Rosemary Brown Conference, Pt II

A Feminist Perspective on Human Rights: Cont’d

Last week’s post highlighted the key themes of the first portion of the Rosemary Brown Annual Memorial Conference, hosted in September at Simon Fraser University. The panel emphasized that women’s rights must also recognize the vulnerability of migrant workers, seniors, the environment and the inequalities which persist within Canada’s legal system. This post will consider the second panel of the conference, which discussed issues of elderly care, violence against women, social housing, and LGBTQ rights.

Elsie Dean
Women Elders In Act (WE*ACT Society)

We need a paradigm shift,” Elsie tells the hundred or so attendees at the Rosemary Brown Annual Memorial Conference. Speaking from a time long before much of the audience, Elsie reminds us of the advances that the feminist agenda has made for us today. An important contribution that feminists can make in the modern world, she asserts, is to apply its perspective to the environmental movement. Elsie exhibits that feminist approaches ought not be limited to the classroom; they should become a regular part of our conversation.

Beyond women’s rights and the environment, Elsie’s passion and activism also concerns senior citizens: “We need the government to put training the elderly into the budget” she says. Like Marcy Cohen (one of the first panel speakers) Dean’s emphasis on elderly care demonstrates the lack of social support in this area. Assistance should include technical training; many elders face issues of communication and access to information due to a lack of technological understanding, which may impede their ability to keep in touch with loved ones and friends.

Hearing Elsie, a woman who has watched the waves of feminism unravel over the years, one cannot help but feel inspired by the potential for change that this women has lboth ived and demonstrated.

Cecily Nicholson
No One is Illegal and Social Housing Alliance of BC

Nicholson spoke from an anti-capital, anti-colonial framework. Her passion and knowledge were exemplified in her poetry-like dialect, covering several themes in a continuous stream of paradoxes and truths. She asks, how do we defend ourselves? The discourse of rights exists but who has the capacity to speak? “It is the most affected who need to speak,” she asserts, “but they are the marginalized…the intercity, is not a separate body…the imprisoned are all one community.”

Carol Martin
Victim Services Worker Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre

We have to ask, the who, where, how and when, when we think about violence against women,” it is Aboriginal women, Martin emphasizes. In her moving speech, Martin exposed the truths of racism that continues to perpetuate itself within Canadian society. Specifically, she refers to the Public Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women, in which she argued only thickened the label against indigenous women, “the code of silence became deeper.” Violence against women in Canada continues to disproportionally affect Aboriginal women, and Martin’s speech acutely demonstrated this reality.

Shawnee Gaffney
Queer Youth Activist

How can we get to the adults?” Shaunee asked the audience. A former homeless LGBTQ youth, Shaunee has both experienced the hardships of life on the street as a young adult, while also managing to utilize her experiences to help youth facing the same circumstances as she did not long ago. 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ. Gaffney claims that this is largely due to in acceptance by family, the main support network for young people. Amongst the winners of the Power of Youth Leadership Award, celebrating “young progressive leaders in BC,” Shawnee has been recognized widely in Surrey and across Vancouver for her work speaking at high schools and organizing youth clubs to support LGBTQ youth.

As we have seen, a feminist perspective of human rights reveals the multifaceted and overlapping issues that women face, including: Equal representation under the law, access to social services, environmental protection, labour protection, and many more. The speakers at the Rosemary Brown Annual Memorial Conference not only shed light on these matters, but most importantly, proved the potential of those who continually fight for greater justice and equality.

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