At its heart, West Coast LEAF’s public legal education program is about engaging people in conversation. We talk with youth about their rights and responsibilities under the law when it comes to sexual assault and consent, discrimination or other mistreatment on the job, and online violence and harassment. We talk to the frontline workers who support women survivors of violence about the legal challenges their clients are likely to face. And we speak out in the media to spark public dialogue about law and policy issues that impact the lives of women and girls. During our recent visit to Kamloops in unceded Secwepemc territory, we were lucky to engage in all of these types of conversations in just one action-packed week!
First, on Tuesday, we were welcomed to the Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Centre to present our Parenting and Family Law pilot training to a group of more than 25 professionals who serve women fleeing abusive relationships: counsellors, social workers, advocates, child and youth workers, and more. We were grateful for the collaboration of local family law lawyer Brenda Muliner, who contributed invaluable expertise as our workshop co-presenter; of the Kamloops Elizabeth Fry Society, who helped us organize the session; and of the Friendship Centre, who generously provided the space for the workshop. Over two and a half hours, we engaged in a rich discussion about how changes in family law in BC are playing out in the lives of mothers with abusive or harassing exes, and what strategies can help women cope with challenging legal situations like litigation harassment, denial of parenting time, parenting assessment reports, and the overlap between child protection and family law matters.
On Thursday, we started the morning with two back-to-back radio interviews on our #CyberMisogyny law reform project and TrendShift youth workshop about online harassment and violence. At 9 a.m., our Kamloops Youth Program Coordinator Magalie Knopf and the Thompson Rivers University (TRU) Wellness Coordinator Chelsea Corsi were interviewed live on local AM station Radio NL. An hour later, our Manager of Public Legal Education Alana Prochuk joined Magalie and Chelsea for an interview at CBC Radio Kamloops, which was aired on Monday of this week and is available on our website. We explained why “cyber bullying” doesn’t begin to capture the complex gendered power dynamics of abuse on the internet, and how we are working with youth to create safer online spaces and greater awareness of the laws governing online behaviour. It was great to be asked such thought-provoking questions and to add West Coast LEAF’s lens on women’s equality to the ongoing media discussion of online violence.
That evening (after several hours spent promoting the opportunity at an information table in the TRU student centre), Magalie, Alana, and volunteers Alejandra and Karis delivered a cyber misogyny presentation and adapted version of our TrendShift youth workshop to 22 TRU students, staff, and faculty members. The discussion was lively and the feedback overwhelmingly positive. And the facilitators learned just as much as the participants. We were especially proud of TRU students Karis and Alejandra, who donated their time to help deliver this workshop – their first TrendShift facilitation ever!
What an amazing week! And this Kamloops trip was just the beginning of our spring 2016 education travel itinerary. In the coming months, our public legal education team will be travelling around BC, from Kitimat to Kelowna, and from to Nanaimo to Nelson! Learn more about our education programs and how you can bring West Coast LEAF to your school or community group to open up conversations that matter.