The Power of Collective Strength

By Louise Pozdzik

Sometimes sharing stories of others who have faced their own challenges stresses the importance of sharing those stories to improve our collective human experience. Being courageous is only half the battle. You have to keep going. You have to persevere. And you must be aware that you are not in this alone. Being human is both singular and plural – I am human and we are human. Though we are, each of us, more! Talking and listening to each others’ stories can be the antidote to fear associated with this journey, and the key to creating genuine understanding and empathy of our joint experiences.

Women are a source of strength, of power, of influence. Yet, many do not understand their own ability to tap into the Inner Strength.

While listening to or reading inspiring stories may be an uplifting experience for a time for some, the stories are not enough on their own to motivate. Making the conscious choice to accept and pursue a challenge that is staring you in the face requires commitment. Excitement is a key ingredient in commitment, motivation and success. Success in facing challenges is diminished when fear is overwhelmingly present. Fear comes from childhood conditioning, societal and educational conditioning, messages from the false belief systems that we have held throughout our lives which tell us that we are not good enough, that we are not enough, that we will fail.

Desperation to survive, to protect and to provide for ourselves or our children, is often the motivator for change in a situation. After many failed attempts to face severe life challenges, I acknowledged and accepted that I am never alone, help is only a prayer away. I stay open to whatever and whomever arrives as a response. I am not advocating any religious practices. What I am saying is that sincere prayer produces miracles often in ways that we could not even imagine. Now on to my personal story, which has changed from the way I used to tell it as I consider myself Victorious rather than a victim.

In 1982 my husband was unemployed and attending therapy with the Workmen’s Compensation Board so our income was severely reduced. Not accustomed to being unemployed and at home on the farm with us, he was miserable and abusive towards our three children and myself.

Before driving to work as a camp attendant, I dropped him off at the bus terminal in the local town so that he could attend his appointment in Edmonton for physiotherapy. He was going to come home that same evening, though I didn’t receive a call from him to be picked up. Days passed and still no word from him. I continued to go to work at the nearby construction camp where I assisted the cook in meal prep, baking and cleaned the men’s rooms. One of the men was conscientious and always put down newspapers at the entrance to his room. Every day I picked up the carefully placed papers without taking the time to read anything in them. This day was different. The name Pozdzik in the Edmonton Sun caught my eye so I read … He had been picked up by the police and was in the Remand Centre after having been charged with theft of a vehicle, threatening a taxi driver with a dangerous weapon and resisting arrest. I was stunned!

He was sentenced to 2+, a federal sentence, and was sent to Drumheller, a maximum security institution. I managed to get focused and completed all of the tasks required of me in camp and drove home thinking, “O God, now what am I going to do?” That night I stayed up all night and prayed. At 7 am, my brother-in-law phoned me and asked if I would consider being a hotshot driver! After hearing all of the details I said, “YES!”

As I only had a small car, I knew that I would require a pickup truck so I called the owner of a vehicle dealership and arranged to have a suitable vehicle delivered to the local town. Joe told me not to worry about financing and to just go to the bank and make arrangements and then let him know.

Brian, the bank manager, had no problem giving me the credit without a down payment as he knew me well. Everything just fell into place!

The next day I received a call from an engineer on a rig nearby who had been in contact with my brother-in-law. I drove to the rig and was put on ‘standby’ for the next 24 hours. They had lost the bit in the hole and the roughnecks had to go ‘fishing’ for it. I earned enough to pay for the pick-up that time! During that time on ‘standby,’ my father-in-law had my truck outfitted with an ax secured behind the driver’s seat, a set of tire chains that he had bargained with a neighbour for, a shovel and a fire extinguisher. A few days later I was on my way to Calgary with my first core samples. From that day on, I was kept busy by three engineers in the area. My children and I never lacked for anything in the two and a half years that my then husband was in jail. We even enjoyed a shopping spree and a holiday!

On my own, I would have been challenged to arrange all that had to be done in order for me to prepare for the job. My prayers and constant gratitude started the ball rolling and kept bringing me the people that fit into the divine plan … Collective Strength! To my amazement, all of the people were men … Gary, Joe, Brian, Dad, George, Eugene and the three engineers. More, two years after X was released from incarceration, I filed for divorce, left the farm and began to move forward in my life.

 

What Does Women-Led Look Like to Us?

A reflection on the experience of the Righting Relations Southern Ontario Hub

By Rehana Tejpar

Where do the strong women go for support, when everyone goes to the strong women for support? They go to the other strong women – Righting Relations Eastern Hub Member

 We came together today, each one of us carrying a bit of the world on our shoulders. As women and people across genders in Righting Relations, we often carry more responsibility than our bodies can hold. Today, our meeting began with many of us feeling overwhelmed with the weight of our responsibility to our children, elders, organizations and communities. “I’m tired. So tired.”

Many of us thought we couldn’t make it. Many of thought we couldn’t stay. And yet, we came. And we stayed.

We begin by a check in, and we breathe. We eat. We laugh. We cry.

And then…we organize!

Today we’re designing a workshop on Community Organizing and Popular Education to offer our community of practice of transformative/popular educators in Southern Ontario who work primarily with marginalized, immigrant and refugee communities. We listen, ask critical questions, give feedback, offer thoughts, tools, methodologies and design processes that can facilitate a deeper reflection on our praxis (theory + practice) and move our communities and our world towards greater justice. We are motivated by love and passion.

What does women-led look like? We’re learning as we go. It looks like people being able to show more of their whole selves, even the vulnerable parts, and be seen. It looks like uplifting each other’s ideas, and seeking to build upon them, rather than breaking them down. It looks like feeding one another, checking in, laughing, playing and sometimes crying. It looks like rigorous thought, critical action and hope. It looks like thinking about those who are most impacted by systems of oppression. It looks like doing the best we can, with what we have, even when it’s hard. It looks like doing it together.

It’s not everyday that we get the space to stop and reflect on our praxis and learn together, bringing our whole selves in. Righting Relations is becoming a sacred space that truly recognizes how much we need each other in order to be strategic and healthy in our work. And although it’s sometimes hardest to come when we most need the support…we are grateful for the space and the door held open for us to come.

 

Walking with Our Sisters Exhibit

By Ishbel Munro

Walking With Our Sisters (WWOS) was a commemorative art project honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people, whose numbers exceed 2000 over the last 20 years. The project included more than 1800 pairs of moccasin vamps (representing those who were lost) decorated by contributing artists, and arranged on the floor in a winding formation. Visitors removed their shoes to walk alongside the vamps, on a pathway of cloth, to engage in reflection and show solidarity and respect. This decolonizing project, carried out by local Elders and volunteers, and guided by the Indigenous National Collective that organized the show, transformed the gallery into a ceremonial site of healing. Many of the visitors commented how unlike a conventional art exhibition it was.

Visitors to the exhibition were formally greeted by volunteers and guided on the protocols of walking the path alongside the unfinished moccasins and offering tobacco. The gallery provided an additional room where volunteers interacted privately with grieving relatives and friends. Volunteers also supported visitors who were emotionally overcome by the exhibition.

MSVU Art Gallery was the sole venue in the Atlantic Region, on the 29-stop national tour. The Gallery accepted the responsibility of providing assistance with travel to the many families and friends of the Indigenous “sisters” from this vast region who have succumbed to violence.

The opening ceremony was attended by Elders, including many from our Right Relations Hub and MMIW families from all of the Atlantic Provinces. We met the day before and our members and others planned the flow of the opening, discussed issues and shared stories. It was deeply moving. Representatives from as far a ways as Labrador and from across Atlantic Canada shared stories, teachings and songs with the more than 500 persons who attended the Welcoming Ceremony. It was inspiring to see how many non-natives came and were open to learning about Indigenous culture and the issues facing Indigenous women and communities.

Many of the MMIW families ceremonially laid in new pairs of vamps representing their loved ones. It was a powerful ceremony and took much longer then thought. It was moving how many people patiently waited for the ceremony to end so that they could through and view the exhibit.

Over the 2.5-week span of the exhibition, a further 3,000 visitors attended the exhibition. The gallery has never seen attendance like this. People lined up for an hour to get in. The exhibit brought the most media coverage that gallery has ever had, as well.

School groups were prevented from visiting by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union work to rule. However, volunteer engagement was intense, with about 150 volunteers donating their labour. Volunteers included persons of Indigenous, Caucasian and international backgrounds, aged 18 to 80. The volunteer WWOS Halifax Planning Committee was composed of about 16 individuals.

Two key objectives of the exhibition were to help MMIW families heal, and to raise awareness and cultural understanding in a very mixed public. The exhibit certainly increased the general public’s understanding of social justice issues through an experiential exhibit. It also brought healing to those whose family’s members are missing or murdered. It is hard to describe the impact and how it undermines a person when a loved one is gone through tragic and socially unjust circumstances. It can be crippling on so many levels. The transformation that comes from acknowledgement of your experience and sharing space with others who know just how you feel, helps a person to move forward in a good way.

This was also a community re-building event. In the past Indigenous communities were built on mutual support. Over time, through western influence people have become accustomed to being paid an honorarium to drum or paid as head dancer, or attending a conference or as an elder. This project was designed to re-kindle the spirit of community. Just like a wake, people were invited to do whatever they could to help out. People brought food, supported elders and family members and took care of each other. The full event was guided by the grandmothers who created a collective wisdom for how things would go. People became like a flock of birds, soaring together, checking in with each and adjusting the flight plan as they went. It was very organic and beautiful.

The surge of interest and good will from the general public also suggests that the presentation of WWOS in Halifax has advanced the national project of Reconciliation. We were proud and honoured to be a part of this excellent “teaching” event.

Popular Education

Popular Education

Book Cover imageECONOMICS FOR EVERYONE

The Economics of Capitalism

by Jim Stanford, Economist for the CAW

Jim Stanford’s Economics for Everyone has quickly become a standard reference for economics literacy and popular education. Now published in 6 languages, the book is used in higher education, trade unions, and community education initiatives around the world.

 

 

Book ImageENGLISH FOR ORGANIZING:

An ESOL Workbook For Immigrant Workers

Produced by CASA of Maryland, this workbook discusses the importance of employment organization and workers’ rights. It follows the steps of immigrants from coming into the US, looking for work and ends with the advocation for social change.

 

 

 

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PEDAGOGY OF THE OPPRESSED

by Paulo Freire

This book proposes a pedagogy with a new relationship between teacher, student, and society. Dedicated to the oppressed and based on Paulo Freire’s own experience helping Brazilian adults to read and write, It is considered one of the foundational texts of critical pedagogy and includes a detailed analysis of the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized.

 

 

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THEATRE FOR LIVING:

The Art and Science of Community-Based Dialogue

by David Diamond

Theatre for Living approaches the community as a living organism and recognizes when plays are created, they are made to help us investigate ways to change the behaviors that create the structure, not only the structure itself.

 

 

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THEATRE OF THE OPPRESSED

by Augusto Boal

Theatre of the Oppressed is largely based on the idea of dialogue and interaction between audience and performer. Brazilian theatre practitioner Augusto Boal was influenced by the work of Paulo Freire and uses theatre as means of promoting social and political change.

 

 

 

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UPROOTING RACISM:

How White People Can Work For Racial Justice

by Paul Kivel

Uprooting Racism explores the manifestations of racism in politics, work, community, and family life. It moves beyond the definition and unlearning of racism to address the many areas of privilege for white people and suggests ways for individuals and groups to challenge the structures of racism.

 

 

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WE MAKE THE ROAD BY WALKING

Conversations on Education and Social Change

by Myles Horton and Paulo Freire

This dialogue between two of the most prominent thinkers on social change in the twentieth century was certainly a meeting of giants. Throughout their highly personal conversations recorded here, Horton and Freire discuss the nature of social change and empowerment and their individual literacy campaigns.

 

FEMINIST POPULAR EDUCATION:

Transforming The World From Where Women Stand by Suzanne Doerge

The evolving theory and practice of feminist popular education has implications that stretch beyond particular workshops with women. Feminist popular education is transforming the world from where women stand. It is, as with popular education, also a theory and methodology for social movements, community development and research.
Download: FeministPopularEd.pdf (PDF)

KEY PRINCIPLES OF FREIRE

From: Training for Transformation, A Handbook for Community Workers by Anne Hope & Sally Timmel

This excerpt was written in order to support the work of community workers in Africa and provides a good background and framework for the philosophy of popular education in doing community organizing.
Download: Principles _of_Freire.doc (MS Word)

UNDER THE RADAR:

Popular Education in North America by Drick Boyd

Popular education in North America today largely operates “under the radar”; even so it is a powerful and dynamic social movement that is resisting oppression, fighting injustice, and bringing hope to people in communities large and small.
Download: UndertheRadar.pdf (PDF)

 

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Facilitation for Social Change

Social Change

ART OF HOSTING Harvesting Conversations that Matter

The Art of Hosting is an approach to leadership that scales up from the personal to the systemic using personal practice, dialogue, facilitation and the co-creation of innovation to address complex challenges.
Visit Website: www.artofhosting.org

PYE: Partners for Youth Empowerment

PYE’s mission is to unleash the power, purpose, and potential of young people worldwide.
Visit Website: pyeglobal.org

Video StillTHE WAY WE CHANGE THE WORLD

A video by Organization Unbound, a website that attempts to re-imagine the way we think about and engage in social change.
View Video: organizationunbound.org

 

 

 

JAM FACILITATION MANUAL imageYES! JAM ACTIVITIES FACILITATION MANUAL
Connect, Inspire, Colloborate!

An activities manual from yesworld.org focusing on co-learning, community building and healing.
Download at: www.yesworld.org

 

 

 

 

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Decolonization

Decolonization

BEYOND TERRITORIAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS by âpihtawikosisân

An article on fully recognizing Indigenous homelands from the blog âpihtawikosisân.com, Law, language, life: A Plains Cree speaking Metis woman in Montreal.
Visit Blog: âpihtawikosisân.com

FREE, PRIOR & INFORMED CONSENT A Fact Sheet on FPIC

Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decisions that could affect their rights, property, cultures and environment. They have the right to determine their own priorities.
Download: Freepriorconsent.pdf (PDF)

THE NEO-LIBERAL IDEOLOGY: A Historical Context 

Adapted from PRIVATE-PUBLIC PARTNERSHIP: Training Manual by Jojo Geronimo
Neo-liberal ideology: underpinnings and assumptions.
Download: Neoliberal_context.doc (MS word)

THIS ISSUE with Sherri Mitchell

Sherri Mitchell,a Penobscot Attorney speaks on the show This Issue about the legal and social pressures on Indigenous people as stewards of their ancestral land and water.
View Video: www.youtube.com

UNSETTLING AMERICA: Decolonization in Theory and Practice

Unsettling America is a blog for a network of autonomous groups and individuals dedicated to mental and territorial decolonization.
Visit Blog: unsettlingamerica.wordpress.com

WHITE PRIVILEGE Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, by Peggy McIntosh

“I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group.”
Visit Website: www.beyondwhiteness.com

Reconciliation By Rebecca Tabobodung We are waking up to our history from a forced slumber We are breathing it into our lungs so it will be part of us again It will make us angry at first because we will see how much you stole from us and for how long you watched us suffer we will see how you see us and how when we copied your ways it killed our own We will cry and cry and cry because we can never be the same again But we will go home to cry and we will see ourselves in this huge mess and we will gently whisper the circle back and it will be old and it will be new Then we will breathe our history back to you you will feel how strong and alive it is and you will feel yourself become a part of it And it will shock you at first because it is too big to see all at once and you won’t want to believe it you will see how you see us and all the disaster in your ways how much we lost And you will cry and cry and cry because we can never be the same again But we will cry with you and we will see ourselves in this huge mess and we will gently whisper the circle back and it will be old and it will be new

Rebecca Tabobodung, a member of the Wasauksing First Nation (Parry Island, Ontario), is a poet, activist, and filmmaker. She lives in Toronto. This poem appears in A Healing Journey for Us All, United Church of Canada, page 11.

Book CoverA HEALING JOURNEY FOR US ALL:

Uncovering the Wounds of Empire

A Response of The United Church of Canada to May 26
A National Day of Healing and Reconciliation

 

 

 

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CANADIAN TIMELINE:
A brief history of Canada & the Residential School System

A 22-minute video about colonization which begins in 1491 and gives a succinct timeline of wars, treaties, reports, acts, apologies, etc. until 2010.
View Video: www.youtube.com

 

 

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JOURNEY IN RESTORATIVE JUSTICE
Canadian Journey in Restorative Justice

3 Videos: Archbishop Prendergast sent an invitation to the Archdiocese of Ottawa to join the Canadian Journey in Restorative Justice.
This link takes you to three videos: catholicottawa.ca

 

 

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MOMENT OF RECKONING:
Turning the Page on a Dark Chapter in our Shared History

This video is produced by the AFN and is an excellent resource, featuring former AFN National Chiefs Phil Fontaine and Shawn Atleo.
View Video: youtube.com

 

 

 

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Renée Vaugeois

National Steering Committee

Renée VaugeoisRENEE VAUGEOIS

Ms. Renée Vaugeois originates from Wildwood Alberta and is a 5th generation Canadian of Ukrainian and French descent. She is currently the Executive Director of the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights and current President of the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee; a coalition of law enforcement and organizations working to address hate in the province. Renée is the founder and current Treasurer of Ainembabazi Children’s Project, an organization committed to strengthening children’s rights in East Africa through building self reliant families and communities. Since 2015, Renée also serves as a Director for Women in International Security Canada, a professional network of women in the peace and security field.

 

 

 

 

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Luke Stocking

National Steering Committee

Luke StockingLUKE STOCKING

Luke Stocking works for Development and Peace – Caritas Canada (DPCC). DPCC is the international development agency of the Catholic Church in Canada. Since 2006 he has been the Central Ontario Animator for the organization. His work mainly consists of educating and organizing Canadian Catholics to embrace the Gospel Call to international solidarity and social change. He has led trips for volunteer members to Zambia, the Philippines, Paraguay and Ethiopia. Luke has an M.A. in Theology from St. Michael’s at the University of Toronto with a focus on Catholic Social Teaching and 20th century Catholic social movements.

 

 

 

 

 

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Adriana Salazar

National Steering Committee

Adriana F. SalazarADRIANA F. SALAZAR

Adriana F. Salazar has been the coordinator of the Community Engagement program at the Mennonite New Life in Toronto since 2009. Her expertise and practice in adult education, training and curriculum development for civic immigrant participation, designing and implementation of Participatory Action Research to promote social justice and inclusiveness among diverse communities, and building cross-sectoral collaborations and partnership process span 25 years of work in Colombia and Canada.

She brings over twelve years of direct engagement with diverse immigrant communities, services providers and umbrella coalitions in Toronto around topics of economic, social-cultural and civic inclusion.

 

 

 

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