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Chairpersons Call for Increased Supports for Mental Health and Addictions / Le Cercle des présidentes préconise un soutien accru en santé mentale et en toxicomanie

La version française suit.

Chairpersons call for increased supports for mental health and addictions

Charlottetown (June 15, 2017) – Chairpersons of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women from five decades – from the 1970s to the present – gathered June 8, 2017, to discuss mental health and addictions services for women.

The Chairs Circle consultation concluded that mental health and addictions services have been underfunded and community-based supports for mental wellbeing have been lacking across five decades. They shared concerns about struggling and stressed-out youth; women experiencing mental illness as a result of violence and then having to grasp and fight for help; and parents, especially mothers, speaking up after losing children to illness or suicide. The Chairs discussed basic income as a critical factor for mental wellness.

PEI_Status_of_Women_Chairs_Circle_News_Release_photo_June 2017

Chairs Circle 2017 – Back Row (L-R):  Kirstin Lund, Dianne Porter, Anne Nicholson; Front Row (L-R): Mari Basiletti and Barb Currie.

Barb Currie, Chairperson of the Advisory Council from 1977 to 1978, reflected, “There is less silence and less shame about mental illness today than there once was.” Chairs Circle participants agreed that as more people speak up about their mental health and addictions experiences and reach out for help, more services need to be there to support them.

Dianne Porter, Chairperson of the Advisory Council from 1986 to 1989, talked about the need for a focus on prevention. She emphasized the need for early interventions that provide care for people before mental illness or substance use becomes a crisis. “We need to look at the root causes, especially when it comes to women,” Porter noted. “We are putting our resources into treating people when they are acutely sick instead of asking why they are suffering in the first place.”

Anne Nicholson, Chairperson of the Advisory Council from 1993 to 1996, said, “Time after time there have been reviews and reports on mental health and addictions services, and they all come to similar conclusions about what is needed – more community-based care and supports, more prevention, more resources.” Nicholson added, “People in the mental health and addictions system as workers and as patients know what is needed. Why can’t they be empowered and given resources to make the changes they know are best?”

Kirstin Lund, Chairperson of the Advisory Council from 2003 to 2008, added, “Part of making change in mental health and addictions services is recognizing the decades of research that have shown that trauma and abuse are connected to mental health. Violence against women and girls means these frequently are a factor in women’s mental health.” Lund said, “We need mental health and addictions services that are specific to the needs of people who have experienced trauma, violence, and abuse.”

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Mari Basiletti, current Chairperson of the Advisory Council, is retired from a career in mental health that spanned almost 40 years. “After all these years,” says Basiletti, “the resources and funding for mental health and addictions are still very low, and there is little recognition of the costs to society when people are unwell. There is no admission that there is a human and economic cost when people are lacking the treatment and supports needed to live their fullest lives and be their best selves.”

Basiletti pointed to hopeful signs that government is paying attention to mental health and addictions services for youth, especially the Insight program for mental health and the Strength program for addictions, and she feels positive about the in-school mental health support teams being piloted beginning this September.

“When pilot programs or new approaches are proven successful,” Basiletti said, “it’s time to commit to them with province-wide access and stable, permanent funding.”

Current members of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women will continue to advocate for good mental health and addictions services for women and all Islanders. The Council will assess government’s progress in the next Equality Report Card, to be released in June 2018.

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Contact:
PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women
902-368-4510
info@peistatusofwomen.ca

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Le Cercle des présidentes préconise un soutien accru en santé mentale et en toxicomanie

Charlottetown (le 15 juin 2017) – Des femmes ayant occupé la présidence du Conseil consultatif sur la situation de la femme (CCSF) de l’Î.-P.-É. au cours des cinq dernières décennies se sont réunies le 8 juin 2017 pour discuter des services de santé mentale et de toxicomanie offerts aux femmes.

À la suite de la consultation du Cercle des présidentes, les participantes ont conclu qu’au cours des cinq dernières décennies, les services de santé mentale et de toxicomanie ont été sous-financés et les lacunes persistent relativement aux appuis communautaires favorisant le bien-être mental. Elles ont exprimé leurs préoccupations quant aux problèmes et au stress que vivent les jeunes; aux femmes qui éprouvent des problèmes de santé mentale après avoir été victimes de violence et qui doivent ensuite se battre pour obtenir de l’aide; et aux parents, particulièrement les mères, qui font part de leur expérience après avoir perdu un enfant malade ou suicidaire. Les présidentes ont également soulevé le revenu de base comme étant un facteur déterminant pour le bien-être mental.

PEI_Status_of_Women_Chairs_Circle_News_Release_photo_June 2017

Cercle des présidentes 2017 : Back Row (L-R) :  Kirstin Lund, Dianne Porter, Anne Nicholson; Front Row (L-R) : Mari Basiletti et Barb Currie.

Selon Barb Currie, qui a assuré la présidence du CCSF de 1977 à 1978, « il y a moins de honte rattachée aux troubles mentaux qu’auparavant, et on commence à en parler davantage ». Les participantes de la consultation s’entendent sur le fait qu’il faut développer les services pour appuyer le nombre grandissant d’individus qui cherchent à confier leurs problèmes de santé mentale ou de toxicomanie et à obtenir de l’aide.

Dianne Porter, présidente du CCSF de 1986 à 1989, a souligné l’importance de la prévention. Elle a insisté sur le besoin de faire des interventions précoces pour prodiguer les soins nécessaires à l’individu avant que le trouble mental ou l’usage de substances ne devienne une véritable crise. « Nous devons nous pencher sur les causes des problèmes, particulièrement chez les femmes, d’expliquer madame Porter. Nous investissons les ressources dans le traitement des personnes très malades au lieu d’examiner le fondement de leur souffrance. »

Anne Nicholson, présidente du CCSF de 1993 à 1996, a ajouté que « les rapports et les études dans le domaine des services de santé mentale et de toxicomanie arrivent tous à des conclusions semblables : il faut absolument accroître les soins et les appuis communautaires, les efforts de prévention, et les ressources. Les gens qui travaillent dans le système de la santé mentale et de la toxicomanie et les patients qui y font appel savent bien quels sont les besoins. Pourquoi ne pas leur fournir les ressources nécessaires et leur donner les moyens d’apporter les changements qui s’imposent? »

Selon Kirstin Lund, qui a assuré la présidence du CCSF de 2003 à 2008, « la modification des services de santé mentale et de toxicomanie doit tenir compte des décennies de recherches qui démontrent que les traumatismes et les mauvais traitements sont liés à la santé mentale. À la lumière de la violence faite aux femmes et aux filles, ces facteurs de cause sont souvent en jeu dans la santé mentale des femmes. Nous avons donc besoin de services de santé mentale et de toxicomanie propres aux besoins des gens qui ont subi des traumatismes, de la violence et de mauvais traitements. »

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La présidente actuelle du CCSF, Mari Basiletti, a fait carrière en santé mentale pendant près de 40 ans avant de prendre sa retraite. « Après toutes ces années, les ressources et le financement accordés au domaine de la santé mentale et de la toxicomanie sont toujours très minimes, et l’on ne reconnaît pas suffisamment les coûts qui en découlent pour la société. On n’admet pas qu’il y a des conséquences réelles sur les plans humain et économique lorsque les gens n’ont pas les traitements et les appuis dont ils ont besoin pour donner le meilleur d’eux-mêmes et vivre pleinement leur vie. »

Madame Basiletti a indiqué que certaines mesures positives témoignent de l’attention accordée par le gouvernement aux services de santé mentale et de toxicomanie pour les jeunes, notamment le programme Insight pour le volet de la santé mentale et le programme Force pour la toxicomanie. Elle voit d’un bon œil le projet pilote des équipes scolaires en santé mentale qui sera lancé en septembre.

Selon madame Basiletti, « c’est lorsque les programmes pilotes ou les nouvelles approches prouvent leur efficacité qu’il faut s’engager à les rendre accessibles dans toute la province en leur accordant un financement stable et permanent. »

Les membres actuels du Conseil consultatif sur la situation de la femme continueront de préconiser l’offre de bons services de santé mentale et de toxicomanie pour les femmes et tous les Insulaires. Le Conseil évaluera les progrès réalisés par le gouvernement dans sa prochaine Fiche de rendement sur l’égalité, qui sera publiée en juin 2018.

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Conseil consultatif sur la situation de la femme de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard
(902) 368-4510
info@peistatusofwomen.ca

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Reflections on the History of Women in Canada

May 25, 2017

This past winter I participated in Women in Canada: 50 Years of Change, a study group on the history of women in Canada from 1967 to 2017. The study group, co-hosted by the PEI Aboriginal Women’s Association and the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women, met five times in March and April in the Confederation Centre Library. Ten to twenty wonderful women took part in each discussion circle to reflect on the advancement of women’s equality decade by decade over the last 50 years. Each discussion began with Mi’kmaw ceremony led by Elder Judy Clark. The women who participated came from a variety of ages, cultures, and backgrounds, with some of us Island-born, some from “away,” and some relatively new to Canada and PEI.

During each session we covered one decade, sharing our knowledge of significant events for women at the time and our personal memories and reflections. We started our exploration of women’s equality with 1967 because on February 16th of that year the government of Canada launched the Royal Commission on the Status of Women.

As our discussions unfolded, I learned new information about the history of women’s equality in Canada and PEI and also remembered many women and events that I had all but forgotten.

Some examples of what study group participants remembered: In 1969 the Canadian Criminal Code was changed so that it was no longer an offense to disseminate information on birth control; in 1975 the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women was established by the government of PEI as an order-in-council; in 1983 Lyle Brehaut led a committee that researched needs and obtained funds to open the first PEI Rape Crisis Centre; in 1995 Nora Bernard of Millbrook First Nation took the first steps that led to the class-action lawsuit for compensation for 79,000 survivors of Indian Residential Schools that was settled in 2005. These are just a tiny sample of the multitude of events and groundbreaking women we discussed.

As group participants shared personal reflections, I was amazed at how differently we each experienced the changes occurring in society for women, depending on our age, our cultural background, and our economic position in the community at the time. Since each group included women from multiple generations, in any given decade some of us were young girls whose mothers never worked outside the home. Others were single women raising children on their own while also holding down a full-time job. Day-to-day survival made it hard to connect with women and women’s movements. As one woman remembered a time of parenting and studying, “It was all a blur.” Almost all participants described at least one decade when the challenges of life meant their recollection of history was “all a blur.”

Some women had mothers who were feminists who taught them that women should have the same rights as men. One woman remembered her mother saying to her male partner, “I’m changing, and you can come along or not!” An Indigenous woman recalled, “In 2005 in the eyes of the government I was Indigenous again!” but also said that “discrimination persists.” Another woman and her partner raised their two boys together and were finally able to marry after being together for almost 30 years when same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada in 2005.

We have had victories for women’s equality and also some disappointments. A senior woman called the new Women’s Wellness Program that began in January 2017 to provide a full range of reproductive care, including abortion care, to PEI as the “accomplishment of the past 10 years.” Another participant reminded us that we used to have more women MLA’s in PEI than we have now. On the other hand, it was an emotional time for women to watch the new federal ministers being sworn in in 2015 and to see that 50% of them were women!

Women reflected on women’s spaces that existed during the 1970s and 1980s that eventually lost their funding and support. One woman remembered that in the late 1980s a small group of women established a Women’s Centre at UPEI after a series of sexual assaults on campus. Unfortunately, the UPEI Women’s Centre is no longer there. Neither is the women’s issues magazine, Common Ground, once published by Women’s Network PEI. Women remembered the Women’s Festival that also no longer exists. As one participant pointed out, a barrier to true equality was a general belief women were “equal enough.”

Through the five weeks, it was clear to us how easily women’s history can be lost or forgotten. Women of the past, even just the past fifty years, disappeared behind their husbands’ names. Their public accomplishments disappeared from their obituaries. Their images disappeared from the public record because they weren’t in as many public roles or as many photographs. Their contributions to oral history were passed on anonymously or not written down.

During our final session participants agreed that women have made many advances towards equality since 1967, and they expressed appreciation for all of the intergenerational sharing of experiences and memories in our study group. We also know that we still have work to do and that we are not yet “equal enough.”

As one woman so eloquently said: “We have a lot to do, but we have done a lot. It’s our torch, we need to keep it going for awhile, burning bright.”

~ Mari Basiletti is the Chairperson of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women

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Women in Canada Study Group 2017 Photo Gallery

Fifty years ago, on February 16, 1967, the historic Royal Commission on the Status of Women was launched. Using this landmark Royal Commission as a starting point, the Advisory Council on the Status of Women and the Aboriginal Women’s Association hosted a bi-weekly study group to consider women’s equality decade by decade, from 1967-2017.

The study group considered: What was particularly relevant for women during each 10-year period? How has women’s equality advanced in the last 50 years? Which women were left out of consideration and remain underrepresented in decision-making today?

The Advisory Council was pleased with the participation and engagement of those who attended the study group. Often the comments centred around when feminist awareness and ideals were awakened, related to personal and societal experiences.  Thank you to everyone who reflected so openly, generously and wisely to the discussion. Wela’lin.

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PART 2: Improving Sexual Assault Response in PEI

April 11, 2017

Recent events have focused the attention of many Canadians on sexual violence and how survivors of sexual violence are treated in the justice system. A review of how sexual assault cases are handled must go beyond determining what cases were labelled “unfounded” (baseless) and under what circumstances. We need to examine how sexual assault of adults is treated from the time of reporting all the way through to sentencing and learn what can be done better.

Much discrimination and pain results from widespread belief in rape myths. There are many examples of harmful myths: that women often lie about sexual assault out of spite or revenge or to get attention; that only young or “sexy” women are sexually assaulted; that women are most likely to be assaulted at night, in dark places, and by strangers; that men don’t get sexually assaulted. These myths are false, but, what’s more, they are barriers to justice for survivors of sexual violence.

What are some practical things we can do to battle these myths and improve sexual assault response?

Police officers of all genders and all backgrounds need to be well trained to respond to sexual violence. From the first contact between a victim and a first responder, the victim needs to feel believed and the next steps need to be trauma-informed. A trauma-informed response in the justice system means that all persons who work with victims or survivors understand the science of how violence, abuse, and trauma affect the brain and behaviour. As trauma expert Dr. Lori Haskell explains, the effects of trauma on the brain “interfere with the way… victims seek safety, process information, and remember details.”

Victims who go to hospital for treatment need to have access to nurses, nurse practitioners, or doctors who are trained in sexual assault response, such as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. Timely and respectful service by well-trained healthcare workers could go a long way to improving outcomes for victims.

There is clearly a need for better training for all people working in the justice system, including for judges. This should include education on the evidence that refutes rape myths, as well as the science on how survivors process assault and how trauma affects memory. Recently, federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould praised a project in the U.S. that invites external advocates to help with reviews of sexual assault cases. There are also precedents in many U.S. courts for including expert witness testimony in sexual assault cases.

In the courts and among the general public, there is a clear need for better definition and better understanding of what constitutes sexual consent. This education needs to begin with children and youth, so they learn about healthy relationships and respecting themselves and others.

As members of the public, we can counter rape myths when we hear them repeated. We can stand up against the stigma sexual violence survivors face and stand up against victim-blaming. We can practice consent in our own relationships and model healthy relationships for children and youth.

Most of all, we can believe survivors when they tell us they have been harmed. We can listen without judgment. We can say that what happened to them was not okay. We can tell them that the violence is not their fault. We can help connect people with services and supports if they want them. We can advocate for more resources and supports for front-line services for sexual assault response, through sexual assault nurse examiners, Victim Services, and the Rape and Sexual Assault Centre.

We can all play a role in helping survivors of sexual violence achieve justice.

Mari Basiletti is the Chairperson and Jane Ledwell is the Executive Director of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

Journal Pioneer article, April 11, 2017

PART 1 – Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault

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PART 1: Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault

April 10, 2017

A number of recent developments have brought sexual assault into the headlines, and little of it has been good news. A Globe and Mail investigation showed that, on average, 19% of sexual assaults reported to police in Canada get classified as “unfounded,” meaning baseless. Here in PEI, the police forces that reported their statistics had an even higher rate of cases coded “unfounded”: 27%, more than a quarter of all reported cases. Sexual assault cases are declared “unfounded” at a far greater rate than any other crime.

In Nova Scotia recently, a Halifax taxi driver was acquitted after a judge ruled that “clearly a drunk can consent” to sex. Last month in Newfoundland, a police officer was acquitted of sexually assaulting a woman he was driving home while he was on duty. Both cases brought to light rape myths that persist in society and the justice system, including understanding the laws and the meaning of consent.

In better news, Justice Robin Camp recently resigned and apologized before being removed from the bench. During a sexual assault trial in his court in 2014, he had asked the complainant why she didn’t keep her “knees together.”

It’s reasonable for women to expect that a judge will examine their evidence without their judgment being clouded by victim-blaming and prejudice. It’s reasonable for women to expect that they will get home safely in a taxicab or a police vehicle. It’s reasonable for women to expect that their reports of sexual violence will result in thorough investigations as often as other crimes.

Sadly, blaming victims for sexual violence is rampant not only in courts, but across society: so much so that we have to talk about rape culture and all the attitudes and myths that contribute to it.

Statistics suggest only one in ten sexual assault cases is reported to police in the first place. Charges are laid in only one-third of cases reported, and, when charges are laid, only one in ten cases results in a conviction.

To achieve justice for survivors of sexual violence in PEI will take concerted action. The province has called for all police services to review the cases they labelled “unfounded” from 2014 to 2016. This is a good first step, but a review of police services by police themselves is not enough. Who will clarify how the cases got labelled “unfounded” and by whom? Will the same officers that handled the cases be reviewing them? What are the benchmarks for an objective review? At a minimum, these reviews should seek input from community services that work with victims and survivors, such as the Rape and Sexual Assault Centre or provincial Victim Services.

The Globe and Mail investigation showed that police services with more female officers had fewer unfounded cases. Working towards gender parity and greater diversity in PEI police forces is also very important, so that survivors see themselves reflected back in the services meant to “serve and protect” them, and so that police officers with a greater variety of backgrounds and life experiences – including experience of sexual violence – can spread compassion and understanding for women and diverse groups’ experiences.

There are many ways the response to sexual assault could be improved in Prince Edward Island. Tomorrow, we will suggest some additional specific ways to achieve justice for sexual assault survivors.

Mari Basiletti is the Chairperson and Jane Ledwell is the Executive Director of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

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International Women’s Day Gallery 2017 and Guest Speaker’s Remarks

 A big thank you to all who came together to celebrate International Women’s Day!! Sifting through the many great photos of dancers, decorators, organizers, supporters and participants…a beautiful diverse tapestry.

Guest speaker Sandy Kowalik spoke about “Subversive Dancing.” You can view the text of Sandy’s remarks after the photo gallery by clicking here…

(You can view the photos by scrolling down on this page or click on the first photo and flip through the photo carousel that displays, using the arrows).

IWD GALLERY



Happy International Women’s Day!

Thank you all so much for celebrating with us today. And a special thank you to all of today’s dancers!

The American dancer Agnes de Mille once said that, “the truest expression of a people is in its dance and in its music. Bodies never lie.”

Dance is many things, including a tool of subversion. Subversion. Even on PEI.

Throughout the mid 1980s and into the 1990s, Women’s Network coordinated a PEI Women’s Festival, with a bit of funding from the former department of the Secretary of State. With a part time coordinator and a strong volunteer committee, this annual event mounted workshops, brought in speakers and entertainers, and focused on issues of importance to women’s equality.

Perhaps one of the most meaningful things that the Festival provided was a safe and supportive space to freely be oneself. Women could talk and laugh and hug and kiss and eat and drink together. And dance! So many of us love to dance! And sometimes women would dance together, sometimes even touching. And sometimes (gasp!) the women weren’t heterosexual.

I’ve been dancing with girls and women all my life. It’s fun! Yet in the eyes of the State this was viewed as a subversive act and in 1993, because of this, the Festival funding was cut.

According to Wikipedia: Subversion refers to an attempt to transform the established social order and its structures of power, authority, and hierarchy. Subversion (Latin, meaning to overthrow) refers to a process by which the values and principles of a system in place are contradicted or reversed.

Subversion is used as a tool to achieve political goals because it generally carries less risk, cost, and difficulty as opposed to open belligerency.

At the time, I never considered women dancing together as a subversive act. But it was. The structures of power, the principals and values of the system, at that time, did not (would not) accept a woman’s freedom and autonomy over her own body. And they still don’t.

I know that women around the world will continue to transform the world, continue to think and organize and speak and make art, until all women have achieved true equality. And of course, we will keep dancing! We will never stop dancing.

Again, in the words of Agnes de Mille: “To dance is to be out of your self, larger, more powerful, more beautiful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.”

Thank you.
– Sandy Kowalik

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IWD 2017: Be Bold for Change/Journée internationale des femmes : Osez le changement

IWD logo 2017March is here, spring is around the corner, and on March 8th we celebrate one of my favourite days of the year: International Women’s Day!

This year the theme for IWD is Be Bold for Change. The term bold can be defined as “showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous; fearless before danger; intrepid.” Alternatively, as girls we could have heard the term bold applied to us when we talked back to our parents: “Don’t be so bold, young lady! Now go to your room!” In this case bold means “impudent or presumptuous.” We may have gotten the message that being bold was not acceptable behaviour for girls.

Canada has a history of bold women. Against much opposition, women suffragists lobbied, protested and demonstrated for many years for women’s right to vote in Canada. In 1917, the first federal votes were granted to women who were in the military or who had relatives in the military. In the provinces and territories, voting rights were won province by province, often beginning with smaller groups of women (such as white women or landowners), with Quebec the last to achieve women’s suffrage in 1940. Canada’s Indigenous women were excluded from both federal and provincial suffrage efforts, and finally gained the right to vote in 1960.

The Famous Five activist women from Alberta took on a bold campaign in 1927 to petition to have women declared “persons” under the law so that they were eligible to be appointed to the Senate. The Canadian Supreme Court turned down the application. Undaunted, the Famous Five took the case to the British Judicial Privy Council and the Canadian ruling was overturned in 1929. Women are legally persons in our country due to the work of the Famous Five bold women.

In recent years our Indigenous sisters and their allies have shown courage and fearlessness in the demand for an Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada. Last year the Inquiry was finally begun by the federal government, and we all wait for answers to the tragedy of the missing and murdered women and girls and for the families of missing and murdered women to have the support they need through this grim process.

In Prince Edward Island, groups of bold women lobbied, marched and pressured the government for three decades to make abortion care available again in our province. At the end of 2016, the provincial government established the Women’s Wellness Program at the Prince County Hospital to provide sexual and reproductive health services, including pregnancy termination, for Island women and people of all genders.

We have made much progress towards equality for women. So why do we still need to be bold for change?  Because women in Canada only earned 74 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2014. Because women still bear the burden of more caregiving responsibilities for both younger and older generations. Because women in Canada continue to be victims of gender violence. Because women are not represented equally in our municipal, provincial, or federal governing bodies. Because we can see from our neighbour country to the south that rights can also be lost, as well as gained.

Let us all celebrate our achievements for women’s equality on International Women’s Day! And let us remember to continue to be bold, fearless, courageous, intrepid, take risks, and maybe even be impudent. Don’t worry women and girls – if you are sent to your room, there will be bold women behind you, banging down the door!

Mari Basiletti is the Chairperson of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

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IWD logo 2017Le mois de mars est arrivé, et le printemps est à nos portes. Le 8 mars, nous célébrons une de mes journées préférées de l’année : la Journée internationale des femmes!

Le thème choisi en 2017 est Osez le changement. Le verbe oser signifie « avoir le courage, l’audace de faire quelque chose, prendre des risques, être intrépide, ne pas craindre le danger ». Mais il peut avoir un autre sens. Par exemple, après avoir riposté à leurs parents lorsqu’elles étaient jeunes, certaines femmes ont peut-être entendu une phrase du genre : « Comment oses-tu me parler ainsi, jeune fille! Va dans ta chambre! » En pareil contexte, oser est plutôt synonyme d’impudence et d’effronterie. Et le message alors transmis, c’est qu’oser n’était guère un comportement acceptable pour les filles.

Bien des femmes audacieuses ont osé marquer l’histoire canadienne. Bravant les obstacles, les suffragettes ont exercé des pressions, protesté et manifesté pendant de nombreuses années pour obtenir le droit de vote des femmes au Canada. En 1917, le gouvernement fédéral accorde le droit de vote à certaines femmes, notamment celles qui sont dans l’armée ou qui ont des proches enrôlés. Dans les provinces et les territoires, cependant, le droit de vote a été obtenu progressivement, d’abord pour des groupes restreints (femmes propriétaires ou blanches). Le Québec sera la dernière province à accorder le droit de vote, en 1940. Exclues des campagnes fédérales et provinciales, les femmes autochtones n’auront le droit de vote à leur tour qu’en 1960.

En 1927, cinq militantes de l’Alberta, surnommées les « Célèbres cinq », revendiquent la reconnaissance des femmes comme des « personnes » sur le plan légal, aptes à être nommées au Sénat. Confrontées au refus de la Cour suprême du Canada, les cinq femmes téméraires portent la cause en appel devant le comité judiciaire du Conseil privé britannique. Elles obtiennent gain de cause en 1929. Les femmes sont alors considérées légalement comme des « personnes » au Canada grâce aux vaillants efforts des « Célèbres cinq » qui ont osé défier l’ordre établi.

Plus récemment, nos consœurs autochtones et leurs alliés ont fait preuve de courage et d’audace en exigeant la tenue d’une commission d’enquête sur les disparitions et les assassinats de femmes et de filles autochtones au Canada. Le gouvernement fédéral a finalement amorcé l’enquête l’an dernier, et nous attendons, tous et toutes, les résultats pour trouver des réponses à cette tragédie. Outre ces réponses, les familles des victimes attendent le soutien nécessaire pour se remettre du deuil.

À l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard, pendant trente ans, des groupes de femmes ont fait pression sur le gouvernement pour que les soins abortifs soient à nouveau offerts dans notre province. À la fin de 2016, le gouvernement provincial a créé le Programme de mieux-être féminin à l’hôpital du comté de Prince. Ce programme vise à fournir des services de santé sexuelle et reproductive, y compris l’interruption de grossesse, aux femmes de l’Île et aux personnes de tous les genres.

Nous avons donc accompli des progrès considérables vers l’égalité des femmes. Mais pourquoi donc devons-nous encore oser le changement? Parce que pour chaque dollar gagné par les hommes en 2014, les femmes ne gagnent que 74 sous. Parce que le fardeau des responsabilités familiales à l’égard des générations jeunes ou vieillissantes retombe principalement sur les femmes. Parce que les femmes au Canada continuent d’être des victimes de la violence sexiste. Parce que les femmes ne sont pas représentées équitablement dans les organismes municipaux, provinciaux et fédéraux qui nous régissent. Parce qu’à en juger par la situation chez notre voisin du Sud, les droits ne sont pas acquis et peuvent être retirés.

Célébrons ensemble nos réussites pour l’égalité des femmes lors de la Journée internationale des femmes! Et souvenons-nous de continuer à oser, à faire preuve de courage, à être intrépides, à prendre des risques, voire à pousser l’impudence. Avis aux jeunes filles et aux femmes : si l’on vous met au coin ou qu’on vous en bouche un coin pour avoir osé dans le bon sens, sachez que vous avez l’appui d’autres femmes qui oseront frapper à toutes les portes!

Mari Basiletti est présidente du Conseil consultatif sur la situation de la femme de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard.

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