Living Courage in Vancouver
After a beautiful ferry ride from Victoria, we were warmly received and hosted in Vancouver. This warmth and support continued throughout our stay. The public event on Saturday at St. Michael’s Anglican Church drew a diverse crowd of about 60 people from migrant justice groups, Philippines solidarity, the African community, the KAIROS network and students. Some of the audience members, especially the youth, had come directly from the Occupy Vancouver mobilizations. The local organization was fantastic. Delicious food was provided by Migrante BC. Chantal spoke forcefully about her work and the current conflict in the Congo. Lingling Claver, Chandu Claver’s sister-in –law, spoke movingly in place of Vernie.
What also struck me were the responses from the audience members, many of whom were human rights defenders, leaders and community organizers in their own right. It really was a dialogue with our sisters.
Amanda White, a Haida elder, who had welcomed us to the land earlier in the evening, spoke of how she had lost a cousin in the residential school system and another on the Highway of Tears. “Our struggles as women are similar, “ she said. But, she also spoke of the need to include men in this struggle.
Jackie, a Kenyan graduate student, spoke about how she had witnessed her mother being beaten by her husband and later telling her that it took courage to stay with your husband. Seeking another form of courage, she moved to Canada, thinking it would be a haven from violence against women, but soon found that only about 10% of domestic violence is reported. She spoke of the need for programs in the schools to address violence and the need to work with boys. Now, she has a ten year old son who proudly wears a pink shirt to show that he is part of an anti bullying program.
Chantal’s concluding remarks were challenging, but also inspirational. “We need to break the silence, seek synergy and build alliances with other organizations and to do this without fear”. She said that in the offices of Heritier de la Justice, they have a banner that reads “ Society without women, is a society without peace and without development.”