As the only pan-Canadian coalition of its kind, the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres (CASAC) proudly presented a critical panel that explored the diverse work and efforts undertaken by representative rape crisis centres across Canada, and the challenges these centres face in different provinces and regions in Canada. We had a national panel of center representatives, and were crucial proponent to Women’s Worlds 2011 in providing the most comprehensive illustration of the anti-violence work of Canadian sexual assault centres.
The panel featured the wide-ranging issues and challenges rape crisis centres encounter which are unique to different provinces and regions in Canada. Diverse areas of work that anti-violence workers address will reveal the approaches, efforts, and formations that these organizations must assume in order to address the needs of women facing and escaping male violence.
The session was lead by CASAC/ACCCACS members from four rape crisis centres across Canada, including British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland Labrador, with a written submission from CASAC’s Nova Scotia centre. Diana Yaros from Mouvement contre le viol et l’inceste in Montreal, Quebec highlighted the nature, dynamics and consequences of violence and sexual assault among refugee women. She writes, “Au delà des trois volets qui caractérisent notre centre –l’aide, la sensibilisation et prévention, et la lutte- le travail avec ces femmes nous impose une prise de position claire quand aux facteurs politiques et sociaux qui sont étroitement liés au statut de refugié et leurs liens étroits avec la production et la reproduction des violences et des agressions sexuelles.”
Michelle Schryer, executive director of the Chatham-Kent Sexual Assault Crisis Centre (CKSACC) in Ontario, expressed the importance of feminist activism in effecting meaningful change towards womyn’s social, economic and political equality and justice. Specific examples demonstrated successful attempts to mobilize communities at a local level and effect legislative change at a provincial (and federal) level.
Denise Hayes described the work of their rape crisis centre serving all of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the challenges they face breaking women’s isolation in rural areas, and responding to women facing male violence geographically far from their centre.
Lastly, Hilla Kerner from Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter will provided an analysis of the recent work in fighting sexist violence against Aboriginal women, and the demands for a public inquiry into the cases of the murdered and missing women – most recently, highlighted in the province’s disgraceful response to the Pickton case. Audience members were given the chance to debate, compare, and contrast critical issues and ideas surrounding Canada’s provincial and national responses to violence against women.
The intent of CASAC/ACCCACS is to act as a force for social change regarding violence against women at the individual, the institutional and the political level. Our presence at Women’s Worlds will enhance and foster the dialogue amongst ourselves and with the public, and assist us in promoting anti-violence and women’s equality at a national level. The conference will also serve to better inform our work nationally, and improve our work providing a mechanism for communication, education and mobilization to alleviate the political and geographical isolation of rape crisis centres in Canada.
Jackie Stevens wrote of their centre’s feminist model and action plan in addressing the barriers and challenges in advancing social/systemic change in Nova Scotia, a province which lacks a strategy to address sexual violence, and lacks most of the components that comprise a comprehensive response in other jurisdictions.
We aimed to enhance and foster the dialogue amongst ourselves and with the public, and assist in promoting anti-violence and women’s equality at a national level. The conference also served to better inform our work nationally, and improve our work providing a mechanism for communication, education and mobilization to alleviate the political and geographical isolation of rape crisis centres in Canada.