Initiative to End Gender-Based Violence in Immigrant and Refugee Communities

Logo of OCASI's Initiative to End Gender-Based Violence in Immigrant and Refugee Communities

OCASI's Initiative to End Gender-Based Violence in Immigrant and Refugee Communities provides resources, education and leadership to the settlement sector and the broader community on gender-based violence prevention and survivor support.

We facilitate resource development, public education campaigns, professional development and training, online courses, community-building, knowledge-sharing, advocacy, and use of the arts in order to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in immigrant and refugee communities.

Our work builds on decades of expertise, as OCASI has been engaged in gender-based violence prevention work since 2002. All of our work is grounded in an anti-oppressive, anti-racist and intersectional feminist framework.

Key Concepts:

  • Gender-based violence happens in all communities, but it impacts immigrant and refugee communities in distinct ways.
  • Women (including cis women and trans women) and non-binary immigrants and refugees face unique barriers to accessing support for violence or abuse.
  • Immigrant and refugee-serving organizations have an obligation and responsibility to be informed about gender-based violence issues, and to provide compassionate, trauma-informed, and appropriate services for immigrants and refugees who are survivors of violence.
  • The broader community must to build its capacity to prevent, recognize, and respond to gender-based violence within immigrant and refugee communities, and to support survivors.

Resources and Opportunities:

Building Leadership Capacity to Address Gender-Based Violence against Non-Status, Refugee and Immigrant Women across Canada

 Go to Building Leadership to Address
GBV against NSRI women across Canada


Virtual roundtables: hosting and leveraging conversations in a digital space!

Flyer of Virtual National Roundtable - GBV during COVID-19We introduced the virtual roundtable series to host conversations and exchanges that consider the differential impacts of COVD-19 for non-status, refugee and immigrant women across Canada. These webinar series work from a social justice approach that suggests that more comprehensive analysis and collective discussion of social problems will yield more effective social actions, advocacy, strategies and responses.

This roundtable series brings together non-status, refugee and immigrant women, community members, frontline workers, academics, researchers, advocates and organizational leaders to share their insights, assessments and experiences around the unique tensions and challenges that COVID-19 introduces when addressing GBV against non-status, refugee and immigrant women across Canada.

This roundtable series is organized by a national group of community partners and agencies working together towards building leadership and community advocacy networks across Canada. This series is part of a project (funded by Women and Gender Equality) lead by OCASI - Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants in partnership with Barbra Schliefer Commemorative Clinic, Islamic Family and Social Services Association, Immigrant Women Services of Ottawa, The Migrant Mothers Project, MOSAIC, New Brunswick Multicultural Association, Rights of Non-Status Women Network and the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton.

Logos of the Community Partners

As we like to share, this is not about leading the conversation, but rather leveraging and hosting these conversations at a national level!

Brief summary: gender-based violence against non-status, refugee and immigrant women across canada in the context of covid-19

To watch the roundtable video recording, please follow the link.

The implications of COVID-19 are readily apparent. However, as legal and social activist-scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw recently indicated, the crisis among racialized and gendered communities across the globe is, indeed, "pre-COVID". Across the globe, we are observing the intersecting gendered and racialized contours which shape which groups are afforded access to engage in social distancing and basic practices of contagion. It makes us question, are we truly "all" in this together in the same way? In Canada, COVID-19 is revealing an architecture of inequality and those who were already unprotected before the pandemic is impacted differently and more intensely during this time, and this extends serious implications for addressing GBV against NSRI women across Canada. As reporting indicates that the COVID-19 situation furthers gender inequalities and increases risks of gender-based violence, what does this mean for addressing GBV against non-status, refugee and immigrant women across Canada? How can we better respond to GBV against non-status, refugee and immigrant women in the context of COVID19?

Graphic mural of the National Roundtable on GBV during COVID-19

We encourage you to share the following visual artifact from our roundtable as a tool to help us keep this dialogue going with one another, with our partners and in our communities:

Gender-Based Violence against NSRI women was already a crisis

At this roundtable, we learned that within these new social conditions and emerging social problems are longstanding and ongoing crises among certain social groups. Speakers provided a critical assessment and commentary to understand the changing context and spoke to gaps in capacity and services. They also emphasized the need to include and centre women’s organizations and NSRI survivors of GBV in COVID-19 response efforts. We also heard from service providers across different regions in Canada, who shared how they distribute their attention or their services, especially when we are being asked to isolate. We learned ways in which frontline workers working with NSRI women attend to the immediacy, but at the same time continue to think of the important advocacy and preventive work for their communities.

Moving away from generalizations: understanding the intersectional impacts of COVID-19 on non-status, refugee and immigrant women

Speakers provided a sharp critique of mainstream responses but also provided an alternative analysis and narrative using experiences of race, gender and immigration status to explain the impact of these intersecting social conditions in the context of COVID-19. They emphasized that strategies required to address and navigate GBV against NSRI must go beyond mainstream approaches and consider the impact and relationship of gender, race and immigration status.

The need to valorize and center the experience and embodied knowledge of NSRI women in responses to GBV in the context of COVID-19.

Speakers emphasized that accessing the knowledges expertise and long-standing work of social movements and advocates who have been articulating a crisis can provide a paved way and understanding of what is happening. Our speakers highlighted the importance and function of experience for producing knowledge. We learned of the work and ongoing efforts of advocates and community organizers to address and think about the specific social problems non-status, refugee and immigrant women experience within broader systems of racism, patriarchy, capitalism and nationalism and how this extends in the context of COVID-19.

We thank all those who participated in this roundtable. In particular, we would like to thank our speakers for their contributions:

Debbie Douglas, OCASI - Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Deepa Mattoo, Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
Mercy Lawluvi, Immigrant Women Services of Ottawa
Cornelia Mazgarean, Rights of Non-Status Women’s Network
Sultana Jahangir, South Asian Women’s Rights Organization
Ginette Gautreau, New Brunswick Multicultural Council
Thao Duong, Immigrant Women Services of Ottawa
Yasmine Abuzgaya, Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
Lubna Zaeem, Islamic Family and Social Services Association

Coming Soon:

Click on the following link to watch the video recording of our last roundtable Gender-Based Violence and the spread of racism against non-status, refugee and immigrant women in the context of COVID-19 which took place on May 28, 2020. Summary coming soon!

How to stay connected to our efforts

Flyer of GBV on SettlenetWe encourage you to join our Community of Practice - GBV against non-status, refugee and immigrant women across Canada. To register, please follow this link.

Banner of GBV for TwitterFollow us on Twitter @OCASIGBV OCASI’s to follow our project announcements, events and to share the work and efforts of our partners more broadly!