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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).


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.


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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Happy International Women’s Day 2017

IWD poster_2017


Dance, Conversation, Food, and Fun!

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017
4:30pm – 7:00pm
Jack Blanchard Family Centre
7 Pond Street

All are welcome to attend.

Dancing! Resistance! Food and Fun! For International Women’s Day 2017, a fabulous committee is organizing an evening of celebration and bold action for equality. There will be demonstrations of group dances from a variety of cultures, which everyone can participate in. There will also be the opportunity to creatively express ideas for acting boldly together to bring about the equality of women everywhere. Quotations from women and art supplies and materials will be provided.

We will boldly sing Bread & Roses together, and Advisory Council Chairperson Mari Basiletti will read her International Women’s Day Opinion piece. And of course there will be refreshments! All ages and genders are very welcome.

Festivities from 4:30 – 7:00pm, Wednesday March 8 at the Jack Blanchard Centre, 7 Pond Street Charlottetown. This is a wheelchair accessible space.

For details, contact Michelle at or call 902-368-4510.

Thank you to the 2017 contributors to the International Women’s Day event for generous assistance. IMG_1236

  • Cooper Institute
  • PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women
  • PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada
  • PEI Coalition for Women in Government
  • PEI Federation of Labour
  • PEI Interministerial Women’s Secretariat
  • Public Service Alliance of Canada
  • Women’s Network PEI
  • Committee Volunteers – Farahnaz Rezaei, Hannah Gehrels, Kate Liu, Nancy Clement, Helena Emami, Donna Dingwell, and Josie Baker

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Bystanders Can Save Lives

PEI Family Violence Prevention Week, February 12 to 18, 2017, is focusing on what bystanders can do to help prevent and end violence. On December 6, 2016, at the Montreal Massacre Memorial Service in Charlottetown, PEI, PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women Chairperson Mari Basiletti told her story of surviving an assault and having her life saved by a bystander’s intervention. Mari’s experience wasn’t family violence, but the bystander did not know this. Taking action as a bystander can save lives. Find out more about PEI’s Family Violence Prevention Week at


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PEI Status of Women’s Executive Meets in Summerside

The Executive Committee and staff of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women met last week in Summerside. In addition to discussing Council business, members had a chance to meet with Melissa Smith, recent winner of the Diane Kays Memorial bursary.


In the photo from left to right are Melissa Mullen, Treasurer from Lewes; Mari Basiletti, Chairperson from Canoe Cove; and Yvonne Deagle, Vice-Chairperson from Miminegash.

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PEI Status of Women Announces Recent 2016 Bursary Winners

L-R: Mari Basiletti, Chairperosn presents a cheque to Melissa Smith, winner of the Diane Kays Memorial Bursary.

L-R: Mari Basiletti, Chairperson presents a cheque to Melissa Smith, winner of the Diane Kays Memorial Bursary.

Congratulations to Holland College (Wood Manufacturing-Cabinetmaking) student Melissa Smith, the recipient of the Diane Kays Memorial Bursary. The $500 bursary is for a woman-identified student in a post-secondary program at UPEI, Holland College, or Collége de l’île (formerly called Collège de l’Acadie) who is pursuing a field where women are under-represented or who is an active advocate for women’s equality.

L-R: Mu Wah, winner of the Inge Blackett Memorial Bursary with Mari Basiletti, PEI Status of Women Chairperson.

Congratulations to Mu Wah, winner of the $500 Inge Blackett Memorial Bursary for a woman-identified student who entered Canada as a refugee and is pursuing education or training. The bursary remembers past Council Vice-Chairperson Inge Blackett, who when she died was the last Holocaust survivor on PEI.

And thanks to Melissa for the beautiful cutting board she made from maple and walnut.

And also thanks to Melissa for the beautiful maple/walnut cutting board she made.




The deadline to apply for the 2017 bursaries is October 15, 2017.
More info:  Bursary webpage / En français

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PEI Woman Co-Chairs National Coalition/Une Insulaire est élue à la coprésidence d’une coalition nationale

December 21, 2016

PEI Woman Co-Chairs National Coalition

Charlottetown, PE – Mari Basiletti of Canoe Cove, Chairperson of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women, was elected this fall to co-chair the National Coalition of Provincial and Territorial Advisory Councils on the Status of Women.

“I am very proud to co-chair this important voice for women on national issues,” says Basiletti. “I am co-chairing with Linda Ross, the President and CEO of the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women of Newfoundland and Labrador. Linda has been the long-time chair of the National Coalition and is an inspiring and encouraging leader.”

The National Coalition of Provincial and Territorial Advisory Councils on the Status of Women formed after the federal government eliminated the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women in 1995. The Coalition consists of provincial and territorial advisory bodies from across the country dedicated to advancing women’s issues within their individual regions but who come together in the interest of women on a national level.

Earlier this fall, the Coalition met with federal Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu in Ottawa. “This year, the Coalition has made input on a number of important issues that affect the status of Canadian women,” says Basiletti. “For example, we’ve communicated with government about the national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women, the impacts of gender violence, and the importance of a gender analysis of the effects of pornography. We’ve also had the opportunity to congratulate government on the selection of Viola Desmond to be on the $10 bill.”

Basiletti is retired from a career as an occupational therapist, working for many years in mental health settings, including Hillsborough Hospital, Community Mental Health, and private practice. She is also a visual artist with paintings in private and public collections. She is an active volunteer with Canoe Cove Women’s Institute and many local community initiatives.

When she was appointed by the Prince Edward Island government to the PEI Advisory Council in 2013, Basiletti became the first openly LGBTQ member of Council appointed in the Council’s 40-year history. When government approved her nomination as Chairperson in 2015, she became the first openly LGBTQ chairperson. “It is very important to me to be able to sit at the table in a government-appointed role with the other Council members and to be accepted for who I am,” says Basiletti. “I can be myself and speak freely about my partner, JoDee and our family without fear of discrimination.”

Basiletti continues, “This opportunity needs to be available to everyone from diverse backgrounds, whether that means a Francophone woman who can sit at the table and speak her own language, or a Deaf or hard of hearing woman supported by sign language interpretation. Engage PEI has been doing a wonderful job increasing the diversity of our Advisory Council, and there are many ‘firsts’ still to come. Diversity and inclusion can only add to our ability to take part in and lead national conversations.”

– 30 –


Photo caption: At left, Mari Basiletti, Chairperson of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women; in the centre, Linda Ross, Chairperson of the National Coalition and of the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women of Newfoundland and Labrador; and at right, Eva Ottawa, Chairperson of the Quebec Status of Women Council.


Le 21 décembre 2016

Une Insulaire est élue à la coprésidence d’une coalition nationale

Charlottetown (Île-du-Prince-Édouard) – Cet automne, Mari Basiletti, originaire de Canoe Cove, a été élue coprésidente de la Coalition des conseils consultatifs provinciaux et territoriaux sur le statut des femmes.

Madame Basiletti, qui est aussi présidente du Conseil consultatif sur la situation de la femme de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard, se dit « très fière de coprésider un porte-parole national aussi important pour les femmes. J’assure la coprésidence avec Linda Ross, PDG du Conseil consultatif sur la situation de la femme de Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador et présidente de longue date de la coalition nationale. Elle est une véritable source d’inspiration et d’encouragement! »

La Coalition des conseils consultatifs provinciaux et territoriaux sur le statut des femmes s’est formée lorsque le gouvernement fédéral a éliminé le Conseil consultatif canadien sur la situation de la femme en 1995. La Coalition se compose d’organismes consultatifs provinciaux et territoriaux des quatre coins du pays qui se vouent à la promotion des questions relatives aux femmes au sein de leurs régions respectives tout en se réunissant dans l’intérêt des femmes à l’échelle nationale.

Plus tôt cet automne, la Coalition a rencontré Patty Hajdu, ministre fédérale de la Condition féminine, à Ottawa. « Cette année, la Coalition a alimenté les débats sur divers enjeux importants entourant la situation de la femme au Canada, a souligné madame Basiletti. Nos échanges avec le gouvernement ont touché à plusieurs sujets, notamment l’enquête nationale sur les femmes autochtones disparues et assassinées, les répercussions de la violence sexiste, ainsi que l’importance d’effectuer une analyse comparative entre les sexes sur les effets de la pornographie. Nous avons aussi profité de l’occasion pour féliciter le gouvernement d’avoir choisi l’image de Viola Desmond pour figurer sur le billet de 10 $. »

Madame Basiletti a pris sa retraite après avoir été ergothérapeute dans divers milieux liés à la santé mentale, y compris l’hôpital Hillsborough, des services de santé mentale communautaires et des cabinets privés. Adepte des arts visuels, elle a peint des tableaux qui font maintenant partie de plusieurs collections privées et publiques. Madame Basiletti fait également du bénévolat auprès du Women’s Institute de Canoe Cove et de nombreuses autres initiatives communautaires.

Lorsque le gouvernement provincial l’a nommée au Conseil consultatif sur le statut de la femme de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard en 2013, madame Basiletti est devenue la première personne s’identifiant ouvertement comme membre de la communauté LGBTQ à faire partie du conseil. Deux ans plus tard, sa nomination à la présidence était une autre première pour le conseil. « Il est très important pour moi d’avoir été nommée à ce conseil par le gouvernement et de pouvoir jouer mon rôle tout en étant acceptée comme je suis par les autres membres, a expliqué madame Basiletti. Je peux toujours être moi-même et parler librement de ma partenaire, JoDee, et de notre famille, sans avoir à craindre la discrimination. »

Selon madame Basiletti, « cette possibilité devrait être accessible aux gens de tous les horizons – qu’il s’agisse d’une francophone souhaitant s’exprimer dans sa langue maternelle, ou encore d’une femme sourde ou malentendante qui reçoit l’appui d’un interprète gestuel. Contribuons à l’Î.-P.-É. a fait un excellent travail pour améliorer la diversité au sein du Conseil consultatif; je n’ai aucun doute que d’autres premières suivront. La diversité et l’inclusion ne font que renforcer notre capacité à alimenter et à diriger des échanges nationaux. »



Légende : A gauche, Mari Basiletti, la présidente du Conseil consultatif sur la situation de la femme de Île-du-Prince-Édouard; au centre, Linda Ross, la présidente de la Coalition Nationale et du Conseil consultatif provincial sur la condition de la femme de Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador; et à droite, Eva Ottawa, la présidente du Conseil du statut de la femme du Québec.

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