CCMW Meets with Dr. Kellie Leitch (Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women)
On September 5th, CCMW Board Members and staff were pleased to meet with the Honourable Dr. Kellie Leitch, Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women, Kyle Seeback (MP) and Stella Ambrose (MP) at the Chris Gibson Recreation Centre in Brampton, Ontario where funding of the organization’s current project “Violence Against Women: Health and Justice for Canadian Muslim Women” was announced.
“Violence against women and girls takes many forms, and for Canadian Muslim women there are additional forms of violence rooted in culture, traditions and customs that they may have to contend with” remarked Executive Director, Alia Hogben. “Often perpetrators of such violence attribute it to religion or culture and offer many rationales and justifications to convince Muslim women that these practices are for their own benefit.”
As an organization that is committed to the equality, equity and empowerment of women CCMW has dutifully maintained that any form of violence committed against women in the name of religion or Islam cannot be tolerated and must be resisted. Accordingly, our two year project (2012-2014), aims to strengthen the ability of Canadian women and girls to function fully as equal and empowered citizens by providing them with the tools to understand and address domestic violence, female genital cutting/mutilation (FGM/C), forced marriages and femicide within their communities, through community based workshops, toolkits and a research based publication. The project also seeks to increase the capacity of community service agencies and professionals to assist individuals including Muslim women and others from diverse ethno-racial backgrounds in providing culturally sensitive support to address these forms of violence.
Also in attendance at Thursday’s events were members of the Brampton community, Canadian media outlets and Dr. Naila Butt from our partner organization the Social Service Network (SSN).
With the first phase of the project which includes the finalization of our publication written by legal expert Pamela Cross and Dr. Asma Barlas now complete, CCMW enters the next stage which consists of the development of a Violence Against Women (VAW) resource kit for Muslim communities and service providers and the execution of train the trainer workshops for Muslim women across the country (January 2014).
CCMW is very grateful to the Status of Women Canada for their generous financial contribution, Pamela Cross for her legal expertise, Dr. Asma Barlas for her religious scholarship and our Advisory Board members: Barbara Schlifer Clinic, South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO), The Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC), Springtide Resources, Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO), YWCA, Social Services Network, Indo-Canadian, Women’s Organization and Shield of Athena for their continued support and guidance.
Executive Director Alia Hogben’s full speech at the event
Funded by the Status of Women Canada, this two year project’s [Oct 2012 –Sept 2014] objectives are to analyze specific issues of violence against women and girls. This will enable us to make practical use of this knowledge for Canadian Muslim women. The issues under the rubric of violence against women are domestic violence, forced marriages, female genital mutilation/cutting and “honour based violence” or femicide.
Violence against women and girls takes many forms, and for Canadian Muslim women there are additional forms of violence rooted in culture/traditions/customs that they may have to contend with. Often perpetrators of such violence attribute it to religion/ culture and offer many rationales and justifications to convince Muslim women that these practices are for their own benefit.
Among some Muslims there is a reluctance to name and discuss such cultural beliefs and practices because it often leads to a frenzy of anti-Muslim sentiments and stereotyping. Well-meaning non-Muslims are equally hesitant to address these issues since they fear accusations of racism. And then there are others who refrain from condemning such practices within immigrant and Muslim communities in the name of cultural relativism.
The project objectives are:
1] To increase and strengthen the ability of Canadian women and girls to function fully as equal and empowered citizens by providing them with the tools to understand and address issues of violence and abuse.
2] To increase the ability and capacity of community service agencies and professionals to assist clients, including Muslim women and other individuals from diverse ethno-racial backgrounds in providing culturally sensitive support to address these forms of violence.
3] To increase awareness within communities and with policy makers and to identify strategies for making positive changes.
As of now – August, 2013 – the environmental scans have been completed. The consultant lawyer, Pam Cross, has developed these and is now developing a resource tool kit based on these scans.
Each document on the specific issue has recommendations for future actions by policy makers, service providers and community members.
Because some people use religious or cultural justifications for violence, it is critical for us that there be a scholarly and accurate response based on the teachings of Islam. Scholar and professor Dr Asma Barlas has written such an Introduction.
The tool kit has been developed and is in its final stages of consultation via focus groups in Ottawa and Toronto in September/13.
The purpose of the tool kit is that it will be used by our chapter women to present workshops in their local communities. This outreach will raise awareness and we hope empower not only women and girls but the Muslim communities, including men, to create change and eliminate violence.
CCMW is grateful to a number of our sister agencies who have agreed to be on an Advisory Committee. They have provided their expertise in reviewing the various documents, and their advice has been integrated into the scans and the tool kit.
The organizations are the Barbara Schlifer Clinic; South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario; the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children; Springtide Resources; Community Legal Education Ontario; YWCA Toronto; Social Services Network; the Edmonton based Indo- Canadian Women’s Organization and the Shield of Athena of Montreal.
The final report of the scans with recommendations, and the tool kit will be widely distributed via the CCMW website as well as sent to policy makers, service providers and community members. These will be translated into French.
Honour based violence/Femicide:
CCMW respectfully requests government policy makers, community agencies and the media to please use the term femicide rather than the emotionally charged, value laden term of honour killings. Femicide is simply the killing of females, similar to homicide or infanticide, while the use of the term honour killings raises many controversial issues and can target certain religions and cultures.
The term femicide is being used in South America, South Africa and often in the U.N documents. We believe that Canada should join these forward thinking countries and move ahead in naming these murders as femicide.
This is not judging other countries that have major struggles fighting against patriarchy and its subsequent ill effects such as the killing of innocent women and girls.
We are Canadians and we must identify our own issues and find our own solutions for Canada.
In closing, we thank you, Madam Minister and your staff for supporting us with financial resources so that we can address such vital issues affecting Canadian women.