understanding and how to help others.

PSA coordinator Gabrielle Bouchard and Concordia graduate student Fabien Rose established a comfortable discussion during the lecture, defining terms related to gender identity and Trans people.

They created an atmosphere open for comments, questions or anecdotes that would help both the trainers and public attendants to better understand sensitive issues or potentially offensive situations.

This year, the Centre attracted 25 volunteers, an impressive increase from the 10 or so volunteers of previous events.

The training program includes both lectures and training sessions offered by Bouchard, and allows participants that graduate from the program to become volunteers for the Centre.

 

http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2011/10/missing-and-murdered-aboriginal-women-remembered/

Missing and murdered aboriginal women remembered: Sisters in Spirit march despite funding cuts

Henry Gass, October 6, 2011

The sixth annual Montreal Sisters in Spirit Memorial March and Vigil went ahead Tuesday, almost a year after the federal government pulled the funding meant to support the nationwide event.

Bridget Tolley, whose mother was struck and killed by a Sûreté du Québec police car in 2001, has helped organize the annual marches since 2005.

“We need to support the families, and we want to do whatever is possible to help the families. So tonight is for them, and we’re going to continue and remember our missing and murdered aboriginal women,” said Tolley to the crowd of almost 300 people.

Sisters in Spirit, a group within the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), helped organize the marches every year until their funding was cut. The group also compiled data and research on missing and murdered native women in Canada. Until 1980, no such records existed in any form.

Today there are nearly 600 confirmed cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Maya Rolbin-Ghanie, a member of Missing Justice – the aboriginal rights advocacy group that organized Tuesday’s march – said in an interview with The Daily that the government’s justification for pulling the funding was that “no more research was needed.”

The government has since folded the Sisters in Spirit database into a national database called Evidence in Action under the RCMP. Rolbin-Ghanie said the new database was “not in any way specific to native women.”

“And this is after the largest year of Sisters in Spirit vigils ever. Last year there were 86 – and even one down in Nicaragua – and the name Sisters in Spirit was really becoming well known. And this is when the government decides to yank all the funding,” said Rolbin-Ghanie.

One of the government’s stipulations in removing the funding was that NWAC could no longer use the name Sisters in Spirit. In response, members of Sisters in Spirit formed the group Families of Sisters in Spirit, who continue to help organize events to promote awareness around missing and murdered aboriginal women. This year, 51 vigils have taken place.

Ellen Gabriel, former president of the Quebec Native Women’s Association, said the government’s decision to move the funding from NWAC to the RCMP was especially problematic.

“[The RCMP are] the ones, the culprits, who have, through their apathy, done nothing to improve this situation,” said Gabriel.

Harvey Michele, an indigenous rights activist from the Ojibway Nation north of Thunder Bay, Ontario, said that six years of marches and vigils had not had much of a concrete effect on the rate of missing and murdered native women in Canada.

“More financial and human resources need to… look at the policy development, policy review, and empower the aboriginal women’s groups to examine their issues,” he said.

Rolbin-Ghanie noted that media and other institutions are starting to note the systemic nature of the problem, not “just isolated incidents of violence.”

“The pillars of Canadian society, what we consider to be integral, like the court system, the media, the government, and the police forces are definitely still profound contributors to the problem in a number of ways. So there’s still a lot of work to be done,” she added.

 

http://thelinknewspaper.ca/article/1891

Activism, Aboriginal Women & Alternative Ideas: Andrea Smith speaks at ConU

Megan Dolski, October 3, 2011

Violence against aboriginal women is a problem in Canada, and according to Andrea Smith, it is not one that can be understood, studied or solved as an issue in and of itself.
“Sexual violence is a tool by which Native people become inherently dirty, and by extension inherently rapeable,” she said, further explaining that a similar phenomenon occurs with Native land.

Smith is an intellectual, a feminist, an anti-violence activist, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and an associate professor at the University of California, and she is considered an expert on indigenous women’s rights.

She believes that violence against aboriginal women is intrinsically related to colonial violence—and that an inability to link the two is a roadblock to progress. Smith spoke to a jam-packed auditorium in Concordia’s Hall Building last Friday, giving a talk titled Violence Against Native Women and Struggles for the Land.

The event was jointly organized by activist groups Missing Justice and Concordia’s 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy, as part of the centre’s two-week-long series, Another Word for Gender: An Intro to Feminist Action and Organizing.

Smith explained that governments and “the state” are often portrayed as a solution to both the issue of violence against Native women and colonial violence, when they are actually at the root of the problem.

She identified a disparity in the distribution of wealth as a fundamental issue with today’s society, which results in a phenomenon she called the “pyramid system.” This reality is such that 95 per cent of the population owns five per cent of the wealth in the United States, and the numbers aren’t much different in Canada.

“The bad news is that they have all the money and the guns—but the good news it that there are a lot more of us then them,” she said. “That is our strength: the power of people.”

But Smith pointed out that the “sneaky” five per cent have found a way from preventing the 95 per cent from banding together.

“They come to an indigenous group and say, ‘Hey, you look cool and interesting and spiritual to us, so if you can prove how cool and interesting and spiritual you are, we will recognize you, give you a grant, give you money, give you something that you asked for.’”

The catch is that this group must then prove that they are cooler, more spiritual and more interesting and oppressed than the others, thus creating a culture of competition rather than camaraderie among the oppressed.

In acknowledging this shortcoming, Smith explained that it is participation from the masses that is needed to instigate change.

She pointed out that activism doesn’t necessarily require hundreds of hours of one’s time—all it takes is one hour each from hundreds of people. She continued to say that no one needs to completely separate themselves from corporate institutions, but rather that we simply need to strive for alternative ideas and solutions.

“It’s really just trial and error. People feel like they have to wait for instructions, but you really just need to go for it,” she said.

Maya Rolbin-Ghanie, who spoke on behalf of Missing Justice, a grassroots organization that meets, plans events, and pressures the government on issues related to missing and murdered aboriginal women, said one of the organization’s goals is to draw the links between native women and the endless struggles for land between First Nations of Canada and the Canadian government.

“When someone like Andrea Smith comes and draws a very large number of people the way she did today, the information gets taken in more widely, and can change the way a more diverse group thinks and interacts with the world,” she said.

Bianca Mugyenyi, the programming and campaigns coordinator at the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy, was personally inspired by Smith and her idea that activism should be accessible and practiced by everyone.

“Her approach is really inter sectional. She looks at problems from so many different perspectives—and I think that is something really powerful.”

But regardless of Mugyenyi, Rolbin-Ghanie and a slew of audience members describing Smith and her ideas as inspirational, she herself says otherwise.

“I don’t think I’m particularly interesting,” Smith says. “I mean, I don’t see myself as being particularly significant. I’ve just listened to cool people that have listened to other cool people. It’s really together that we become inspirational.”

The Sixth Annual Sisters in Spirit Memorial March and Vigil for Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women will take place Oct. 4 at 6:00 p.m. at Cabot Square, on the corner of Atwater St. and Ste. Catherine St. W.

 

http://montreal.mediacoop.ca/story/%E2%80%9Cculture-silence%E2%80%9D-around-sexual-assault/7959

A ”Culture of Silence” Around Sexual Assault

Natascia L — August 15,2011

Concordia University does not have its own sexual assault centre, nor does it have an exclusive and explicit policy addressing sexual assault. These two facts are little known to Concordia students but all too obvious to those who have been victims of such abuse.

“I think people tend to assume Concordia’s a really progressive institution and, so, we must have better policies and resources, and we don’t,” says Laura Ellyn. “We don’t.” Ellyn, a Concordia print media and women’s studies student, began heading up the Concordians for a Safer University Community campaign in April for a sexual assault centre on the Concordia campus. The campaign is being primarily orchestrated by the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy, a student-run group that promotes gender equality and empowerment.

The Centre wishes to expand the capacity of its current Mackay Street location to house a multi-dimensional sexual assault centre by the end of November. “I’d like to see it primarily be a place for survivor support work,” says Ellyn. A 24-hour crisis hotline, resource library, full-time trauma counselors and support groups are all destined elements of the proposed centre. They will serve to fill what Ellyn considers a serious void in survivor support at Concordia.

Currently, there does not exist a support network on campus geared specifically toward sexual assault victims, and the procedure for handling such cases is inconsistent across the university’s departments and bodies. For example, while health services follows a strict confidentiality policy, campus security forwards all reports to the police—whether the victim wants the police involved or not. Ellyn is particularly critical of this last method, which she says disrespects survivor autonomy.

Anaïs Van Vliet agrees: “Being supportive of someone is also allowing them to identify for themselves the kind of support that they want, and our job as allies and supporters is to support them (victims of sexual assault) through whatever avenue of support that they’re choosing, even if that’s choosing not to seek support at all.” Van Vliet is the external representative of the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS). It has served as a model for the 2110 Centre’s project in more ways than one.

SACOMSS grew out of the McGill Coalition Against Sexual Assault, which was formed in 1988 after a shocking gang rape at the Zeta Psi frat house alerted the student body to a prevailing problem of sexual assault on campus. The centre itself was founded in 1991 with the commitment to provide wide-ranging survivor support services, and to closely examine the way in which the university addresses the issue of sexual assault as a whole.

Van Vliet and Ellyn agree that universities are not breeding grounds for sexual assault in and of themselves. But in improperly dealing with—or avoiding addressing at all—the issue of sexual assault, large institutions like universities perpetuate this systemic societal problem and the myths associated with it.

“I think that prevention, for one, is often talked about in terms of the onus being on people not to get assaulted,” explains Van Vliet of universities inadequate approach to increasing awareness. “So, prevention is often viewed as a thing where it’s the responsibility of the targets; not the responsibility of people not to assault.” Such is seen on Concordia’s Security Department web site, which contains only four tips for protecting oneself from being sexually assaulted: one suggests to “avoid isolated and dimly lit areas” and the other three encourage safe drinking.

Concordia and McGill’s prevention strategies are also overly influenced by the gender binary. “I think the gender politics of sexual assault is often boiled down into a really simplistic understanding of survivors as always being women and perpetrators as always being men,” says Ellyn, before adding that while statistics show this is true the majority of the time, focusing too narrowly on this scenario ignores a significant percentage of victims. SACOMSS is one of the only sexual assault centres in Canada to offer services to transgendered individuals, transsexuals and those who don’t identify in the gender binary at all.

The 2110 Centre plans to do the same. It also wants to follow the lead of SACOMSS’ Outreach Branch in encouraging an open dialogue about sexuality, consent, sexual assault and the myths surrounding it. The 2110 Centre has been hosting movie nights this summer with several films focusing on the issue of sexual assault. Ellyn also has plans for a speakers’ series in September and orientation week workshops geared at student clubs looking to organize safer, more open events.

Ellyn hopes these actions will force the university administration to face its past (and current) negligence in “confronting rape culture” on campus. The campaign’s blog explains this reluctance to acknowledge the extent of the sexual assault problem on campus is particularly obvious in its minimal policy on the issue. What policy does exist uses euphemistic terms and, like that of McGill’s Policy on Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Prohibited by Law, packages this form of abuse with several others.

“I think that there’s a sense that if it’s dealt with directly, then people might get the impression that there’s a problem at Concordia with sexual assault and people are really, really afraid of that,” says Ellyn. Pressure to improve Concordia’s policy and procedures regarding sexual assault is an integral component of the proposed centre, and an area in which SACOMSS has already seen success at McGill. It also offers support to students, staff and faculty in navigating the university’s policies and procedures, a service Ellyn aspires her centre to possess.

But first the centre must get off the ground. Ellyn’s campaigning has been met with a lot of support from the Concordia Student Union and the previous Dean of Students, Elizabeth Morey. Other members of the administration, notably campus security, have taken less kindly to the proposal. Ellyn says they do not perceive a problem with sexual assault on campus and, therefore, no need for a sexual assault centre. But in Van Vliet’s experience with SACOMSS, statistics should not play a role in a sexual assault centre’s existence: “The way that we feel about offering services is that if we’ve been open for one person to get the support that they needed, then we’ve done our job.”

To get involved with the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy’s campaign, contact Laura Ellyn by phone at 514-848-2424, ext. 7431 or by email at laura.centre2110@gmail.com.

The Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill’s Students Society can be found in the basement of the Shatner University Centre at 3480 McTavish Street, Room B27. They can be contacted at 514-398-8500.