Reported by Melanie Green
Activists, advocates, city officials and police representatives came together at a meeting yesterday to combat structural violence against women and those with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities.
Doris Rajan, the director of social development at the Institute for Research and Development on Inclusion and Society, spearheaded the meeting after receiving federal funding for the innovative project. The four groups at the meeting had different frameworks for identifying challenges, but all agreed the conversation was necessary.
“Certain groups of women are not being understood in the context of oppression. The methodology is specific. We already know it’s bad, we just need to do the work to affect policy change,” she said, adding the project was not for research or to raise awareness.
Cross country project
The project will span across four cities — Vancouver, Toronto, Regina and St. Johns — over the next three years. Rajan hopes the sites can be seen as models, recognizing that each city faces unique challenges.
Rajan was compelled to take action by the story of a migrant woman who saw her husband, two young children and father murdered and realized that mainstream services could not meet her needs when she sought refuge in Canada.
According to Rajan, the migrant woman, who has profound trauma that requires different support, is only one of many that slip through the cracks.
Jacques Courteaux, member of the City of Vancouver’s Persons With Disabilities Advisory Committee, personally believes that the structures in place are not made to handle complex multifaceted problems. He added that the goal of the initiative is to get the attention of the government and find the right ‘entry points’ to provide needed services.
“Being aware of the issues is one thing, but doing enough, and funding, will always be an issue. It’s about having a global strategy and using our committees to integrate,” he said.
Lorie Seay, local coordinator for the project, became involved last year as a disabilities worker and quickly recognized the need for access to services and experience at the structural level.
Seay said the aim is to influence good policy, collaboratively and in solidarity, by hearing stories and having a federal conversation.
“In this way, our capacity is enhanced. We are getting people to talk beyond individual identity.”