National Alliance for Racialized, Refugee, and Im/migrant Women

Graphic of six immigrant women

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The Alliance for Racialized, Refugee, and Im/migrant Women is an initiative exploring the need and feasibility of forming a cross-country coalition of organizations and individuals who share common priorities in making Canada a just and equitable society for racialized, refugee, and im/migrant women, girls, and gender-diverse people.

Initiated by OCASI and co-led by a core group of advisory committee members, our goals are to co-create a space for people to convene and organize around shared priorities, build connections, and explore the potential of forming an anti-racist and intersectional feminist alliance.

We believe that the rights, needs, and demands of racialized, refugee, and im/migrant women and gender-diverse people in Canada have been ignored for far too long. Our hope is that the creation of an alliance could amplify our collective voice and ultimately become a strong force for meaningful, community-led, systemic change.

Our collective work is guided by anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices, intersectional feminist and decolonial principles. These practices and principles will shape the process, outcomes, and relationships developed during the course of the project. Central to these efforts is our commitment to actively supporting First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women, girls, and two-spirited peoples. For more information on how we work, please see the KEY CONCEPTS section below.

Key Activities

The primary project activities consist of:

  1. Establishing a core group of members (advisory committee);
  2. Community outreach and relationship-building among grassroots community groups and leader in both English and French;
  3. Carrying out an environmental scan to assess and document the need and feasibility of forming a national alliance;
  4. Organizing virtual roundtables in 5 different regions and 1 national roundtable;
  5. Creating a project charter founded on anti-racist anti-oppressive practices, decolonial and intersectional feminist frameworks;
  6. Evaluation activities undertaken by an external evaluator

Who is the project advisory committee?

A core group of members play a critical role in the direction and decision-making process of the project. They are directly connected to the different communities across the country that the National Alliance Project seeks to engage, and are committed to participating in the primary project activities. For a full description of the role and responsibilities of the Advisory Committee, please refer to the Terms of Reference document. The 2022-2023 Advisory Committee Members are:

  • Joanne Owuor & Solange Mudahogora, Uzima Network
  • Mbalu Lumor, Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture (CCVT)
  • Jhevoi Melville, Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture (VAST)
  • Jennifer Chew, South Asian Women’s Community Centre of Montreal (SAWCC)
  • Shalini Konanur, South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO)
  • Nushat Jafri, Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW)
  • Mariam Bouchoutrouch, Pacific Immigrant Resources Society (PIRS)
  • Debbie Douglas, OCASI - Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
  • Saadatou Abdoulkarim, Table de Concertation des organismes au service des personnes Réfugiées et Immigrantes (TCRI)
  • Maria Dussan, Anti-Racism Coalition of Newfoundland and Labrador (ARC-NL)
  • Paula Calderon, Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association (CIWA)
  • Karyna Enriquez, Accueil Liaison pour Arrivants (ALPA)

Who are community members?

Community members are people from organizations or grassroots groups across the country that are focused on dismantling systemic barriers for racialized, refugee and im/migrant cis and trans women and gender-diverse people. They are the potential base of a national alliance and the key to building collective community strength in this project. OCASI will engage community members through our outreach initiatives, needs assessment activities, and in the regional and national roundtables.

What is OCASI’s role?

OCASI is playing an organizing role in this initiative. We recognize the important work being done by grassroots organizations and other community-led movements across the country. Our goal is to support the convergence of these groups towards the building of an alliance, which would be self-sustaining and self-articulating.

Key Concepts

Our collective work is guided by anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices, intersectional feminist and decolonial principles. These practices and principles will shape the process, outcomes, and relationships developed during the course of the Central to these efforts is our commitment to active solidarity with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women, girls, and two-spirited peoples.

The following is a brief description of the key concepts used as guiding values and frameworks for the Alliance project.

Gender Identity is a person’s internal and individual experience of gender. This is different than ‘sex’, or the anatomical classification of people as male, female or intersex, usually assigned at birth. The term ‘trans’ is used to describe persons who identify with a different sex than the one assigned to them at birth. The use of the words woman and women in this project are inclusive of trans women. The term gender-diverse refers to persons whose gender identity is at odds with gender norms, including those who do not place themselves in the male/female binary.

Anti-Racist and Anti-Oppressive (ARAO) practices work to challenge, prevent, eliminate, and change the values, structures, policies, programs, actions, and behaviours that perpetuate racism and oppression, and in particular Anti-Black racism in our society.

Intersectional feminism asserts that gender equity cannot be reached without understanding how the systems holding power in our society exclude and oppress certain women because of their multiple and intersecting identities. In practice, intersectional feminism requires challenging and resisting the systems, institutions, and cultural traditions that dismiss the experiences of women on the margins, such as indigenous, Black and racialized, disabled, im/migrant, transwomen and LGBTQ2+ identified people.

Intersectionality is a framework for understanding how multiple forms of discrimination intersect to create a disproportionate impact for certain groups of people based on their identity and social location. Kimberlé Crenshaw first began using this term as a way to explain the multiple forms of oppression collectively facing Black women survivors of violence in the United States.

Decolonial and anti-colonial frameworks acknowledge the violence and genocide perpetrated under colonialism and settler-colonialism towards indigenous peoples in Canada and in the Global South. Decolonialization is the intentional process of working to oppose, challenge, and replace colonial oppression in its many shapes and forms in our society and relationships. Committing to decolonial practices means acting in concrete ways to resist colonial oppression in solidarity and support of indigenous communities.

Racialized is used as a term to describe people who are non-White and encompasses all people who self-identify as racialized. People can be racialized not only based on skin colour but also other perceived characteristics such as their culture, language, customs, ancestry, country or place of origin. Typically, racialized is not used to describe First Nations, Métis or Inuit peoples within Canada, but may include indigenous people from the Global South.

Racialization refers to the process by which societies construct races as real, different and unequal. Racial categories are not based on science or biology but on differences that society has chosen to emphasize.

The word refugee is inclusive of asylum seekers, displaced people, refugee claimants, status and/or resettled refugees.

Im/migrant is an umbrella term used to describe persons who are not born with Canadian citizenship. This includes those who have moved away from their place of usual residence temporarily or permanently, including those without a legal immigration status.

Precarious immigration status is an immigration status in Canada that is temporary and does not entitle the person to full legal rights, protections, and services. Some examples of precarious status include: refugee claimants, temporary residents, migrant workers, international students, sponsored individuals, and those without an immigration status.

Systemic change is about dismantling the structures that hold inequities in place, such as the laws, policies, institutions, cultural norms, and practices that create unjust conditions within a community. Such inequities are based on race, gender, class, (dis)ability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and other personal characteristics and factors. Structural change seeks to rebuild these systems and structures in order to make our society a more just and equitable one.

This project is funded by Women and Gender Equality Canada.

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