The weather outside as I write this belies the fact that it is mid-March and we are less than a week away from the official start of Spring. But the frigid cold temperatures we have experienced in the past week did not deter the tens of thousands of women, children and male and non-binary allies who showed up to celebrate and protest across the province as we observed International Women’s Day.
Women’s protests in Ontario and across Canada (and much of the world) started in January as pent up frustration with deepening patriarchy; growing economic and social inequities; anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism and the ongoing cultural erasure; Islamophobia and anti-Semitism; the silence emanating from law enforcement as Trans women of colour are murdered at alarming rates across North America and the increasing sexual and physical violence experienced by women and girls across our province and country from coast to coast to coast drove us into the streets.
It was the largest protest Ontario had seen in decades, since the Days of Action of the mid-nineties, against egregious public policies put forward by the then Conservative government. Then like now, Ontarians concerned about social and economic justice; about gender equity; about mainstreaming consent culture; about creating a society free from racism and faithism, came out and stood up to be counted.
This same feeling of solidarity- of an intersectional approach to our political work, resonated on Saturday March 11 as women from all walks of life and their allies joined arms and shouted through the cities and towns of our province, enough is enough: Be Bold for Change.
OCASI started the month with the launch of its popular graphic novel, Telling Our Stories: Immigrant Women’s Resilience. Developed and written by immigrant women survivors of sexual abuse for immigrant (and refugee) women, the novel features four stories of individual women. Available currently in English and French, the novel will be translated into various languages representing Canada’s recently arrived immigrant communities. The launch of the novel was celebratory with an overflow audience of community, sector, government and media. Other launches are planned during the rest of March in Ottawa, Welland and Hamilton.
We extend congratulations to our colleagues of the Capacity Team at OCASI and the women who shared their stories with us and the world. We are thankful.
Our attention this month is also focused on the small but consistent flow of asylum seekers crossing irregularly into Canada especially along the Manitoba and Quebec border with the US. As weather conditions have worsened our calls on the government to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement have been amplified. We know that many who have crossed in the last few months have presented with frostbites, some cases so serious that fingers have been lost. We know of women and children who find themselves not clothed appropriately for the elements walking across deserted fields of snow in the prairies or left in isolated areas of Toronto. We hope that it will not take the serious injury or death of a child for our government to act.
We understand although we disagree, that the government’s approach to changing immigration and asylum policies in the US as indicated by Executive Orders signed by the US President, is one of ‘go along to get along’. We even understand the political thinking behind this position. But there are times when as a country we must put our values and principles ahead of economic considerations as defined by trade agreements.
The Council has asked its members to call their MPs and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Ralph Goodale to voice their concerns about the effect the Safe Third Country Agreement is having on the lives of those wanting to seek refuge in Canada. We know that the flow is manageable and if individuals and families were to present at regular check points it would safeguard their wellbeing as well as the integrity of our borders and asylum processes. The situation is urgent and the time to act is now. Please click here to find your MP’s email, address and phone number and add your voice to the call for the suspension and eventual revocation of this Agreement that has no purpose other than to police Canada’s inflow of women, children, men and non-binary folks looking for protection.
We thank you for adding your voice to this urgent call. La Lucha Continua (the struggle continues)…