SHOP & RNC Partnership Breakdown

“SHOP and the RNC are fundamentally at odds on how to support people in the sex trade”

The Safe Harbour Outreach Project (SHOP) and the St. John’s Status of Women Council have made the decision to end our official SHOP Liaison Officer partnership with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, our local police service. SHOP is committed to upholding the human rights of sex workers, and our values of sex workers’ self-determination, the power of harm reduction and social justice. We have heard the concerns of the people we support and serve, and we stand with them. Read more here: SHOP & RNC Partnership Breakdown

REPORT: Survivors of Sexual Violence and the Criminal Justice System

Reviewing a legacy of harm, the justice gap, and recommendations for advocates and allies.

In light of the recent Snelgrove mistrial here in St. John’s and the subsequent grassroots activism in support of Jane Doe, survivors and allies have once again directed our focus to the ways the criminal justice system perpetually fail survivors of sexual violence. In this report we scan the wider body of existing research, media, and literature to evaluate the ways victims of sexual violence are impacted through the processes made available to them in the criminal justice system. Our aim is to determine the most effective, equitable, and evidence-based recommendations for increased access to justice and reducing harm for survivors of sexual violence, both within and outside of the criminal justice system.

Read the full report here:

SJSOWC – Survivors and the Criminal Justice System

Feminism is Necessary in Ward 2: Q&A with St. John’s City Council Ward 2 by-election candidates

We reached out to all eight candidates running in our upcoming Ward 2 by-election with St. John’s City Council. We asked them eight questions about issues impacting women and marginalized people in our community, and their perspective on how feminism can inform municipal politics. Below is the full series of questions and answers from Ward 2 by-election candidates.

Carol Ann Furlong (CF)

Greg Noseworthy (GN)

Ophelia Ravencroft (OR)

Greg Smith (GS)

Matt Howse (MH)

Shawn Skinner (SS)

Wallace Ryan (WR)

Lorne Loder (LL)

Question #1: What are the main issues that you believe disproportionately impact women in Ward 2 and across the city?

CF: Where should I begin? In our city we have seniors with no one to help them with snow clearing; others struggling to care for sick and dependent loved ones; some barely able to make ends meet, and with what seems like “nowhere to turn”. We need to be seen as a caring city. We have some tremendous support systems in place but sometimes you just need something else. I think we can work to achieve that goal. Violence against women needs to be addressed; issues with mistrust in the court system and police have to addressed, and ongoing sensitivity training implemented.  Issues arising from the pandemic, including women doing double duty working from home and raising a family are now issues. So many issues.

GN: There are several issues that disproportionately impact women generally, and this is true for Ward 2 as well, such as income disparity, harassment, and other workplace issues. However, uniquely to Ward 2 there is an accessibility issue for pregnant women and senior women who are unable to safely navigate the City due to ineffective snow clearing in the Winter months. Additionally, as noted during the Pedestrian Mall, there are still heightened safety issues for women who work in the downtown. Many women who work in the entertainment industry downtown are left without adequate safety measures (safe drop off and pick up areas; poorly lit walkways and alleys, etc.).

OR: As a nonbinary woman, I know firsthand that our city has a long way to go when it comes to gender equity. Issues like sexist discourses, gender-based harassment, and sexual violence are still incredibly prominent in our daily lives, and we need to do everything in our power to curb them. Intersectional marginalisation, too, means that queer women, trans and enby women, sex working women, women of colour, Indigenous women, and women with disabilities are dispoportionately impacted by the bigoted discourses and inadequate infrastructure that affect those communities more broadly. From a City perspective, this means that problems like our lack of focus on mobility for all, inadequate public transit, poor accessibility, and similarly exclusionary policies impact women unusually strongly, and that it’s imperative we fix them particularly to correct that disproportionate injustice. In representation, too, I feel we often struggle to uplift the voices of women in particular, and that the dismissive and often abusive criticisms that women face simply for speaking up must stop. As Councillor, I’ll bring a proven track record of speaking up on exactly these issues, and will fight passionately to ensure we challenge misogyny and gender-based marginalisation much more actively. Whether that’s by calling out abusive voices in the media, applying gender analysis lenses to municipal policy, or foregrounding the voices of women community members in my decision-making, it’s the same kind of work I do every day, and it’s what I guarantee I’ll provide in government.

GS: I think harassment and the gender wage gap are two huge issues affecting women in Ward 2 and St. John’s.  

MH: Poverty, housing insecurity, and public safety. St. John’s (and the entire province of Newfoundland and Labrador) has the widest gender wage-gap in the country, with women earning about 30% less than men (Conference Board of Canada, 2016). This means that women in St. John’s are much more likely to experience poverty and precarious housing situations than their male counterparts. One small but worthwhile policy change would be to amend municipal social housing rules to allow single women to share City housing units as roommates. Gender-based violence is also an issue in St. John’s. In general, Newfoundland and Labrador is slightly above the national average when it comes to reported intimate partner assaults, but how many assaults in our province and our City go unreported? Recent cases have shown that the system for dealing with these assaults is deeply flawed. In particular, the victim in the Snelgrove case will now endure a third trial due to inadequacies in the judicial system. While this is horrendous for the victim, the ripple effect in the community is vast—survivors may relive past trauma and feel less safe in reporting an assault. With this in mind, I think it is important that we establish a Gender-Based Violence Task Force to explore these issues and develop solutions. The province has been dragging its heels on this, but perhaps the City of St. John’s can lead the way.

SS:

–       The availability of safe and accessible housing.

–       Having access to adequate amounts of nutritious food.

–       Having access to affordable and educational childcare.

–       The amount of personal and job stress they face.

–       The sense of fear around personal safety.

–       The pressure of carrying on with family responsibilities.

WR: The City has to be safe for women to live and work. We should liase with the RNC and the Justice department and initiate discussions with the provincial government on ways they can help us with these issues.

LL: No response.

Question #2: Sexism and harassment are prevalent in many workplaces, across sectors and industries, but especially those which have been historically monopolized by older, white men. How do you plan to confront sexism and harassment in working with City Council and the City of St. John’s?

CF: I spent a lot of time jumping over obstacles. It isn’t a myth that women face many challenges getting ahead. It is important that we ensure the workplace is a safe and pleasant place to work. Council has to be seen as doing its part. The current city council has some strong women and I look forward to working with them and the St. John’s Status of Women to address these issues.

GN: At a Council and municipal level I will continue to work with community stakeholders and government bodies/offices to educate the public about sexism and harassment in all forms, regardless of sex, gender, race, sexuality, or background. I will support progressive measures to ensure city policies and projects to identify, address, and prevent sexism and harassment with the City of St. John’s. Additionally, I will continue to review pertinent by-laws, including the St. John’s Workplace Human Rights By-Law, to ensure that the process for complaints and action is in line with current trends for identifying, addressing, and preventing sexism and harassment within the city workplace. I will use my legal background to work to ensure that this by-law, and other by-laws, are reflective of the views of 2020, and not 1993 (when originally passed). Lastly, I will maintain an open door, confidential policy for anyone who has or continues to experience sexism and harassment, whether on Council or while working with the City of St. John’s.

OR: Ask anyone who knows me from my community work, and they’ll tell you that I relish the chance to challenge sexism, misogyny, and harassment whenever I see them in action. I truly want to make our world a better place for people of marginalised genders (PMGs), and I don’t back down from that fight easily! Institutional bigotry absolutely exists, and has to be called out for what it is. Implementing intersectional feminist analyses of all City business, and holding Council publicly accountable for working with their recommendations, will force all municipal politicians to consider the ways gender and other identities impact their constituents – and hold them accountable if they don’t. On Council, I will loudly and unapologetically challenge any incidents of sexism or harassment I encounter. While I am an effective collaborative worker, I don’t have time for discourses or actions that harm vulnerable people, especially PMGs, and I’m not afraid to put myself on the line to fight back. Finally, I’m running in the first place, in part, because I want to encourage more marginalised people to run in the future – and if that happens, challenges to bigotry become stronger, louder, and omnipresent. It’s not for nothing that so many have labelled our political system an “old boy’s club” in the time I’ve lived here, and it’s time that the club changed. People like me belong everywhere – and if I have my way, I won’t let anyone, or anything, hold us back from taking the space we deserve.

GS: I will not tolerate any such behaviour and will call it out, women are equal to men and need to be always treated so. I think we must not make excuses for belittling and sexist behaviour and make sure we confront, educate and address it!

MH: It is important that we adhere to the City of St. John’s “Respectful Workplace” policy that was approved by council in January of this year (just before Snowmageddon!). All issues of sexism and harassment at City Council or the City in general have to be addressed by and through that guiding document. There can be no exceptions or exemptions.

SS:

–   Being an ally for women and ensuring I will speak up and challenge any form of  harassment or sexism at City Hall.

–    Ensuring that women are provided the same opportunities to jobs, promotions, and advancement that men have.

–    Ensuring there is education and training provided for all employees of the City of St. John’s and Council to recognize sexist and harassing behaviour and what to do when it happens.

–    Ensuring the policies of Council explicitly provide penalties for Council employees and Members who participate in sexist or harassing behaviours.

WR: There are policies in place when it comes to sexism and harassment in the workplace. They must be easily available and welcoming to all who have complaints to file. Every complaint should be dealt with fairly and to the fullest ability of City Council. No one should face sexism or harassment in the workplace.

LL: No response.

Question #3: Food security in relation to poverty is an ongoing struggle for many citizens in Ward 2 and across the City. Both the snowstorm in January of this year and the social and economic conditions of living in a global pandemic have heightened food insecurity for many people in St. John’s. How would you address this on City Council, both in response to current realities, and to proactively increase food security moving forward?

CF: I am opposed to tax increases in the upcoming budget. The pandemic and other factors have created financial hardships for many people, some of whom either lost their jobs or have reduced hours of work. Many of these workers have been very generous benefactors to the food banks and charities that serve ward 2. The loss of income will not just affect ability to pay increased taxes but on people’s ability to give as generously, if at all. Our goal has to be to involve the people who are on the front lines so we can assist them in achieving their goals to deal with food insecurity.

GN: While food banks are an important part of our city, they are a band aid solution to a deeper issue. Food security is an issue that is often rooted in socio-economic status. I intend to proactively attract business growth within Ward 2 and St. John’s generally to help lower the unemployment rate and to create meaningful employment for all residents of the city by lowering certain taxes, such as the commercial realty tax. With secured, liveable incomes, we can address some food security needs. As well, I will proactively support local and small independent neighbourhood grocers, stores, and markets, (and local food producers where possible) and their relevant city applications to allow access to healthy food for the residents of Ward 2. This is a current trend within Ward 2, but there are still few neighbourhood markets within walking distance of many residents throughout the West, East and Downtown areas of Ward 2. By actively supporting these grocers, stores, and markets, we can increase access points to wholesome foods. 

OR: Lots of people will likely understand questions like these to be about things like home gardens, and I can’t totally contest that; taking food production into your own hands is a great idea if you have the capacity to do so. But in talking with residents, I’ve realised that many of us, especially those who are most marginalised, simply don’t have the ability to plant backyard gardens and keep chickens, whether due to limitations of space, cost, time, or physical ability. I believe that our approach to food security should be rooted in a critique of entrenched marginalisation, and in particular of entrenched poverty. If we better manage issues like transit, snow clearing, and accessibility that represent massive economic drains for our most vulnerable, we’re helping those affected keep more money in their pockets that can be reinvested elsewhere – in this case, in better economic ability to access food. There are certainly other policies I’d like to see us enact, like encouraging the development of more local farms, that would be helpful in other ways. But more than anything, our approach to food security should reflect the fact that money is the most significant reason people can’t access food – and that our City simply needs to provide better services so that our residents can hold on to some of that money, instead of using it to fill in the gaps we leave.

GS: I think that laws could help, making sure that restaurants don’t throw out food that could be donated to community groups. Working with both additional levels of Government to see more locally grown food whether that is new farms and community gardens. Educational resources from the city for people to look to grow some crops in their backyard. Make sure business steps up to the plate and support our local food banks. Additionally I  would like to see more fruit trees in our parks and work with the government and Tree Canada to do so, I think Tessier Place was a great step in the right direction.

MH: Often, the issue of local food security is discussed in terms of Newfoundland being an island that imports much of its food, but this fails to address the underlying structural issue of poverty. Many people cannot afford to stockpile food, and Snowmageddon highlighted just how dire the situation is here in St. John’s. On a fundamental level, we have to address poverty in our discussion of food security. To that end, one of my platform items is the development of an Anti-Poverty Advisory Council that will provide community input on supporting low-income residents in the wake of the coming provincial austerity measures. Also, the City has lots of green space and vacant lots where we can plant fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, install garden boxes, etc. This is a low-cost way of making nutrient-rich food available for everyone. We only need to let the sun, rain, and time do their thing. There has been some excellent grass-roots work done in Tessier Park lately, and the same could be done all across St. John’s, with the City taking a leadership role.

SS:

–   Work to address community food self sufficiency by empowering people to grow their own food.This would include creating the regulatory environment that allows people to have community gardens in the City to grow fruits and vegetables if they wish to do so.

–   We could also allow for the raising of small livestock (chickens, goats, etc.) for self sustaining needs.All of this would need to be supported by education, training, and investment in preparing the land and the people who wish to work the land.

–   For those unable to do this themselves, maybe we look at community cooperatives where those that are unable to do the work needed in the community gardens are able to help by providing other supports in the back office of these operations (promotion, marketing, packaging, etc.) and this is how they earn their share of the bounty.

–   There have been examples in the past where this has helped communities such as the Bro. McSheffery garden and, recently, Tessier Place is trying to grow fruit trees and other things.Making land available for those who wish to try and grow things.

WR: We can make neighbourhood gardens more available and loosen restrictions on raising birds and other small animals for food production on a micro-scale. As long as animals are not wandering onto others properties or disturbing the peace, I say go for it. We should also consider freezing the City Limits where they are and not continue to expand into the surrounding wilderness and consider reclaiming farmland within the City itself.

LL: No response.

Question #4: Sex workers are members of our community yet are often spoken for and not with. What ideas do you have to ensure sex workers are recognized by City Council and engaged with around municipal issues that impact them directly?

CF: Sex workers often work alone and in unprotected environments. They may also be victims of trafficking. I think we need to hear from sex workers to try and address some of the issues. I also believe that the police must be engaged in ensuring the safety of the people on our streets and that sensitivity awareness be part of their training. 

GN: As a privileged individual I understand that my interactions with sex workers is often limited. As a private lawyer I have provided pro bono counsel for many sex workers to assist them with numerous legal matters. From this, I have learned that the needs of sex workers are intertwined with general socio-economic issues, workers rights, and more specific industry concerns. As I am not an expert in this area, to ensure that sex workers may engage with municipal issues that impact them directly, I will consult with S.H.O.P. (the Safe Harbour Outreach Project), and C.A.S.E.Y. (Coalition Against the Sexual Exploitation of Youth) wherever possible to ensure I make informed decisions impacting sex workers. I will also invite these stakeholders to reach out to council on decisions that will impact sex workers to make sure that those in the industry may raise their own voice of concern. Lastly, I always maintain an open door, confidential (when requested) policy, whereby residents of any background may approach me about issues they are identifying. In doing so, I will listen to what their needs are and work with the appropriate community stakeholders, offices, and individuals to ensure that those involved in sex work can have a voice in their community. 

OR: I’m an extremely strong advocate for sex worker rights, so it’s a pleasure to see this question here! Foregrounding the needs of sex workers means explicitly including their voices in relevant conversations, listening to their needs, and responding accordingly. Previously, I’ve supported measures like the Living in Community engagement model, which brought workers and other community stakeholders together with officials like councillors, and other, similarly evidence-based approaches that ensure workers’ voices aren’t shut out of conversations that have to include them. But I think there’s a need to expand the definition of what conversations those are. Sex workers are often disproportionately affected by things like inadequate infrastructure, poor accessibility, and a lack of harm-reduction analysis in municipal policy. We should be asking how all of our decisions will impact sex workers – some of our most marginalised citizens – and ensuring we work to better represent them through that analysis. As a former employee and volunteer with SHOP, I’ve developed strong lines of communication with local sex workers and supportive institutions that I’m happy to draw on here, and will seek workers’ confidential feedback on issues that could affect their lives and livelihoods even indirectly to ensure their voices are heard. Though I feel the current Council has done a better job than their predecessors at promoting sex work-positive policy, I’ve heard some comments that suggest a fair bit of education is still necessary, and I’ll spearhead that process from the inside. Finally, I’d like to see this, and all future Councils and candidates, sign on to a public statement reaffirming their support for sex worker rights. Accountability is an essential part of this process, and if even the simplest such gestures aren’t possible, that speaks volumes.

GS: As a city we need to bring these people into key conversations on policy, we need to make it safer for people in this field of work and ensure them that this city will work with them.

MH: For about three years now, Living in Community St. John’s has been holding monthly meetings to discuss issues (and possible solutions) in the sex trade at the neighbourhood level. The committee, consisting of government officials, community groups, businesses, residents, and sex workers, has to be engaged in any municipal policy development surrounding the industry. While sex work is a part of every neighbourhood in St. John’s, it is probably most visible in Ward 2, as this is where the majority of street-level sex work is done. The City has to consult with those in the industry to develop and maintain a safe community for them to work in.

SS:

–     Decriminalization is the first step towards labor rights for sex workers and eliminating the stigma that surrounds their work.

–     Working with organizations like SHOP (Safe Harbor Outreach Project) and SJSWC (St. John’s Status of Women’s Council) to communicate and engage with sex workers.

–     Liaising with other levels of governments and ensuring there is a coordinated approach to issues of concern for sex workers.

–    Consulting and engaging with the citizens of St. John’s to promote and advance the concerns of sex workers to the broader community.

 

WR: Many of the issues around sex work should be dealt with in cooperation with all levels of government. We should make sex work a lot safer for those involved. We could consider a “Red Light” district where sex workers could work without fear of predators and pimps. We need to de-stigmatize the field of sex work.

LL: No response.

Question #5: How can we make public engagement more accessible to women and marginalized genders?

CF: Every citizen should have the right to participate and have an opinion. If the current opportunities for public engagement are not sufficient to address the needs of everyone, then we have to introduce alternate methods to ensure inclusivity. Let’s find out what they are and address them.

GN: The city can, and should, allow for in person and virtual attendance of public meetings and hearings so that persons with accessibility needs have multiple options to attend. The city can also create a service to bus residents from select areas of the city to City Hall so that they may be able to attend regardless of socio-economic status (similar to bussing operated during sports and entertainment events at Mile One).  As well, the city can make either free, or affordable child care for those with children to be able to attend meetings during parenting time to ensure greater accessibility of public engagement processes. Additionally, community stakeholder groups should be specifically consulted to determine how the people they represent may be better represented in public engagement, and what additional measures can be taken to ensure participation in city discourse. 

OR: I’ve spoken to a number of constituents who simply feel their voice isn’t adequately represented in anything municipal, including in engagement processes; some can’t attend engagement sessions, some go but get shouted down, and others email councillors and have their voices ignored. I believe the key change we can make is the same one I’m advocating throughout these responses: ensure that Council’s decisions are authentically representative of marginalised peoples’ stated needs, and that the decisions it makes genuinely advance causes of equity and justice. Over and over, I’ve heard frustrated residents express how they simply don’t bother engaging with Council after feeling shut down so many times, and I find that totally unacceptable. If we go out of our way to show that we’re representing our most vulnerable, we’ll encourage those people to speak up, because they’ll see that we hear them. I also believe the covid meta has outlined one other important change to public consultation sessions: the significance of videoconferencing as a method of participation. Council voted down guaranteed childcare for sessions some few years ago, and if that’s not an option, I believe the option of participating from home could radically improve engagement rates at comparatively low cost to the City.

GS: I think we are doing the right things in this area as we have an Inclusion & Diversity committee, still again on certain issues we should make sure that representation is a priority. Whether its online forums or feedback we need to ensure we have all people in our community commenting on our decisions.

MH: We can schedule more council meetings in the evenings, to give working people more opportunities to attend. We can also provide childcare during meetings and public consultations to encourage broader participation, and make more public washrooms gender-neutral. As for the elections, themselves, we should really look at on-line and phone-in voting, which would make participatory democracy more accessible. Putting tighter caps on election spending and donations is also a good way to remove barriers for people considering a run at public office.

SS:

Making use of technology to provide opportunities to people to engage from home. Tools like ZOOM and FB Live allow people to connect from home and not have to plan for childcare, transportation to an event, etc. It also allows for more anonymity should one not feel comfortable in a bigger group setting.

Again, there are a number of frontline community agencies that work with and support women and marginalized genders and I believe the City should do all it can to ensure it speaks with and listens to these groups who have the frontline experience.

Finally, the City has a Public Engagement Strategy that it uses to connect with ALL citizens, and I am sure this document has many ideas and examples that can assist in reaching women and marginalized genders.

WR: I think government engagement on the municipal level needs a lot of work for people from all walks of life. We need consultations that are legitimate rather than just rubber stamping get togethers.

LL: No response.

Question #6: What decision made by City Council in the last few years do you believe has had the most impact in the lives of women and marginalized people?

CF: Perhaps the most recent is the promotion and awareness of mental health issues. But, with regard to women, I believe we have lost ground. In recent years, we regularly hear people in powerful positions make it acceptable to debase and demean women publicly. Making it seem okay to treat women with such contempt sends a strong and unacceptable message. Strong representation and activism are important to the lives of women and marginalized peoples. We need strong voices that address the needs of women as we move forward.

GN: Several decisions have had notable impacts on women and marginalized persons. However, one notable area that concerns the decisions reflecting massage parlours within St. John’s. These various decisions have had a number of serious impacts on women. First a ban on safe, regulated studios for industry workers negatively impacted women and other sex workers. This exposed workers to either dangerous conditions or to have a loss of livelihood. Then the reversal of this decision, and recently a name change has brought this industry back into the limelight. This has not always been met with positive implications, and at times has created additional stigma. 

OR: Anyone who’s been following my campaign likely knows what I’m thinking here, but let me explain before I say it! Any issue that worsens inequity will disproportionately harm marginalised people, and intersectionality means that we are often impacted in multiple ways. If we are impacted by glass ceilings, low wages, and pay gaps, then transport costs hurt us more. If discrimination means our incomes are consequently unusually precarious, then risks of slips and falls forcing time off work hurt us more. If we are rendered unsafe by incidents of street-level violence and harassment, then longer walk times and inadequate transit hurt us more. For these and so many other reasons, I believe Council’s constant decision not to perform adequate improvements to sidewalk snow clearing is, without question, its worst and most negatively impactful decision – and an emblem of the intersectional mobility problems that plague marginalised people in our city. Making it harder to get around forces marginalised people in precarious and often dangerous positions, and it honestly feels like Council just doesn’t care sometimes. I simply won’t let that happen anymore. I will say, however, that initiatives like expanding access to sharps disposal units and implementing public Wi-Fi have had very positive impacts, and I consider those to be excellent models for our future work. Advancing equity, justice, and principles of harm reduction should be key City foci.

GS: I think one specifically is the lifting of the moratorium on new massage parlours, I think council moved in the right direction by helping sex workers feel safer in their field of work and giving them additional options. 

MH: This is a tough one, but if I had to pick just one decision it would have to be waiving Metrobus fares during the weeks following Snowmageddon. That decision made St. John’s much more accessible for many people, who could hop on the bus, free of charge, and head across town to run errands, or just have an adventure. The public health benefits from encouraging more people to get outdoors in the winter months are immense, and we have notoriously poor side-walk snow clearing, so removing the financial barriers associated with riding the bus was a great idea. Well-used public transit is the hallmark of a cohesive, inclusive community and we should look at waiving fares more often.

SS:

– The discussion around the proposed amendment to lift the ban  on massage parlours. This generated plenty of feedback and commentary in the community, it led to a public meeting and much media coverage. It heightened the awareness of the issue in the public as well. As well, I think the decision of Council to fully support End Homelessness St. John’s (EHSJ) and the work it does, has and will continue to have, much impact on women and marginalized groups.

WR: I think decisions affecting transportation are often ignored or downplayed. We need better public transportation for single parents, the financially disadvantaged and the marginalized to be better able to attend school and get to their jobs.

LL: No response.

Question #7: What work will you prioritize that will have significant impact on women, trans men and women, non-binary folks, people of colour, parents and caregivers, people with disabilities, and people living in poverty?

CF: These include a myriad of priorities. Not everyone has the same issues that can fit in the same box. Everyone needs to be heard and I will endeavour to work with individuals and groups to address the issues that impact on all of these citizens. 

GN: As part of my platform I have proposed an Office of Diversity that will be inclusive to all persons needs, regardless of sex, gender, race, age, physical and cognitive needs, language, or background. This office will be able to provide services to marginalised persons within the city. This Office could then work with the current Inclusion Advisory Committee to ensure that and ensure that no one is left behind in city decisions. 

OR: I believe I can honestly say most things that I’m advocating for will have these impacts! I entered into this race to ensure that our government better supports marginalised people, and that issues that disproportionately impact vulnerable communities become our government’s key focus. We need to be working for our citizens first, especially those who most struggle to get by in our society – not just businesses and big-ticket donors. As a first order of business, I will work tirelessly to ensure that we get our sidewalks clear in the winter, as inadequate pedestrian infrastructure disproportionately impacts marginalised people and presents serious human rights issues. Improving our focus on active transportation in general, and challenging car culture, both serve similar functions in my vision. Reducing our reliance on cars will improve our city’s livability for those who cannot afford or use them, and enabling cheaper and more accessible transportation will keep money in the pockets of our most vulnerable. Initiatives like enabling CSJ Housing to implement a “roommate” model and implementing public Wi-Fi in City parks will expand services to cover current glaring gaps and ensure everyone can live comfortably, safely, and with good connection to their community. In terms of people with disabilities, I’ve proposed a strong review of our accessibility initiatives to ensure we’re implementing them correctly. I’m also pushing a few simple solutions, like increasing the numbers of audible crosswalk signals and painting yellow nosing on City stairways, that people with disabilities have asked for over and over. Our municipal Inclusion Advisory Committee does incredible work, but I’d like to ensure we give its recommendations considerable weight in our decision-making – more than we currently do – so that we can ensure its intersectional ansalyses truly inform the results we get. I’ll also do everything in my power to support organisations, like the SJSOWC, SHOP, and the Quadrangle, who serve those intersectionally marginalised communities. Finally, as a nonbinary woman, I want to ensure trans, enby, and all 2SLGBTQIA+ people are adequately represented at the municipal level. As an initial idea, I will press the province for an amended City of St. John’s Act that removes its present gender-exclusive language and its requirement for gender-exclusive bathrooms in public facilities even if those bathrooms are single-use; there simply isn’t a reason lockable, single bathrooms shouldn’t be gender inclusive.

GS: I think a city that takes care of everyone is a successful one, we never move forward by leaving anyone behind! I think additional consultation with different members of these groups is huge. As a 2SLGBTQQIA person myself I will be a strong advocate for that community and all underrepresented communities in our city.

MH: The most important thing is that we work with members of all marginalized communities to develop policy and build a city that is safe and nurturing for everyone. The priorities have to be set by community members and Council has to respond to them constructively and in good faith.

SS:

–    I would be an ally and advocate for these groups on the issues of importance to them. I would try to be their voice at the Council table to give them the opportunity to speak to that which is important to them.

–    The establishment of a downtown library I believe would provide many benefits to these groups (educational opportunity, safe space, access to technology, social opportunity.

–    Continue to support and invest in the work our existing community centres and front-line agencies are doing to assist these groups.

–    Ensure the opportunity for safe, accessible, and affordable housing exists in our community. A stable living environment is the start to a better life for many marginalized people.

WR: We need to open up more discussions with the provincial and federal government when it comes to dealing with people living in poverty. The City doesn’t have the resources to deal with the scope of the problem and we need to get more levels of government involved. We need to also address issues of mental health and how it plays a role in poverty.

LL: No response.

Question #8: How would you approach budgetary decision-making from a feminist perspective?

CF: I was Secretary-Treasurer and then President and CEO of a not for profit organization representing 25,000 working people. My approach to budgetary decision making was based on the financial obligations and the needs of members. I am a strong believer in the rights of women and that perspective does not waiver.

GN: I would undertake an equitable approach to budgetary decisions to ensure that gendered, social, economic, and cultural considerations are made when deciding how a decision will impact all persons, regardless of their background. This will include building an evidenced based approach reflecting the lived experiences of all persons to ensure a gendered based analysis is applied in development, decision, and implementation of budgetary matters.

OR: Our municipal budget process must always include gender-based analysis – it’s as simple as that. It’s true that a general push for equity, as I’ve outlined here, will have impact across marginalised communities. But as we’re already conducting line-by-line audits on our work, I believe we must equally be required to consider the specific impact of every choice we make on people of marginalised genders, and 2SLGBTQIA+ people, in a much more active way, and to defend those choices in practice. In practice, this might look like ensuring community members, activists, and organisations like the IAC, Quadrangle, and SJSOWC are consulted extensively through each budget process and their recommendations given very significant weighting in our decisions. It also means ensuring that we analyse. It is important that we adhere to the City of St. John’s “Respectful Workplace” policy that was approved by council in January of this year (just before Snowmageddon!). All issues of sexism and harassment at City Council or the City in general have to be addressed by and through that guiding document. There can be no exceptions or exemptions. Every decision we make in terms of its intersectional impact, and that we pledge to make choices that advance causes of equity based on those analyses. I believe councillors, especially those in charge of budgeting, should be made to answer questions on the record based on these recommendations, and if they vote against them, be prepared to explain why whatever principles they claim to defend are more important than the rights and freedoms of these citizens. Too often in my 13 years here, I’ve seen municipal politicians operate from a business-first model, or treat the city as though it were simply a homogenous mass of citizens whose needs echoed the desires of councillors – even when those councillors were 100% white and male. Properly analysing our finances from an intersectional feminist perspective, and ensuring the people that perspective represent have a seat at the table and a voice in the conversation, will radically transform the way we think about budgeting.

GS: I think equity is huge, making sure that all budgetary decisions are inclusive of all people and their benefit in mind.

MH: For starters, I think it’s important to approach all decisions through a gender-equity lens. One way to do this at the City level would be to ensure that all councillors and bureaucrats have completed the on-line Gender-based Analysis PLUS course developed by Status of Women Canada. Further, it is important that we not use the pandemic (and the fiscal challenge it represents) as an excuse to exclude feminist perspectives from our decision-making processes (budgetary or otherwise). Equality, equity, and justice have no price-tag. If councillors and bureaucrats are adequately trained in gender analysis, and Council and the City regularly seek input and guidance from feminism-based community groups, we just might start moving in the right direction.

SS: My approach to ensuring budgetary decision making from a feminist perspective would include “Gender responsive budgeting”.

–       To be clear, I am no expert in this area but I have done some reading on it and I understand it is defined as follows: when a government practices gender based budgeting, they take into consideration not only what is called the “paid economy” (income, assets, pay, and employment opportunities), but also unpaid work, such as care and domestic work. They also look at other inequalities, such as violence against women and girls, or levels of participation and decision making.

–      Gender responsive budgeting assesses how budgets meet the needs of different groups of women and men, depending on their income, ethnicity, age, and place of residence.

–      Gender responsive budgeting is a budget that works for everyone by ensuring gender-equitable distribution of resources and by contributing to equal opportunities for all. Gender-responsive budgeting is essential both for gender justice and for fiscal justice.

WR: I would approach budgetary issues from a feminist perspective by seeing all these problems through the eyes of my late wife. She taught me how to see problems from her perspective and when I have any issue to decide, in any aspect of my life, I just try to think of what she would tell me.

LL: No response.

The Tip of the Iceberg: survivors grapple with the criminal justice system

When gender-based violence happens in our communities, we all feel it. As women and as people supporting women in our community, we know that the impacts of violence are as pervasive and widespread as the rates of violence occurring. This week alone, we have seen four new cases of sexual assault happen St. John’s. This comes after last Friday’s announcement of a mistrial in the ongoing Snelgrove case, a consequential result of the judge’s error in jury dismissal. To be clear, these are only the instances this week in St. Johns that have led to arrests and media coverage. We are holding space for Jane Doe this week as we collectively reel, and for all the other Jane Does – those whose stories we know, and those we don’t. What we know to be true about gender-based violence in our communities is that this is just tip of the iceberg.

Taking a closer look at gender-based violence in our city and across Newfoundland and Labrador, some of us are even more at risk of experiencing violence. Women who are living in poverty, who are criminalized, living with disabilities, experiencing homelessness, sex workers, queer, trans and non-binary folks, Indigenous women and women of colour are particularly vulnerable. These realities persist not because of weakness, but because of the real and compounding oppressions and stigma that are working against our neighbours, family and loved ones. This is magnified when vulnerable people are disproportionately neglected by, cannot access, or are disbelieved by systems that are intended to keep people safe. With that said, gender-based violence knows no bounds. It happens across class, race, gender, geography and culture. We know that across the globe, across Canada, and here in St. John’s most people who experience violence are women (cisgender and especially trans women) and most women who experience violence do so at the hands of people known to them, often in their own homes.

The ripple-effects of survivors being harmed through the criminal justice system run deep. As a community, we have been watching the Snelgrove case build and unfold for more than six years. The judge’s decision leading to the recent mistrial was preventable, and so was the harm that it has caused. That mistake was hugely consequential, most directly of course for Jane Doe, but also for so many others. When systems re-victimize and re-traumatize us, women and survivors of violence experience this in a visceral way. It comes up in our headlines, in staff rooms, around the dinner table, in our group chats and across social media. Cases of police and state violence are always shocking, always devastating, but they’re not new. The injustices survivors so often experience in the criminal justice system are unacceptable, unfathomable – but they’re not new, either.

In spite of this, women have always and continue to organize, gather, check in, create plans, and do what’s needed to help keep each other safe. Women have been doing this for centuries and long before colonization. Women deserve to be supported and have increased access and safety connected to police reporting and the criminal justice system. We commend those who report violence they have experienced. It is incredibly difficult, courageous work to face these processes and the consequences of how they might unfold. As a community we must do better to support survivors of violence when they come forward, and if they choose to report that violence to police. We also need to support people when they don’t, because we know that reporting violence isn’t always a safe option and almost never leads to conviction. We recognize that the criminal justice system, like so many of our systems, are often harmful and ultimately were not built to keep women safe.

As we grapple with ongoing injustices and staggering rates of violence, where do we find ourselves? What are we left to do with these collective experiences of grief and rage? We are urged to keep organizing, to keep finding healing for ourselves and our communities that exist beyond the patriarchal and colonial constraints of the systems available to us. Men and allies, we continue to ask you to show up, to hold yourselves and each other accountable. Let us raise our children to create and uphold a culture of safety for themselves and future generations. Let us continue to check in, believe in, and do what we can to build safety for each other. Let us stand in the legacy of women and communities who have come before us, those who have survived against all odds, and in memory of those who did not. Let us be ready to build and rely on our own processes, and seek avenues towards justice on our own terms.

 

Bridget Clarke

Advocacy Coordinator – St. John’s Status of Women Council

bridget@sjwomenscentre.ca

“Power of Women’s Words” Domestic Violence Awareness Campaign

The Transformative Power of Women’s Words

September 29 2020

St. John’s, NL – The St. John’s Status of Women Council (SJSWC) is thrilled to announce the launch of our Dear Survivor campaign inspired by the connections that real women make when they talk to each other about intimate partner abuse.

Empowering Ourselves: Exploring Intimate Partner Abuse is an eight-week Women’s Centre support group that explores the complexities of intimate partner abuse and its impact on families and community. Participants in the program wrote a series of letters addressed to other women who may benefit from an experienced perspective. The SJSWC has brought their powerful words to life in a series of posters that highlight the lived experience of women who have been in abusive relationships and the wisdom they invoke when they give rise to their own voice.

“Too frequently we hear from ‘the experts’ when, the truth is, women are the experts of their own experiences and they often have the best advice,” said Laura Winters, Executive Director, St. John’s Status of Women Council/Women’s Centre. “Our hope is that the posters resonate with women as they go about their daily lives at school, a doctor’s office, the grocery store, or a bar, and that those who need support reach out.”

The posters will be displayed all over St. John’s in hopes of reaching women who may need support and to encourage learning and solidarity. The posters have a tear-off at the bottom with the new provincial domestic violence helpline and a website that highlights supports and services in our communities.

____________________________________________________________________________

To Access help or support:

Provincial domestic violence helpline: 1-888-709-7090

Supports and services website: https://sjwomenscentre.ca/dvsupport/

Media Contact :

Laura Winters | Executive Director

St. John’s Status of Women Council/Women’s Centre

170 Cashin Ave. Extension, St. John’s, NL A1E 3B6

P: 709.765.4434   F:709.753.3817

laura@sjwomenscentre.ca

New Position! We are Hiring an Advocacy Coordinator

We are hiring for an exciting new position to support the work of the St. John’s Status of Women Council.

The role is to provide support around organizational advocacy, fund development, as well as ongoing analysis, information and solution-based recommendations for gender-equitable policy and practice in St. John’s and across Newfoundland and Labrador. Using a feminist, intersectional, harm-reductive, equity-focused and evidence-based approach, this position would produce analysis of up-to-date research and alternatives around current policy, informed by the ways in which poverty, racism, criminalization and social injustices intersect with gender inequity.

This position will actively increase and expand on the integration of evidence-based, culturally relevant, gender inclusive analysis into community engagement, action, advocacy and fund development through the SJSOWC. All work produced by the Advocacy Coordinator will be informed by the front-line service and programs of Marguerite’s Place, the St. John’s Women’s Centre, and the Safe Harbour Outreach Project, through active engagement and meaningful consultation with program staff and participants.

The workload of the Advocacy Coordinator will include production of relevant documents to support lobbying and fundraising efforts by the SJSOWC. This includes research and policy analysis as well as grant seeking and proposal writing. In terms of organizational public relations and media work, the Advocacy Coordinator will directly support the work of the Executive Director in developing resources for briefings, statements, and advocacy positions, as well as management of the SJSOWC social media accounts.

If you’re a feminist with a passion for advocacy, apply by 4pm on Tuesday, Aug. 25 by e-mailing your resume and cover letter to laura@sjwomenscentre.ca.

Job Description Advocacy Coordinator

We are Hiring! Domestic Violence Counsellor

Job Description Domestic Violence Counsellor

This position is a full-time, contract position* reporting directly to the Clinical Team Lead Counsellor. The Domestic Violence Counsellor supports all areas of the organization related to domestic violence. The successful candidate will divide their time in supporting the Right Here, Right Now counselling program as well as the work of the St. John’s Women’s Centre more generally. This work includes program development, individual support and counselling, group work and community training/education. We are searching for a passionate feminist who would like to work as part of a small team from a feminist, trauma-informed perspective.

Resumes with cover letters should be e-mailed to laura@sjwomenscentre.ca by 4pm on Sunday, Aug. 2.

*We hope that this position will be permanent; however, we are advertising as a contract until March 31 as renewal is funding dependent.

EQUITY STATEMENT
SJSOWC embraces diversity and is committed to greater equity in our program and our employment. Our goal is to attract, develop, and retain skilled and strong volunteers and employees from diverse backgrounds allowing us to benefit from a wide variety of experiences and perspectives. In line with this, preferences will be given to and applications are encouraged from women (cisgender and transgender) and non-binary people who are: Indigenous, Black and people of colour, people living with disabilities, women with experience doing sex work, women with experience in the criminal justice system, trans women, and 2SLGBTQI people. We encourage applicants to self-identify any marginalized experiences and identities in their application with the knowledge that disclosed experiences will remain confidential.

SJSOWC Solidarity With Black Lives Matter

“The St. John’s Status of Women Council stands with the Black Lives Matter movement in
their calls to defund the police, for greater police oversight and accountability, and for
the strategic re-allocation of funding to community organizations serving the most
marginalized.We are committed to action in ensuring our organization and its services reflect our
anti-racist, anti-oppression, and anti-colonial values. As an organization, we have work
to do in putting our values into practice.”

Read the entire statement here: Solidarity Statement SJSOWC

Statement from St. John’s Status of Women Council Board of Directors

“In the midst of the ongoing dialogue, the Board would like to affirm and amplify its position on advocacy in our community… We stand alongside fellow community partners who speak truth to power, who seek justice and equity, because only together can we achieve these goals… We echo the statement released yesterday by First Light and call for the complete dismantling of systems of colonial oppression. We support their calls for a civilian body of police oversight and for the allocation of the necessary time, talent and resources to the crisis of gender-based violence in our province.”

Please read full statement here:

Statement from SJSOW Board of Directors Oct 23, 2019

For Immediate Release

The St. John’s Status of Women Council/Women’s Centre is a feminist organization that since 1972 is continually working to achieve equality and justice through political activism, community collaboration and the creation of a safe and inclusive space for all women in the St. John’s area.

Through our front-line work, we see firsthand how laws can oppress and cause harm to women who are Indigenous, women who are transgender and queer, women who are engaged in sex work, women experiencing homelessness, women engaged in drug use, women who have survived violence, and many of society’s most marginalized, criminalized and vulnerable women. The St. John’s Status of Women Council has and will continue to advocate for law reforms that protect those we serve and promote equity and equality for all.

In response to concerns raised by recent investigatory reporting, we submit the following letter to the Office of the Status of Women and also ask for a meeting with Police Chief Boland to discuss SHOP and specific actions police could take to begin to repair harm and prioritize the needs of trust and safety in any collaborative work moving forward. Althought the investigatory reporting did focus on one individual, we are more concerned with the broader issues of the targeting of our SHOP program and the devaluing of their work.

For Immediate Release

Media Contact: Laura Winters, Executive Director, St. John’s Status of Women Council/Women’s Centre; laura@sjwomenscentre.ca;  (709)753-0220 or (709)765-4434

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

October 17, 2019

Dear Hon. Carol Anne Haley,

We are writing with a request on behalf of SHOP (the Safe Harbour Outreach Project), a program of the St. John’s Status of Women Council. As you are aware, our organization works from the pillars of feminism, anti-oppression, trauma-informed care and harm reduction. Our work is deeply rooted in the understanding that all women deserve equitable access to safety, services and supports that meet their individual needs.

Unfortunately, a recent piece of investigatory journalism has revealed back room comments which we believe fly in the face of these principles and the mandate of your Office for the Status of Women in the advancement of true social, legal, cultural and economic equality for all women in the province of Newfoundland & Labrador. The specific targeting of the SHOP program has led to feelings of vulnerability and caused deep harm within our community. In many ways, the statements made by government representatives devalue the exceptional work of SHOP, further stigmatize sex working women and survivors and run counter to the pillars of our shared goals as stated above.

Through our front-line work, we see firsthand how laws can oppress and cause harm to women who are Indigenous, women who are transgender and queer, women who are engaged in sex work, women experiencing homelessness, women engaged in drug use, women who have survived violence, and many of society’s most marginalized, criminalized and vulnerable women. The St. John’s Status of Women Council has and will continue to advocate for law reforms that protect those we serve and promote equity and equality for all.

Along with its advocacy work, SHOP is unique in our province in that it provides supports and services to women along a continuum of sex industry involvement, including those who have experienced sexual exploitation, those engaged in survival sex, and those who do sex work. The women SHOP supports are among the most under-served by the systems in our province, and every day we focus on participants and we provide them with services and supports on a limited budget, and despite being under-staffed and under-resourced.

What SHOP and the women we serve need more than an apology for these comments is a firm commitment to the services we provide and secure operating funding. We ask that you show support for the work of SHOP by committing to increased funding for SHOP and by bringing SHOP under the same multi-year funding agreement that has been established for many other community groups, including all Status of Women Councils, in our province. We ask that your government show your commitment to the advancement of true social, legal, cultural and economic equality for all women, including the most vulnerable in our society by providing financial and operational stability for SHOP. This would be a tangible way to begin to repair the harm caused by statements which we hope do not represent the views of the Office for the Status of Women.

The instalment of sustainable funding would send a message to current and former sex workers and survivors, many of whom are SHOP participants, that they are valued, deserving of equitable support and self-determination, and included in the fight for women’s advancements by the Office for the Status of Women. It would communicate that you are committed to rebuilding relationships of trust with a community left feeling minimized, silenced and targeted, and would show support for what we know are our shared values around the inherent worth of all women in this province.

We thank you for your time and await your response.

Laura Winters

Executive Director, St. John’s Status of Women Council/Women’s Centre

Caitlin Urquhart

Board Chair, St. John’s Status of Women Council/Women’s Centre

 

Cc: Ball & Parsons