Posts Tagged ‘violence against women’


FLF Co-chairs Carla and Eli, along with members Mary-Ellen and Leila attended this year’s Slutwalk march in downtown Winnipeg. While the crowd was a little smaller this year (as compared to last), the sentiment remained positive and empowering. A commonly held misconception about the Slutwalk movement is that, rather than conveying any particular message, it’s really just an over the top, outrageous display of exhibitionism.

Two years in, we’re happy to report that this is far from the case. Sure, people are welcome to wear anything they’d like (that is part of the idea), but most people don’t attend the event because they want an excuse to whip out their nipple tassels. To the contrary, the focus is far from what people are wearing. Rather, the event centres on making a powerful, united statement against victim blaming in all its forms.

A shorter march this year meant there was more time for speakers, and these were speakers worth listening to. Those who spoke at last year’s Slutwalk set a very high bar, and this year’s speakers met that challenge. Starting with Chandra Mayor (who spoke brilliantly last year as well; you can read her tremendous speech about the word ‘slut’ here), the tone was set for thoughtful reflection, incredibly brave personal story telling and accept-zero-bullshit activism and advocacy. Mayor was followed by several women who told their own stories with grace and grit.

There is something incredibly powerful about both the telling and the hearing of these stories; for those who have been lucky enough not to be touched by sexual assault, it lends a striking air of reality to a devastating issue. For those who have been assaulted, there is hopefully some comfort in knowing they are not alone. Perhaps the lasting contribution that Slutwalk will make will be to provide a safe, public forum for victims of sexual assault to stand up and declare, “This was not my fault,” and for other people to hear it.

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According to the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Police Department is considering a new set of guidelines that would instruct officers to prioritze sex workers’ safety over enforcing prostitution-related prohibitions. The propsed guidelines were written by Deputy Chief Warren Lemcke, and highlight the historic distrust of law enforcement by sex workers, and a need for officers to show them respect. “Sex work involving consenting adults is not an enforcement priority for the [Vancouver Police Department],” state the guidelines.

It’s interesting to note that the guidelines come in the wake of the Pickton Inquiry, which is investigating why the VPD failed to recognize the ongoing abduction and murder of sex workers by Robert Pickton. Evidence before the inquiry has shown the tendency among officers policing Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to not only disregard violent crime against sex workers, but also to personally harass, over-enforce and even to commit assault themselves against sex workers, up to and including the recent past. While the guidelines do seem progressive, considering them in context highlights the fact that they may be more in the realm of damage control than a sincere attempt to protect the phsycial safety and dignityof sex workers. That being said, sex work safety advocates seem to be excited by the prospect of the new guidelines, and it does seem possible that they could lead to positive change.

The guidelines will be considered before the Vancouver Police Board tomorrow, and we look forward to seeing if they are adopted. We’ll keep you posted!

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The FLF also pauses to remember all the women who have died in violence whose names we do not know. Our missing and murdered women. All women who face violence as a daily reality. We remember Montreal, and we honour all those affected by violence. We dream of a day when this violence is truly just a memory. We hope that in some small way, the money we raised for Osborne House with the generous support of the law school will help. Keep taking action. Let’s end violence against women.

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On December 6th, take time to pause and remember. This December 6th will mark 22 years since the Montreal Massacre. The day is memorialized as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

A sunrise memorial will be held in the rotunda at the Manitoba Legislative Building at 8 am. Ms. Francine Pelletier, acclaimed journalist and feminist, will speak about her first hand experience as a journalist in Montreal at the time of the Massacre and her personal connection as a target on the murderer’s hit list. Refreshments will follow the memorial. Contributions of new unwrapped toys for children at the North Point Douglas Women’s Centre are welcome.

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In light of today’s excellent roundtable discussion on R v Rhodes and December 6th being only 5 days away, I’m finding this editorial in the Globe particularly interesting. Judith Timson makes the argument (obvious to me, but sadly still not obvious to many) that “women’s rights are human rights” in the context of the so-called “Honour killings trial” that is currently unfolding very publicly in Kingston.

What has given me pause is commentary from Constance Backhouse (one of the FLF’s feminist heroes). In an e-mail to Timson, Prof. Backhouse points out that what is on trial in Kingston is femicide and argues that “I think our culture has just as bad a record.” Timson acknowledges this, but seems to miss the point a bit, especially where she envisions “reading the riot act” at our borders and telling prospective new Canadians that “we don’t even  call women whores here” (really? clearly its been awhile since Timson strolled through a high school, a locker room or a newspaper’s annonymous comments section).

I feel a certain level of uncomfortableness at the coverage of this trial in Kingston. I am staunchly anti-violence and it makes me sick any time a woman faces violence, whether from a stranger or, the violence that is more common in Canada, from someone she knows. At a basic human rights level, every woman deserves to live free from violence, absolutely irregardless of actions or dress that a man may disapprove of, or take advantage of. Yet, I wonder if there isn’t a significant amount of racism that enters into the discussions of violence against women in the specifically Muslim context. I often read a significant amount of “their violence is worse than ours” into the media coverage. I find arguments that new Canadians need to conform to Canadian ways hypocritical – as we discussed in our roundtable today, one need look no farther than R v Rhodes to see how Canadians accept violence against women through victim blaming. This is what Prof. Backhouse seems to have been trying to tell Timson. But all in all, I feel very conflicted. (As an aside, if anyone can explain to me what Timson means by saying the trial embodies a “feminist morality tale” I would be very interested to know).

We’d love to hear from you on your thoughts about the Shafia trial, “Honour killings”, violence against women, or any other issues this post and the Globe editorial raised for you!

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Despite the sunny weather this August long weekend,  I spent a lot of time thinking about the dark issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada – an issue that is in the shadows on the Canadian landscape. CBC Radio’s ReVision Quest this weekend featured an excellent documentary examining the apparent indifference of Canadian society to missing and murdered Aboriginal women, despite the fact that estimates range from 580 to 3000 missing and murdered women. Why don’t we care? Why is this issue ignored? What can be done to end the plague of violence against Aboriginal women?

Find the program here

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Interested in international law, human rights, indigenous rights, feminism, rights related to economic, social and cultural rights and/or the right to self-determination or issues of violence and discrimination? Don’t miss this exciting roundtable, held jointly with the Manitoba Aboriginal Law Students’ Association!

On February 10, Céleste McKay will be joining us to discuss “The Human Rights of Indigenous Women.”  The roundtable will be held from 12 -1 in room 308.

We are truly honoured to host such a special guest. Céleste McKay is a Métis woman from Manitoba, with a background in social work and law.  In 2007, Céleste received her LL.M. degree from the University of Ottawa which focused on the international right to health of Indigenous women in Canada.  She has worked in the areas of human rights, policy, research and advocacy work, both nationally and internationally, primarily on behalf of Indigenous women’s organizations. Céleste is a Consultant on Human Rights and International Affairs.
Check out the following website for further info:

Join us for this opportunity to learn more about Céleste’s international and domestic work promoting the human rights of indigenous women. If you’d like to do some reading and thinking in advance of the discussion, please read pages 14 – 20 and 28 – 33 of  Mairin Iwanka Raya: Indigenous Women Stand Against Violence. A Companion Report to the United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Women

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