volumeâ&#x20AC;&#x201A;55 issueâ&#x20AC;&#x201A;3 winter 2016
The Peak Volume 55 Issue 3 Winter 2016
On the Web: www.guelphpeak.org The Peak Magazine University Centre Rm 258 University of Guelph Guelph, ON N1G 2W1
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table of contents Introductions Introducing: 2 Transformative Justice
The Peak Collective
Call For Submissions: 3 Community Building
The Peak Collective
Transformative Justice On Safety 4 Intervention and 7 Intersecting Experiences Interview With 10 Ritten House Lessons & Reflections: 12 On Learning and Teaching Healthier Relationship Skills Where Abolition Meets 15 Action: A History of Women Organizing Against Gender Violence
Relationship Tools 23 On Accountabiliity: 27 The Role of Choice 29 When the Forgotten Resist
Erica Horechka Micah Hobbes-Frazier Mina Ramos
Kim Katrin Milan
#BlackLivesMatterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 18 Shabina Toronto Freedom School Lafleur-Gangji Keeping Our Sisters Safe 21
Amber King Amelia Meister Bee Q Erica Horechka Hannah B Kim Katrin Milan Leroi Newbold Micah Hobbes-Frazier Mina Ramos Naomi Sayers Sonali Menezes Vikki Law
Cover Artwork by Amber King Inside Cover Photo by Bee Q Inside Back Cover Photo by Bee Q Back Cover Photo by Bee Q
Introducing... Transformitive Justice
hat does it mean to hurt someone? In our world, most legitimate means of addressing harm, violence, and injustice are the sole province of police, courts, and prisons They are responsible for defining, intervening, and determining accountability for it. It’s a self-perpetuating system that doesn’t have space for what our experiences tell us is true: we all have the capacity to harm and be harmed. Conversely, Transformative Justice (TJ) offers a generous analysis of the systems of injustice that bring us face to face with our capacity to experience and cause harm and invites us to consider these dynamics more closely. TJ is a broad concept that holds many meanings and practices under its umbrella. It’s a philosophy, a practice, a politic and a way of being that doesn’t reject people outright when they are violent or abusive. It holds space for the complexity of abuse and violence to be symptoms of cultural abuse and marginalization. By refusing to define abusers and victims as mutually exclusive, Transformative Justice makes space for the complexities of healing. In this issue, we’ve gathered the words of just some of the many folks doing the work of transforming justice. These pieces provide insight and information into this powerful and important community healing justice work. We are so excited to be able to offer this to you and we hope it inspires you to engage differently with the concepts and practices of justice within your communities. ∆
Call for submissions for Next Issue:
This issue we’re looking to focus our efforts on the importance of meaningful relationships and how they are formed. What does a community look like? How can we safely access communities? Whose voices are heard? Topics include, but are not limited to; Systems of support Models of care Re-centering our movements Accountability Lessons learned Ways we take up space and empower our own autonomy Interdependence Accessibility and space Building intergenerational movements We publish articles, interviews, art, poetry, news stories, and all sorts of other stuff! Deadline for submissions: February 22nd Word Count: We recommend a word count of 1500 with a maximum of 2000. If you have questions regarding this please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org Please note: The Peak is prioritizing voices and work of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour. If you are not BIPOC identified please contact us with your thoughts on what you would like to contribute to the magazine. Submissions should be sent to email@example.com
right: Photo by B
2 Transformative Justice
The Peak awards honorariums for accepted submissions, including: art, illustrations, photos, cover art , profiles, short essays, reviews, report backs, feature stories, analysis, interviews, research based,interviews.
“ Transformative Justice asks us to
imagine what safety might look like without expulsion, without banishment, without prisons, and most importantly,
in conjunction with accountability.”
by Micah Hobbes-Frazier
“One of the most difficult impacts of trauma can be a split between two essential needs: safety and connection. On the one hand people become the place of danger that you need to protect yourself from, and on the other hand people are exactly who you need to be connected to for contact, relationship and often survival and safety.” – Generative Somatics
think about safety a lot, both as a survivor of violence and as someone that is regularly called upon to support transformative justice interventions into violence, and community accountability processes. These are some of the things I find myself thinking about: what does real safety actually mean, what is it exactly? How do we create safety in the midst of ongoing violence, and how do we maintain it over time? Especially in a world that is inherently unsafe, where violence happens all the time, and where we often don’t have access to the resources that help create immediate or long-term safety. And most pressing, what does safety actually look like when we don’t believe in throwing people away or locking them up in prisons? Safety is one of two essential needs for us as human animals, the other being connection, and both are necessary for our continued evolution as a species. If a person giving birth does not feel (or actually isn’t) safe the biological process of labor and birth will stop. And if we are not connected to other people we won’t have the opportunity to procreate and pass on our genes. The need for safety and connection are so strong in us that pretty much everything we do is about navigating and trying to get these two needs met, especially after experiences of trauma/violence. Ideally
4 Transformative Justice
safety and connection can exist together, meaning we are able to be safe in our connections and relationships, however, so often that is not the case. Most incidents of trauma/violence happen between people that know each other, and have some sort of connection and/ or relationship. That very connection and/or relationship can also complicate the need for and attempt to gain safety. What does safety look like if the person that was abusive/violent to you lives in the same house or same neighbourhood as you do, is in the same movement or organization as you are, or is a respected and active part of a community you are also a part of ? The need for safety doesn’t disappear, however, what safety looks like in those circumstances becomes much more complicated. It is easy to think about safety as sending someone that is abusive/violent away, removing and/or banishing them from community, or putting them in prison. That is our current idea and usual practice of creating safety. However, Transformative Justice asks us to imagine what safety might look like without expulsion, without banishment, without prisons, and most importantly, in conjunction with accountability. Most studies show that accountability rarely happens outside of relationship and connection. It’s the relationship and connection that provide the support, leverage, and motivation usually necessary for real accountability. If that is true, how do we hold accountability thru connection while also holding and maintaining safety for victims/survivors? Especially if what they want and need for their safety is to not have any contact or connection with the person that was abusive/violent. Transformative justice (TJ) and most other community accountability models, hold safety as both a core principle and a core
practice of any intervention or response. TJ defines the principle of safety as “liberation from violence, exploitation, and the threat of further acts of violence”. All Transformative Justice interventions and responses seek to create safety on three mutually reinforcing levels; individual (safety from immediate and/ or future violence), community (establishing norms and practices that challenge and prevent violence, and state (shifting power dynamics and systems of oppression to prevent violence). However, we are also forced to acknowledge that absolute safety on any of these three levels is not a static place, can never be guaranteed, and may not be possible to ever truly achieve. The reality is that given the current state of our world where abuse/violence is at epidemic rates on all three levels, especially in response to challenging power dynamics and resisting abuse/ oppression, being completely liberated from the possibility and/or threat of violence may be impossible. I believe, however, that while the possibility of violence may always remain, we can create spaces where the threat of violence does not exist. I believe that safe spaces on all three (individual, community, state) are possible and necessary, although sometimes difficult to create and maintain over time. Questions around safety force us to practice holding contradictions. However, even though the questions are sometimes complicated and we may not have all the answers, our transformative justice practice must still focus on establishing safety as a main priority for victims/survivors, and additionally for those that have perpetrated abuse/violence. This means that even in our pursuit of safety (and accountability) we will not engage in abuse or violence against those that are perpetrators abuse and violence. How we do this will depend on what is happening and/or has happened, what
resources we have access to, our principles and values, and the level of accountability those that have been abusive/violent are willing to engage in. Somatic healing works with safety as being “self-generated”, meaning that our focus is on building the internal capacity for safety instead of looking to the outside world or external forces to create and maintain our own safety. Our typical reactions after trauma/violence are to seek safety by controlling our environment and/or by controlling other people and their actions. Our survival thinking becomes: “if this person wasn’t allowed to be in this space then I would feel/be safe”, or “if that person would act in this particular way then I would feel/be safe”. As real as this might feel and as true as it might actually be, the problem is that we don’t actually have control over other people and what they ultimately choose to do, or control over the external environment outside of our own homes (and often we don’t even have complete control over our homes, especially if we live with other people). We can make requests, and sadly those that have been abusive/violent and/or the broader community may ignore or say no to those requests. Unfortunately people that have been abusive/ violent to us may continue to be in the same spaces we frequent, and may also continue to behave in ways that make us feel (and actually are) unsafe. Especially if they denied what happened, are still engaging in abusive/violent behavior, and refuse to engage in accountability. If we tie our own safety to other people and external factors that we have no real control over we may never feel and/or actually be safe. Thus we have to build and cultivate the capacity to generate safety for ourselves, or as Somatics would say we have to become “self-responsive”. This does not in any way mean that victims/survivors are responsible or to blame
On Safety 5
for the trauma/violence they experienced. Whatever happened is not their fault, and it is crucial that we always understand that fact. Victim/survivor blaming does nothing to ensure future safety, and in fact actually detracts from it making us potentially less safe. If we focus on blaming the victim/survivor we don’t have to think about the very real issue of safety because our thinking becomes: “if the victim/ survivor caused or is in some way to blame for their experience of abuse/violence, then as long as I don’t do/say/wear/act like that it can’t/ won’t happen to me. Therefore I am safe”. This type of reaction is completely normal because it provides a protective mechanism that shields us from feeling the fear, uncertainty, and lack of control that trauma and violence bring. It keeps us from having to confront, feel and acknowledge that absolute safety cannot be guaranteed, and may not even exist. Additionally it keeps us from having to accept and be with the fact that no matter what we do or how hard we try to create safety, the very real possibility of trauma and violence still exists. So then what does it mean to be selfresponsive and self-generate safety? It means building the capacity to make centered decisions and take centered actions that are aligned with and promote our own safety on all levels (physical, sexual, emotional, economic, political). It means building the capacity to make centered choices about who and what we allow and bring into in our lives towards creating the safety that we want and need. This of course means that first we have to know what it is we want and need for our own safety. It is this process of self-reflection that brings us deeply in touch with ourselves, which is the core of being self-responsive. Secondly, we have to have the capacity to make decisions, and to take actions that are aligned with our own safety. That capacity is both internal and impacted by the conditions in which we exist, and are making decisions and taking actions within. For example, a person may know that their safety would be best served by leaving an abusive/violent situation whether it is a living, employment, or other situation. However, if they do not have the resources necessary (financial, emotional, legal, etc) to leave or sustain themselves in a safe way once they do, it becomes difficult to actually take that action towards safety. Thus an important part of our Transformative Justice work is to support and increase the capacity of victims/survivors to be able to take actions towards safety, because self-responsive and self-generated doesn’t mean alone. Similarly
6 Transformative Justice
to accountability, real safety is rarely possible outside of relationship and connection. So that brings me back to the original question; what does safety look like in a Transformative Justice context? Well, there is no set or single answer because the circumstances and conditions of every situation are different, and every victim/survivor has different wants, needs, and capacities around safety. Instead of focusing on a static destination or single vision TJ works to develop a set of practices that are relevant to the situation (and conditions), and that align with our principle of safety; “liberation from violence, exploitation, and the threat of further acts of violence”. As we develop these practices we prioritize both the immediate and long-term safety of victims/survivors. What safety looks like for me as a part of a TJ intervention or response is supporting the capacity of victims/survivors to end immediate abuse/violence, and live free from the threat of future abuse/violence, always taking my lead from them and what they want and need. It looks like holding the complexity of creating short-term and long-term safety without needed resources (including alternatives to prisons), inside of shifting conditions, and often without accountability from the perpetrator of the abuse/violence. It looks like holding the belief that accountability and transformation of perpetrators is possible, while still being with what is currently happening, real, and true. And it also looks like holding safety in ways that don’t sacrifice connection, while also holding that it is not the victim/survivor’s role or responsibility to do that work (unless they want to). As a survivor of violence safety looks like and means always making decisions and choices, and taking actions that support, create and maintain whatever it is I want and need for my safety. It looks like being supported in those choices, decisions, and actions by people that I am in relationship with and connected to, and choosing to only be in relationship and connection with those that will support my safety. And it looks like accepting that my safety might not always look how I want it to because I can’t control other people. Ultimately it looks like and means remembering that even though others may not respect or agree with what I want and need for my safety, that I still have the right and the capacity to be safe and liberated from abuse, trauma, and violence. For me, that’s what safety looks like. ∆
Intervention & Intersecting Experiences by Kim Katrin Milan
lave patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to protect the ‘property’ of slave owners. Enslaved African people were that property. “Slave patrols helped to maintain the economic order and to assist the wealthy landowners in recovering and punishing (enslaved African people) who essentially were considered property.” That is still largely what they do. I think that as Black people it is important that we set up community based support systems so when we need help, we have places to call with people who aren’t going to murder us with impunity. Ciphers, kitchen circles, neighborhood watches and healing justice spaces are a few of the many responses that we have developed collectively. Personally, with folks that I know may be vulnerable for violence, I have been part of a phone tree of people they can call in an emergency. Structures like this are important for finding ways to navigate intimate violence while finding ways to evade the increasing levels of violence from service providers. Black women between the ages of 18 to
And as Black women in this work, the violence that we navigate is not only street based but also in our homes. 35 are most likely to die due to domestic abuse. Black Trans* women are disproportionately targeted. We are always the ones to take best care of ourselves; these structures have been flexible and changing and have always been more reliable than anything external. These structures are significant for all Black people and is one of the many reasons why remaining grounded in acknowledging multiple and intersecting forms of systemic violence as we continue this work is an absolute necessity. We have so much to learn from each other, and so
Intervention & Intersecting Experiences 7
Below Humming Bird in Cowichan Valley Photo b y Bee Q
much misogyny and gender based violence that will continue to plague our communities if we don’t address them.
violence I am thinking of community based healing work, transformative justice, things that would involve our peers, that involve Black women, other Black people - I am “Here’s the truth: friendships between interested in the ways that we change famiwomen are often the deepest and most lies, and communities and shift paradigms. profound love stories, but they are As Black people we transform the world all often discussed as if they are ancillary, the time! From Hip Hop to Jazz, we impact “bonus” relationships to the truly imporculture globally - as well as locally. I am tant ones. Women’s friendships outlast completely convinced of our capacity when jobs, parents, husbands, boyfriends, we are honest about the ineffectiveness of lovers, and sometimes children...it’s existing institutions. I am so interested in possible to transcend the limits of movements around transformative justice your skin in a friendship...This kind of and prison abolition. Generation 5 has some friendship is not a frivolous connection, really amazing approaches to healing domesa supplementary relationship to the tic violence and child abuse and to healones we’re taught and told are primary ing communities via justice circles as held – spouses, children, parents. It is love... by Indigenous communities across North Support, salvation, transformation, life: America. These processes recognize the need this is what women give to one another for healing to happen within communities when they are true friends, soul friends.” and for accountability to grow, rather than — Emily Rapp to attempt to disappear social problems by disappearing people. So often this work that is unpaid and life The things that are currently in place changing isn’t valued in the movements that clearly don’t work and prison definitely are formed or in the institutions providing doesn’t. With only five percent of the resources. And as Black women in this work, world’s population with twenty-five percent the violence that we navigate is not only street of the world’s prison population; if prison based but also in our homes. I don’t think that worked, the United States would be the safest counseling programs that are set up by these country in the world. I am suggesting that racist white institutions run by people with things should be radically different. declared and undeclared prejudice against We need to be willing to trust in our Black people are ever going to work to ‘reha- capacity to create the solutions we need in bilitate’ our communities. They might provide our own communities. We have a responsibila service, but they don’t provide care. When I ity to make this world more ethical than the ask for more in these situations of domestic one we came in to. ∆ Links: www.generationfive.org www.restorativejustice.org/press-room/05rjprocesses
8 Transformative Justice
Left Transformative Justice and Harm Reduction Project logo by Bob Cotie
Harm Reduction & Rittenhouse Interview by Hannah B
oan Ruzsa is the coordinator of Rittenhouse, an abolitionist organization that promotes community-led alternatives to incarceration, as well as providing support and advocacy to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families. Hannah: Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s start with some basic definitions so that everyone can be on the same page! What exactly does Transformative Justice mean to Rittenhouse? Joan: From a very young age most of us are taught to defer to authority. As kids this means when we have conflict, we go to our parents or teachers or other figures who are seen to hold power, rather than building our own capacity
to find solutions. This primes us to buy into our current legal system, which replaces parental figures with the police, courts and prisons. Social harms are seen as crimes against the state and dealt with through punishment and exclusion. Laws and institutions are designed to protect some communities while targeting and criminalizing others, which is why our prisons are disproportionately filled with people of colour, Indigenous people, people living in poverty, people who use drugs, queer and trans people and people who disrupt the state through political and social action. Our legal system does not allow for meaningful involvement of victims; on the contrary it marginalizes
Interview With Rittenhouse 9
and re-victimizes them. It is reductive: perpetrators of harm are called ‘murderers’, ‘rapists’, ‘thieves,’ without looking at the context and circumstances that led people to where they are, or acknowledging that many people who perpetrate harm have also been victims of harm. It falsely equates punishment with accountability and community safety. It does not make a distinction between crime and criminalization. Transformative Justice is about finding community-based solutions to social harms. All of the processes with which people might be familiar: sentencing circles, mediation, community conferencing – are all based on Indigenous justice practices. Transformative Justice (TJ) brings together the people most affected when a harm/conflict occurs to talk about 1) what happened, 2) the impact of what happened and 3) collectively coming to decisions about what to do moving forward. Critiques of TJ often are based on the belief that engaging in this type of process means that people don’t have to be accountable for their behaviour, but sitting in a room with someone you have harmed, looking them in the eye and hearing about how your behaviour affected them requires a huge level of personal responsibility. Transformative Justice is based on the premise that community members, not state institutions, are in the best position to resolve harm in ways that strengthens communities and makes them safer. H: Can you define what Harm Reduction means to Rittenhouse? J: Harm reduction is about supporting people to manage the risks associated with sex, drug use and other behaviours that potentially have harmful consequences. Unlike abstinencebased models which impose a one-fits-all approach (stopping the behaviour), harm reduction practices are on a broad spectrum and are focused on meeting people where they’re at instead of telling them where they should be. In regards to drug use, harm reduction can take a lot of forms in the community: providing harm reduction materials like clean needles and safe crack kits to individuals who are using, to outreach workers and to dealers who can distribute them to customers; sharing information and resources about safe use; training people to use Naloxone to prevent overdose deaths; and the creation of safe consumption sites like Insite in Vancouver where people can use in a safe environment. On a systemic level, harm reduction can involve working to raise awareness of and to change laws and policies
10 Transformative Justice
that criminalize people who use drugs. Drugs laws, who they target and the ways in which they are enforced can cause much more harm than drugs themselves. H: Where do these two things meet up for Rittenhouse (why are they connected for you)? Are there times when these two ideas come into conflict with each other? J: The majority of people in prison in Canada are there for convictions related to drugs or property, and eighty percent of prisoners are drug users. So harm reduction, including the decriminalization of drug use, is definitely an abolitionist/transformative justice strategy. We also found that community organizations, even those which are mandated to work with marginalized populations including drug-using communities, were often replicating punitive and exclusionary practices through the use of barring or service restriction In 2013, Rittenhouse surveyed people who use drugs who had been barred from community agencies.They identified issues including increased risk of unsafe drug use and violence; lack of access to harm reduction programs, health services, and other important services; and increased contact with the police and the legal system. These factors increase the risk of HIV transmission and lead to the over-incarceration of people who use drugs. People in prison have had little access to the social determinants of health (including proper health care) prior to incarceration, and the prohibition on harm reduction materials in prison has resulted in rates of HIV that are fifteen to twenty times higher than in the general population. Given that the vast majority of prisoners will be released into the community, this situation has serious public health and safety implications. In an effort to address/reduce some of the risk factors identified in our research, Rittenhouse implemented a Transformative Justice/Harm Reduction Pilot Project which was funded by the City of Toronto Urban Health Fund. The goal of the project is to build the capacity of drug-using communities to resolve conflicts - within both community agencies and the larger community - in order to reduce the risks identified above. The project involves three phases. The first phase is a six week arts group with the goal of building community relationships and introducing conversations about justice and harm reduction. The second phase involves recruiting and hiring service users/members of community agencies
who have been targeted by the legal system and who have used drugs currently or in the past. Participants are trained to be TJ facilitators, using a circle model and learning specific skills like the iceberg model of conflict, de-escalation and open-ended questions. The third phase involves the trained facilitators implementing these conflict resolution strategies in the agency and in the broader community. We ran the pilot at St. Stephen’s Corner Drop-In and WoodGreen Community Services, and we are now part-way through the training phase at the Parkdale-Activity Recreation Centre. Many people and organizations have been fundamental in developing, implementing and supporting this project to be successful, including Molly Bannerman, Sarah Ovens, Cara Fabre, Sarah Prowse, Jill Robinson, St. Stephen’s Corner Drop-In, St. Stephen’s Conflict Resolution and Training, WoodGreen Community Services, PARC, the Toronto Urban Health Fund, the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, and all of the current and former participants of the program who are practicing transformative justice in their communities. H: How do you face different power dynamics within the organization as a whole? Like how do you decide who does what and how do you make sure that voices that are often silenced are heard? J: Rittenhouse is a really small organization. I work four days a week (for a long time I was the only employee) and I answer to a board of directors. We also have volunteers, most of whom are part of our pen pal program and write to people in prison. Since 2013 the City of Toronto has been funding the Transformative Justice and Harm Reduction Project (TJ/HR), and each year that funding has included money to hire a part-time project coordinator. We have also been fortunate to have amazing placement students and staff from our partner agencies who have co-facilitated. When Rittenhouse is approached to do presentations or workshops associated with the TJ/ HR project, we make those opportunities available to all of the trained facilitators.
managers are very conflicted about using barring or service restriction as a response to conflicts or incidents that happened in drop-ins, community health centres and other spaces. But workers have to try to find the balance between meeting the needs of individual service users and trying to keep space safe for everyone, which can be really difficult. People also articulated not knowing what options existed other than barring, or feeling tied to organizational policies. When we held staff trainings prior to the project being implemented, workers expressed concerns about what the role of the trained facilitators would be and how there might be role confusion between the TJ facilitators and agency staff. Workers were also worried that they would have to actively supervise the facilitators and that it would create more work for them. Once the implementation started, staff started to see the facilitators as resources and supports. They also acknowledged that service users felt more comfortable talking to another member of their community about a conflict they were experiencing, rather than a staff person with whom there was a perceived power imbalance.
H: As a blatantly abolitionist organization, what are your interactions the criminal legal system ( jails, courts, police, immigration detention etc.)? J: We’re an abolitionist organization, and we also recognize that there are people in prison who are suffering and need our help right now. So I have a lot of interaction with the legal system: I have to speak to lawyers, institutional and community parole officers, COs (correctional officers), the parole board, wardens and others when I have been asked by people inside to advocate on their behalf or on a more systemic level. I have attended Pre-Release Fairs in prisons to let people know about services that are available when they are released, as well as conducting focus groups and attending educational events with other community organizations. Since 2012 I have been banned from going into federal prisons, in H: As an organization that does public part because of the type of public advocacy education and what sounds like work work I have done, and in part because of my with service providers, do you experience relationship with Peter Collins, an artist, resistance to these ideas from the service writer and activist who spent thirty-two providers you do work with? J: What we discovered while doing research years in prison before dying of cancer in for the TJ/HR project and meeting with ser- the palliative unit at Millhaven in August vice providers is that front-line workers and of 2015. ∆ Interview With Rittenhouse 11
Lessons & Reflections: On Learning and Teaching Healthier Relationship Skills by Erica Horechka
have no fucking idea what it means to be in a relationship and I’m pretty sure most people I have ever been in relationships with don’t, either. The last two years of my life have been all about learning what that fact means. I’m learning that the implications of this fact are huge, and the reasons for that lack of knowledge are many. I am not an expert on relationships, in fact I have had some really major failures in relationships. Having cheated on almost all of my partners, being involved in several (and counting) emotionally abusive relationships,
12 Transformative Justice
and having many friends whose relationship with me is defined by hurt, I know the only thing I am an expert in is failing, crying a lot, learning a bit, and trying again. I am a white (Ukrainian on one side, and have no access to knowing the other side’s lineage), high (both in terms of my heels and drug use) femme, cis, manipulative, relatively charming, learning disabled, student, eating disordered, mentally unwell lady. I currently volunteer doing Partner Assault Response (PAR) counseling through a formal agency. I
run 12-week groups and individual counseling sessions for people (mostly cis men) who have been convicted of domestic violence/sexual assault. These are folks who have abused and/or sexually assaulted their romantic partners and have been mandated by the courts to attend each session, usually to avoid (sometimes more) jail time, have their charges lessened or be released from custody. Obviously I hold a tremendous amount of power in these spaces, where at the end of the 12 weeks I write a letter to the crown stating what I believe their chances of ‘re-offending’ are and recommendations for more resources, such as drug treatment. The work I am doing of intervening with folks who are ‘perpetrators’ of domestic violence involves teaching/learning the skills involved in being in healthy relationships. It does not feel as radical as I thought it would. It is much more human in its form. I try to tell myself and those around me that if you can’t trust how and why learning basic relationship skills is important radical work, and inherently involved with transformative justice; that is okay, but it’s your truth and way of being. This isn’t to say the best way of doing this is through a formal agency/through court mandated programs, and for sure I am not always the appropriate person to teach this stuff. However, I often feel that in our communities we use words like ‘Transformative Justice’ as catchy, sexy words and our heads go to this amazing, big work where we get to use such phrases and radical sentiments. However, I think my experience has been a key element of this radical transformative work: I’m just learning/teaching some basic shit (which I struggle to apply in my own life) and having conversations about being in relationships with our self, the world, and others and hoping that will lead to less hurt in this world. There are all sorts of lessons I have learned from my work with these men. Confusing and unsolved questions and ‘facts’ have arisen inside me and have made me question some of my earlier simpler radical ideas, that I once thought set me apart from the average person. I am learning the complexity of trusting the police’s accounts of an event more than the people I am supporting (men who abuse), the therapeutic value of humanity, self worth and accepting contradictions in both my own and other people’s stories and beliefs. Anyways what I do is talk with people about some very basic relationship skills. These lessons would be learnt if in a different, non-colonial world from elders, family,
teachers, the land, and from ourselves rather than a nice, business-casual-wearing white women in a place where people find themselves in to avoid jail.
Reasons for unhealthy relationships & abuse: The work I do is a product of colonialism. The work I do is a product of jails, of schools with curriculums that ignore the most important lessons and stories. It is a product of a world where people, like me, do not know how to interact with and be in relation. Furthermore, the reason I get to be the one doing this work is a result of white supremacy. I think there is amazing, powerful and useful stuff to be said (and being said) about colonialism and a lack of ability to be in healthy relationships, I am not the guy to be saying that stuff. I do have to be honest though that it guides some of my work. It is common in many traditional ways of being in the world, that learning to be in relationships comes from the land, it comes from family, the work done in day to day life. The lessons/tools for relation comes from all around us, the basis of being in this world, is relationship. It is the heart of self. As I learn about my peoples traditions and the way they relate to each other and the land, I’m seeing the ways capitalism/globalization has ruined being able to foster healthy relations and the negative impacts that has caused through domestic violence.The ancestors that I know of create beautiful eggs, which at one point symbolized the sun, and the way the sun creates and sustains life to give thanks to the sun and celebrate their relationship to light. Nowadays though, the creation of these eggs, and the reason it is done is lost; it is about creating ‘art,’ it has been commodified and de-spiritualised and is no longer a ritual of relationship. Many acts that support relationship have been lost. The stuff that makes up our day to day life no longer fosters a sense of relationship/self in relationships. Instead of harvesting potatoes with my grandmother I am anxiously glued to facebook awaiting more likes. I have no time or energy to reflect on who I am in relation to the creations around me; I don’t know what the content of my relations are. It is ironic, as we live in a world/culture that holds romantic partnership up as the most important thing(see any romantic movie, tv show, etc), yet never teaches us how to be in healthy relationship. When I think of this stuff I think of the way one may relate to a tree, you may walk past it every day, you may or may not have thoughts
Lessons & Reflections: On Learning & Teaching Healthier Relationships 13
about that tree, you may or may not have big feelings about that tree. Regardless though you are in some kind of relationship with that tree, whether you acknowledge it or not. And if you are not aware of the content of that relationship, who you are in it, the dynamics of it; it is unhealthy one. If you never sit and own and chill with those feelings it/the relation created inside of you; it’s not healthy. Maybe it is a giant oak, that is trying to teach you a lesson in forgiveness, or a struggling willow reaching out to you for a little help, or to convey its anger at you. Maybe the tree reminds you of a abusive ex partner or a time of death, maybe your people use to make baskets out of that willow in order to carry eggs or medicine in them. You may or may not know what feelings that tree triggers in you, it may be rage, love, abandonment, excitement. That tree provides you with oxygen, toilet paper, calmness. You may trigger huge feelings in that tree or deep dark resentment. But in the context of this world, all you know about your relationship to that tree is that it’s there and maybe that it does some good things for you, and maybe its given name. The fact is though, you and that tree have a history, a relationship. You have conflict and needs but without learning to hold that in yourself, unpack it and acknowledge it, you will never be able to be in healthy relations with the tree or to learn the lessons you have in order to glean from the relationship. You will also not be able to be in healthy relationships with others.
to own that your relations are what build and create you, but that you are also responsible for the content of those relations and how you are in and outside of them. A key part of being in relationships is listening to and understanding how someone else experiences us, but how could we possibly do that if we don’t experience ourselves? The same goes with our own gifts, if we can’t enjoy our gifts, no one else can either. Know your limitations, so when they are pointed out to you, you won’t explode. You also won’t experience co-dependency. This does not happens in a linear fashion though as (the abliest and kinda fucked up) sentiments like; ‘love yourself before you love others’ implies. Relationships often lead us to a place where we see contradictions in ourselves, it is what we do with these contradictions that is important. I have found in my relationships where I hear and learn things that I believe to be true that don’t fit within who I am currently. This leaves me needing to expand my ideas of who I am and what beliefs I carry. It is the space, and time you spend within that space, between my two selves that is important and transformative. When we’re in relationships we have to learn how to come home to ourselves and interact properly inside the home we create in ourselves. What are your house rules? How do you follow them!? We have to learn to become a container big enough to hold our own shit. We need to create container (a space) within ourselves that has the capacity to reflect, hold, challenge, cradle, smash and love our emotions and reactions; building this is the work of stopping abuse. We need to be able to take a step back from this container and look at it. When I think of my own container I try and locate it in my body. For me in lives in my gut, just below my navel. I can close my eyes and picture it, splash around in it, and ideally expand it as needed. Which allows me to examine the stuff inside it.This is part of learning how to come home to ourselves. We need be able to have a space to bring our lessons to that is comfortable and safe and not full of traps and distractions! These are just a few of the things I have learned along my path to building better relationships. ∆
Things to understand before talking about being in healthy(er) relationships It is often said that in order to love others, you must love yourself first. Or that the most important relationship is your relationship with yourself, as it guides all of the other relationships you’re in. I don’t think the sentiments behind these thoughts are untrue, however they are very individualistic, and colonial in their form. The fact is, in the absence of a relationship, it becomes impossible to answer any question. It is our relationships that help us grow and be human. A lot of being in a relationship is learning how to deal with the growth and self-talk/thoughts that relationships bring up. It is true that the work we do outside of relationship is important and inherently tied to our ability to be in good relationships. And it’s true a lot of being in healthy relationships For practical tools to help build healthier with others is based on our ability to under- relationships, see Realtionships Tools on stand and process our emotions and reactions page 23. internally. I find it an important line to tow;
14 Transformative Justice
Where Abolition Meets Action: A History of Women Organizing Against Gender Violence by Vikki Law (Adapted for The Peak by Sonali Menezes)
here is a growing movement toward abolishing prisons. Anti-violence organizers are calling on prison abolitionists to take gender violence seriously in developing initiatives to address the problem within this context. Fuelled by increasing recognition that women of colour, immigrant, queer, transgender, poor, and other marginalized women are often further brutalized – rather than protected – by the police, grassroots groups, and activists throughout the world, are organizing community alternatives to calling 911. These initiatives are not new. Throughout history, women have acted and organized to ensure their own as well as their loved ones’ safety. This article examines both past and present models of women’s community selfdefence practices against interpersonal violence by exploring methods women have employed to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their communities. Storytelling to connect past, present, and future efforts to current initiatives allows us to both envision a future in which police and prisons are not the sole solutions to gender violence and to know that such possibilities can – and, in some small pockets, do or did – exist. While activists and others increasingly embrace the idea of community-based accountability as an alternative to the police, many have difficulty envisioning what accountability processes might look like.
and interventions to domestic violence, family violence, and sexual abuse. In their 2001 statement on gender violence and incarceration, Critical Resistance and INCITE! Women of Colour Against Violence challenged communities to not only come up with ways to creatively address violence, but also to document these processes: ‘Transformative practices emerging from local communities should be documented and disseminated to promote collective responses to violence’ (Critical Resistance and INCITE!, 2001). By connecting past and current organizing initiatives from across the globe, ‘Where Abolition Meets Actions’ hopes to contribute to the conversations around safety and abolition as well as inspires readers to organize in their own communities.
The 1970s women’s liberation: defending themselves and each other Women’s liberation movements of the 1970s allowed women to begin talking openly about their experiences of sexual assault. Discussions led to a growing realization that women need to take their safety into their own hands and fight back. Some women formed street patrols to watch for and prevent violence against women. In Cambridgeport, Massachusetts, members of Women’s Liberation group Cell 16 began patrolling the streets where women often left their factory jobs after dark. Students at Storytelling to connect Iowa State University and the University of past, present and future Kentucky responded, forming patrols on their In 2004, Mimi Kim launched Creative campus. The lack of police and judicial response Interventions, a resource centre to promote to gender violence led to increasing recognicommunity-based responses to interper- tion that women needed to learn to physically sonal violence. The group developed STOP defend themselves from male violence. (StoryTelling and Organizing Project), a In 1974, believing that all people had the resource for people to share their experiences right to live free from violence and recognizwith community-based accountability models ing that women were often disproportionately Where Abolition Meets Action: A History of Women Organizing Against Gender Violence 15
economically, or socially marginalized. Instead, the focus on criminalization and incarceration often places them at further risk of both interpersonal and state violence as well as of arrest, incarceration, and, for immigrant women, deportation (Critical Resistance and INCITE!, 2001). Knowing this, women have acted both individually and collectively to defend themselves. Sex workers, for instance, have organized in different ways to protect themselves from violence. In March 2006, police responded to the murders of three sex workers in Daytona Beach, Florida, by cracking down on the sex trade. Recognizing that the police response did more to target than to protect them, streetbased sex workers armed themselves with knives and other weapons to protect themselves and each other and to find the killer. In 1995, Stella Sex Workers Alliance was formed in Montréal by sex workers, public health researchers, and sympathizers. Sex workers are equipped with information and support to help them keep safe. Stella compiles, updates, and circulates a Bad Tricks and Assaulters list, enabling sex workers to share information and avoid dangerous situations. They also produce and provide free Anti-violence organizing reference guides that cover working in communities of color conditions, current solicitation laws, Communities of colour in the US also and health information. Stella also developed methods to ensure women’s advocates for the decriminalization safety without relying on a system that of sex work, recognizing that the has historically ignored their safety or criminalization renders sex workers further threatened it by using gender vulnerable to both outside violence violence as a pretext for increased and police abuse (Stella, n.d.). Sex workers are also taking direct force, brutality, and mass incarcera- Contemporary tion against community members. In organizing against action to stop sex trafficking. In 1997, former sex workers began guarding 1979, when Black women were found gender violence brutally murdered in Boston’s primar- Recent legislation, such as the US checkpoints along the Nepal–India ily Black Roxbury and Dorchester Violence Against Women Act (1994), border to rescue adolescent Nepalese neighbourhoods, residents organized recognizes the problem of gender girls from being smuggled into India. the Dorchester Green Light Program. violence and seeks to increase police The idea emerged with the women The program provided identifiable responsiveness but does little to living at Maiti Nepal, a home in safe houses for women who were protect women who are politically, Kathmandu for women returning
from Indian brothels. Many of the women, who had been kidnapped as adolescents and sold into the sex industry, were ashamed and angry about their experiences and wanted to transform their anger into action. They set up four guard posts along the border and began monitoring for human trafficking. During the first three years, the women caught 70 traffickers, saving 240 girls from India’s brothels. Women marginalized by other factors, such as racism and poverty, have also organized to protect themselves against both interpersonal and state violence. In 2000, the police murders of two young women of colour sparked a dialogue about violence against women among members of Sista II Sista, a collective of women of colour in Brooklyn, New York. Their response was to form Sistas Liberated Ground, a zone in their neighbourhood where crimes against women would not be tolerated. ‘…Our dependence on a police system that was inherently sexist, homophobic, racist, and classist did not decrease the ongoing violence against women we were seeing in our neighbourhoods. In fact, at times, the police themselves were its main perpetrators,’ members of the group stated in 2007 (Burrowes, Cousins, Rojas, & Ude, 2007, p.229). They instituted an ‘action line,’ which women could call, to explore the options that they – and the group – could take to address violence in their lives. Sister Circles were also established where women could talk about violence and other problems in their daily lives and encouraged the community – rather than the individual woman – to find solutions. In one instance, a woman at the Sister Circle talked about the man who had been stalking her for over a year and, in response, members of the Sister Circle confronted the man at the barbershop where he worked. His male co-workers told the stalker that, if he continued to harass the woman, he
16 Transformative Justice
Where Abolition Meets Action: A History of Women Organizing Against Gender Violence 17
impacted by violence, Nadia Telsey and Annie Ellman started Brooklyn Women’s Martial Arts (BWMA) in New York City. ‘I have felt that it [self-defense] is connected to selfdetermination,’ stated Ellman. By the mid-1970s, the concept of women’s self-defense had become so popular that women began taking training into their own hands to protect them from violence. Although much of the 1970s rhetoric and organizing around gender violence presupposed that women were attacked by strangers, women also recognized and organized against violence perpetrated by those that they know, including spouses and intimate partners. In Neu-Isenburg, a small town near Frankfurt, Germany, a group of women called Fan-Shen decided that, rather than establish a shelter for abused women, they would force the abuser out of the house. When a woman called the local women’s shelter, the group arrived at her home to not only confront her abuser, but also occupy the house as round-the-clock guards to the woman until her abuser moved out. When the strategy was reported in 1977, FanShen had already been successful in five instances (‘Women’s Patrol,’ 1977, p.18).
threatened or assaulted on the streets. Program coordinators, who lived in Dorchester, visited and spoke at community groups and gatherings in their areas. Residents interested in opening their homes as safe houses filled out applications, which included references and descriptions of the house living situation. The program screened each application and checked the references. Once accepted, the resident attended orientation sessions, which included self-defense instruction. They were then given a green light bulb for their porch light; when someone was at home, the green light was turned on as a signal to anyone in trouble. Within eight months, over 100 safe houses had been established (Dejanikus & Kelly, 1979, p.7). At a 1986 conference on ending violence against women at UCLA, Beth Richie spoke about a community-based intervention program in East Harlem, a New York neighbourhood that was predominantly Black and Latino. Community residents organized to take responsibility for women’s safety. ‘Safety watchers’ visited the house when called by the abused person or the neighbours. They encouraged the abuser to leave; if the abuser refused, the watchers stayed in the house. Their presence prevented further violence, at least while they were present. One attendee noted; ‘in these communities, people do not call the police fearing more violence from the police. Men are not going to jail because the communities are working together’ (Bustamante, 1986, p.14).
would be fired, so he stopped stalking her (Ude, 2006).
Creating communities to deter violence Not all strategies to prevent gender violence are easily classified as ‘policing from below.’ Some grassroots groups and coalitions recognize that building communities is the first line of defense against violence and are organizing to create social structures and support networks that can collectively address harmful situations. In Durham, North Carolina, in the aftermath of the 2006 rape of a Black woman by members of a Duke University lacrosse team, women of colour and survivors of sexual violence formed the UBUNTU coalition. UBUNTU works to ‘facilitate a systematic transformation of our communities until the day that sexual violence does not occur’ (UBUNTU). Alexis Pauline Gumbs noted: “[Our] responses [to violence] were invented on the spot … without a pre-existing model or a logistical agreement. But they were also made possible by a larger agreement that we as a collective of people living all over the city are committed to responding to gendered violence…I think it is very important that we have been able to see each other as resources so that when we are faced with violent situations we don’t think our only option is to call the state” (Piepzna-Samarasinha, 2008, p.81). UBUNTU members began organizing around the idea of a Harm-Free Zone – an area in which violence would be addressed by the community rather than by the police. ‘A lot of times we talk about community as if it already exists, but I don’t actually think that we have autonomous, completely sustained community. We live with all sorts of dependence on the state, [on] outside institutions. We have a lot of work to do to have the type of communications and support that would fulfill the
needs of our community,’ stated Gibbs in 2009. Like the Dorchester Green Light Program, organizers of the Harm-Free Zone brought these ideas to the communities of which they were already a part. ‘Those of us who came together were already working in those settings… for each of us, we’re thinking about how we bring that analysis and that ideal into our preexisting communities.’
Conclusion Many early anti-violence efforts addressed immediate instances of gender violence, often focusing on the physical aspects of self-defence or a direct response to violence. Women’s organizations taught self-defense classes, confronted abusers and assailants, and formed protective groups to escort each other safely through the streets. In contrast, contemporary organizing often utilizes a multi-layered approach, creatively addressing not only immediate instances of violence but also creating dialogue to challenge and change some of the root causes of gender violence. Despite these differences, each project emphasizes the importance of community – as opposed to individual – actions and responses. None of these projects would have succeeded without a collective sense of responsibility toward each other. While not every project and group explicitly identifies as an abolitionist group, their practices work toward a radical re-envisioning of creating safety without relying on police. These models are important for imagining and then realizing abolitionist principles. By examining the variety of approaches in their vastly different contexts, we can begin to connect the abstract ideal with concrete actions that make another world possible. We should be drawing lessons from these projects and approaches to create models that work for our own locations and communities. ∆
#BlackLivesMatter’s Toronto Freedom School Interview by Shabina Lafleur-Gangji Shabina: What is the Black Lives Matter Toronto Freedom School? Leroi:#BlackLivesMatter Freedom School is a three week long summer program for children aged 4 to 10 years. The program is designed to support children and families living and growing in a reality of witnessing police violence in our communities. The program is designed for children who have witnessed their siblings being carded in their neighbourhoods, were watching the news when two Scarborough children were held at gunpoint by seven police officers because they were “mistaken for someone else”. Our youth and our children hear conversations about when Aiyana Jones was killed inside of her home; when Tamir Rice was killed in a playground near his home; when a teenage girl was assaulted by a police officer at her desk at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina; when a 13 year-old Toronto girl was prevented from entering her classroom because her hair was styled in an afro. But children don’t get the opportunity to deconstruct these realities in their classrooms, because the
realities that Black children are forced to endure are often deemed “not age appropriate” for the larger population, or public school teachers are not sure how to engage with these realities in age appropriate and empowering ways. Freedom school is a project of BlackLivesMatter – Toronto, but it is also part of a larger movement for community self-determination. We have the right and also a need to control the political education of our children. We have a need to teach our children that our communities are valuable, and they are sacred. We are grounded in the belief that Black children are capable of complex political thought and political analysis, and that they are a valuable part of our Black liberation movements. In our communities, people of all ages are affected by police violence and mass incarceration, and children are profoundly affected. We want them by our sides as we confront these realities, as we fight back, and we want to hear their voices as we imagine news was to shape our society.
S:Why is this kind of education and experience necessary for Black youth? L:#BlackLivesMatter Freedom School is meant to be an intervention into the messaging that Black children receive daily about the disposability of their lives. Our children need a way to understand and respond to the political realities being faced by their families and communities. When we don’t understand something, we internalize it...and Black children are asking themselves: “Why was I kicked out of class?”, “Why was I suspended for a minor infraction like swearing, when non-Black kids do much worse and are not suspended?”, “Why do police treat us this way, and when the police take a Black child’s life, why is that not illegal?” We cannot shelter our children from these realities; all we can do is let them know that they are not alone in combating them. It is necessary to teach our children the value of their lives, and that we will fight for them with everything with have in us. Beyond our public school system’s failure to academically prepare our children, our public schools are not invested in humanizing, selfaffirming, queer positive educational opportunities for Black children in the GTA. Black parents do not feel that our children are being taught self-love, and a passion for justice and liberation through their formal education. Our public schools are not measuring up to our children’s transformative potential. S:What kind of programming can people expect? L:We will be teaching children that: your Black life matters, and you must demonstrate to your peers that their Black lives matter by protecting their dignity. The things you didn’t learn in school: The BlackLivesMatter Movement, Marie Joseph Angelique, Marsha P. Johnson and the Stonewall Riots, the Memphis garbage strikes, Nanny Maroon and the Maroons, The Bussa Revolution in Barbados, The Haitian Revolution, Soweto Uprisings….global perspectives on Black Liberation. But they will learn about it all using engaging child friendly resources like claymation, video animation, augmented realities etc. The children will also learn about Black pride. We are having Najla Nubyanluv come in to share her new children’s book, I Love Being Black. We are having people come in to teach the connections between capoeira and Black liberation, dancehall and Black liberation, drumming and Black liberation. We are having community artists come in to teach
20 Transformative Justice
the kids about the Black arts movement and do printmaking with the children. We will be taking the children to Six Nations and to the Black Farmer’s Network so that they can better understand the land we live on, develop a commitment to decolonization, and learn about our history as plant based healers. We are cooking for the children everyday…we are cooking with the children too. We are cooking Joumou soup that Haitians cook to celebrate their Independence from the French. We are also teaching the children how to plan and execute an action against state violence. In fact freedom school will culminate in this. S:How does the Freedom School fit within a transformative justice framework? L:One of the things we know is that our school system focuses obsessively on productivity. It teaches our children to be workers... especially our Black students. If our Black children’s personhood, or the things they are going through in their everyday lives interferes with that productivity or the productivity of others: they are suspended, they are expelled, or they are put in behavioral programs to “correct their behaviour” so that they can become productive as per the priorities of a Capitalist state. Our children are not encouraged to spend time checking in with themselves about their feelings and their needs. They do not have the space to be vulnerable or even emotional. They are not encouraged to demand that the conditions of their education transform to meet their needs. Transformative Justice is the belief that we need to adjust systemic power to create space for transformative practices. Instead of dealing with student conduct using escalating punishments, we will be transforming the conditions that affect student conduct… for example engagement, appropriate cultural framework, and representation. The content of Freedom School programming came from parent and youth visioning, not from a top down process. Also, when we address conduct issues in Freedom School we will be asking questions like: “Why do you think you acted this way?”, “How do you feel you are treated by the person you harmed?”, “Do you feel you have everything you need to be successful here?”, “How can we support you to acquire the resources you need to be successful here?”, “In what ways do you feel powerful?”, “What can we do to add to that power?” ∆
Keeping Our Sisters Safer by Naomi Sayers
ast October, Canadians across the country voted. The Liberals won a majority. If Canadians voted for the Liberals, the Liberals promised to launch a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two spirit persons (MMIWG2S). Canadians voted, the Liberals won, and now, the party has initiated the first steps to launching a national inquiry. As I write this piece, Cabinet Ministers just completed the inquiry design meetings in British Columbia. The Cabinet Ministers present at the meetings include the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Status of Women. Since the Ministers announced the first steps into the inquiry, many people were confused. How did they start the process so quickly? Who is involved in and how they are involved? For me, as a survivor of colonialism and all of its violence including state/individual violence, I prefer to ask questions about how this inquiry process will change the system which imprisons Indigenous, Brown and Black bodies at alarming rates. How do we move beyond a system, the criminal justice system, which responds to the violence that causes the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two spirit persons to persist? Conversely, how do we seek justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two spirit persons without validating or legitimizing a system which continues to imprisons Indigenous, Brown and Black bodies at shocking rates? Can we imagine a world without continued policing of Indigenous, Brown and Black bodies through criminalization of same? And, can we imagine a world without prisons which continue to inflict harm and violence in on Indigenous, Brown, and Black peoples’ lives and which continue to benefit white settler society? Whenever I hear the police say they are seeking more funds to help protect the vulnerable, I know they are not thinking about Indigenous women, girls or two spirit folks. Whenever I hear representatives of various
levels of governments or representatives of nonprofit organizations say they need more funds to help protect victims of violence, I know they are not thinking about Indigenous women, girls or two spirit folks. When discussions of violence take place, often times we forget about the people who exist within violent systems— the prison system. For some people, justice translates to retaliation, an eye for an eye. For many families and friends of MMIWG2S, it means seeing people imprisoned away for life. A life for a life. The families/friends of MMIWG2S have every right to decide what is justice for their loved ones. Yet, in Canada, life does not life. Life means twenty-five years. And, sometimes it means less than that, similar to how white settler society values the lives of MMIWG2S: less than…less than human. For me, as someone who has been in the system, justice means making change to support the lives of those women, girls and two spirit folks still living. Justice, to me, means responsibility. What are our responsibilities to each other? To our families? To our neighbours? To our communities? Whenever another Indigenous woman, girl or two-spirit person is reported missing or found murdered, we tell the stories about how they were a family member or a community member. The media articles often quoting loved ones, “She was a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend…” True. We all belong to a family or a community in one way or another. But how do we move beyond a system, the criminal justice system, which responds to the violence that causes the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two spirit persons to persist? Often times, it is this same system which allows the violence to exist. So, instead of telling stories, Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit folks are keeping secrets. Secrets of police violence. Are these the secrets we want to keep? One way we can move beyond a system which responds to the issue of MMIWG2S is the very simple act of believing. Believe the
Keeping Our Sisters Safer 21
stories that Indigenous women, girls and twospirit folks tell you when they are experiencing violence, including the stories of police violence, or after they experienced violence. Also, create the space for Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit folks to tell their stories. A space free of judgment, shame and a space filled with love and trust. Trust that one will not tell their stories without their consent. While I acknowledge that some people see a criminal justice response as the only response, because as it exists today, it is the dominant response. However, I cannot agree that it is the only response to the issue of MMIWG2S. I think there are many actions that communities and individuals can take tomorrow to help fight for MMIWG2S. For instance, similar to justice, safety or keeping safe means many different things to people in different contexts. In one context, being safe may mean staying alone for a few minutes or a few days. In another instance, being safe may mean having a telephone conversation with a loved one, letting them know you are okay. So, safety can mean many different things and we can help keep each other safe in many different ways. When I think about safety, I think about what has kept me calm, breathing. It is the system who prefers I stop breathing, so I breathe. Both individuals and communities can do some of the following to help keeping Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit folks safe: Offer to give someone a ride or bus fare, if they need to get somewhere (if possible) Offer to pick someone up or pay for a cab, if they need to get back home (if possible) Offer to cook a warm meal, if they have been away for a long time Offer a warm shower/bath Offer to attend an appointment with them Offer to help with groceries for a week Offer to go for a walk with them Even though these suggestions are not systemic changes to the criminal justice system which will end violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit folks, I know that the small things have helped me get through the day and kept me safeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;however I chose to define safety for me in that moment. For members of over-policed/over-criminalized communities (i.e., sex workers), safety means
22 â&#x20AC;&#x2030; Transformative Justice
not calling the police which often invites more violence into our lives. So, safety means never engaging with the criminal justice system. Ever. It is literally a life and death situation, when our lives are threatened for simply existing. It is no accident that the bodies who occupy the spaces in prisons are predominantly Indigenous, Brown and Black. It is not accident that the bodies who are over-policed/overcriminalized are predominantly Indigenous, Brown and Black. So, how do we imagine a world without policing of Indigenous, Brown and Black bodies and without criminalization of same? And, can we imagine a world without prisons which continue to inflict harm and violence in Indigenous, Brown and Black peoplesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; lives and which continue to benefit white settler society? The people who work within the system are predominantly white settlers. They benefit from the imprisonment of Indigenous, Brown and Black bodies. They make a living of off the continued policing or criminalizing of same. So what if we asked questions about how the inquiry process will make change which prevents the continued imprisonment, or the continued policing or criminalizing of Indigenous, Brown and Black bodies? What if we asked for an investment into our communities, the same communities whose mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and family members who continue to go missing and murdered? What if we asked for an investment into our communities, the same communities who continued to be targeted with police violence? The same communities whose Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit folks keep secrets instead of telling their stories? The same communities whose same members occupy prisons at alarming rates? I want to begin to create the space where our people can tell stories instead of keep secrets. I want to begin to create the space where our people can feel safe, without judgment or shame. I want to begin to create space where our people can not rely on the system that continues to benefit white settler society through the imprisonment of our families/friends and that continues to benefit white settlers while they live and work on stolen Indigenous land. Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Canada, our home on native land. Stolen Indigenous land. If you believe the change is too hard to make, let me remind you that itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s simple: create the space, believe our stories, and realize the potential for a world without prisons. And, that should be our responsibility to each other and to our communities. â&#x2C6;&#x2020;
by Erica Horechka
lot of the content of the ideas behind this comes from resources used in the groups I run it is somewhat specific to romantic partners but can can be applied to any kind of relationship. Its pretty practical but for me I cant start thinking about it without contemplating some of the above stuff. Also, I suck at this shit, and usually fall for people who also do, but I can tell you the consequences are dire if you don’t think about this stuff/develop your own tools around conflict etc, Obviously these tools aren’t the only or best but upon reflection, I know if I could use them more often, or if my partners did, my relationships would look allot more healthy.
other people’s actions, what actions you take, and what conclusions you come to. You can communicate with your self-talk, learn to hear it, learn when your self talk is throwing you ropes, and when to avoid picking them up. Interventions and communication with your self talk is always possible, but rarely easy.
Conflict In every relationship there is topics that are conflictual, there are things we need to say to each other that are going to cause fights, that are going to be triggering, cause defensiveness and just all around suck. When having conflict, it is very important to think about your ‘goals,’ intentions and Self Talk hopeful outcomes. This will guide how you act, Self talk is extremely important in every aspect how the person you’re in relationship with will of life, especially in relationships. Self talk is act and how both of you will experience the the little (often BIG) ‘voice’ inside our heads conflict, and obviously the ultimate result of (or hearts or where ever), and doesn’t always the conflict. It also shaped your self talk. This communicate in words. Self talk isn’t simply will also effect the ‘dance’ or dynamic of the feelings, or reaction. It does however lead to relationship in a broader context. feelings and actions, but also can be in response If your goals/intentions or hopeful outto feelings. It’s what you tell yourself about comes of a conflict involve winning, being what’s happening, about yourself about others heard, getting your way or proving your right, or about an interaction. It makes up your inner your going to act in abusive ways. These are dialogue. It affects how you communicate with often goals we have in conflict, be honest with others, how you experience events/situations/ yourself, it is okay if those are your gut goals, Relationship Tools 23
itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s common; but not helpful. Even a goal like â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;I want my partner to know they fucked up and I am so hurtâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; can be problematic. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s very common for folks (I do it ALL the time) to feel the most important thing in that moment is having your feelings heard, (sounds reasonable enough, I know) but it leads to allot of abuse. Take time and space in that moment your partner may have more urgent needs than hearing your feelings. Here is where you need to learn to locate your container, your partner is NOT a vessel to hold your feelings and its not on them to alway be there to listen or take. I have been emotionally abusive because I felt like my partner was that.. There is all sorts of other intentions in conflict that can get in the way of healthy dynamics, for example avoiding conflict! Be gentle with yourself though!! Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t beat yourself up if this doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t come natural. There is lots of reason why this doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t come natural (see earlier article). Be careful to not fall into the trap of self hate. A helpful tool that I have learnt which has aided me in processing conflict, through the acronym PADESI:
had time to prepare yet, let them do stuff from step one. If they say not now, but then you two end up talking about it anyways, try and stop! Stick true to your and the other personâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s gut boundaries; donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t work out of desperation.
Describe Try and be somewhat objective here, talk about the facts, and try not to be loaded i.e â&#x20AC;&#x153;you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to spent time with me, you went out four times this week without me, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m so fucking hurt and sad.â&#x20AC;? vs â&#x20AC;&#x153;you say youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re going to go out tonight, this week you went out three times with out meâ&#x20AC;? remember the goal here isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t to just have your feelings heard/find evidence for the story you have told yourself (in this case that your the person doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t care about your feelings/doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t wanna spend time with you) itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s to let them know what the conversation is about and to present the facts. The idea here is present the facts (avoid words like always/ never) first and then emotions next.
Express Tell them your thoughts, feelings and hopes. The other person isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t in your mind. But still Prepare- Engage yourself donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be accusatory. I.E â&#x20AC;&#x153;I miss you and like Figure out what it is you want to communicate, spending time with you. I get scared/feel like what you feel and why you feel that way. In you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t wanna be around me when you go order to do this, you have to sit with some of out all the time without me, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hard and I those feelings and notice if they change, splash feel neglected. whats up?â&#x20AC;? vs â&#x20AC;&#x153;You always go around in the container inside us that holds out without me, you are neglecting me, your are feelings, donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t let it spill out into the other making me feel hurt, you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t miss me or person, get to know the content. Set the stage care.â&#x20AC;?Own your feelings and as basic as it for conflict inside of you. Note your self talk sounds use I statements. What kinda self-talk and engage with it in loving, kind, and reflec- goes along with the above two examples? if tive ways. Figure out your needs, why those are you dont prepare for this, and enguage with your needs and what feelings and thoughts go your self talk before expressing, it may not with your needs? Sort out your bottom line in work that well and may lead to fights/abuse. the context of the conflict and what you are and arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t okay with and why that may be. Also Specify consider if what youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re asking for/communicat- Say what you would like to happen, but make ing is reasonable, take into consideration the sure you ask, be clear and intentional and other personâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s feelings (dont assume or take not vague. Again be prepared to hear no and responsibility for them, but think about them) compromise. i.e â&#x20AC;&#x153;I was hoping we could spend and prepare to communicate without the inten- tonight togetherâ&#x20AC;? tion of winning. Note that you may hear things that you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to, or are prepared for and Invite try to prepare for being angry/big emotions. Invite the other person to respond. Ask; what do you think? not threatening, but opening it Ask up for feedback/comprise. Ask if this is a good time to chat, or just let This may sound idealistic and basic, but it is a the person know you need to make plans useful framework when and it is useful when to chat and be prepared to hear no, donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t you want to bring something up try to go step push if they say not right now. They may act by step with this. You have to check yourself defensively and remember that they havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t talk at every stage in conflict and listen to
24 â&#x20AC;&#x2030; Transformative Justice
where your thoughts are going - challenge your thoughts. Your thoughts and feelings are not a run-away train, as soon as you name them and talk to them, they often become more manageable.
A few other tips for yourself You may not understand the other personâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s reasoning, ideas or what they need to do, but donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be critical of it, donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t tell someone their way of thinking is wrong Remember you can learn from them, there is lessons they can help you find; even if the reality is they where in the wrong/they caused you harm Ask for clarification if you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t understand/think you do but arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t sure If you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t get the response you want, donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t push for it. (member the goals and intentions of conflict) Be aware of how your body feels, our bodies tell us allot. Are you hot, cold, shaky etc. whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s your body telling you, do you need a break? to eat? to cry alone? Set a time to fight that both people are happy about and STICK TO IT Keep to the subject, donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t bring up past differences in the middle of a conversation. its ok to say I am triggered or reminded, but why are you bringing that up, talk it out with yourself first and be intentional Time Outs This may seem incredibly obvious, but I think itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s something a lot of folks donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t practice, or at least donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t practice well, as it involves some often ignored pre-planning. Knowing when to take a time out involves being aware of your cues of anger/big feelings (not every escalates manifests as anger right away, I escalate in sadness/abandonment/fear so iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve learnt my cues for those big feelings before they move to anger or before i start saying things ina Â unhelpful way. On a side note I hate the saying; â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t say things you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t meanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; cause honestly you often mean the shit you say, i.e I AM PISSED THIS RELATIONSHIP SUCKS, YOUR A ASSHOLE you sure as hell may mean that, doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t mean you should say it). You learn your cues to use time outs. We all need space, and time to engage in our own self-talk. The saying â&#x20AC;&#x153;donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t go to bed angryâ&#x20AC;? leads to a large amount of abuse. It is a sentiment of desperation centered in the inability to sit with your own stuff.
Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s actually very harmful to think you need to in that moment when you are angry or upset, deal with it. Â A very important part of time-outs is setting a plan ahead of time, decide how youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re going to communicate you need one. Do this now, not when in conflict/escalated! It can be a hand single, a word, a sentence, whatever. Just make sure its pre-planned. Discuss ahead of time what a time out means; how long youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re going to be taking a time-out for, where you are going to go/what youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re going to do so no one is left guessing/fearing what is happening/feeling abandoned. Make sure you set a time for when youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re going to talk next. A time out is NOT punishment for either person; no one should be left wondering when or if they are going to hear from the person again. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fine to decide you need more than a hour but if you say youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re going to check in after a hour, make sure you do! When you leave for your time out do not do any verbal or physical gestures, donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t say anything, or slam the door, if you know you need a timeout end of conversation; no more points to be made or emotions to express! Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ideal to not use substances (alcohol and other drugs) to distract yourself or call any friends during this time, and if youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re going to call someone make sure itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not someone who isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t going to challenge you/isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t just going to console you/ confirm the other person is a asshole. Â Â
Things that are damaging to relationships All or nothing thinking: Often we are fast to respond in conclusions, we struggle to sit in uncertainty, we struggle to not make huge conclusions, finding meaning is hard and sometimes we canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t immediately understand our own or other peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s actions so we grasp using all or nothing thinking. This happens fast, and it happens inside our head and also out loud to the people we are talking to, sometimes it involves our own ideas about ourselves (i.e we fuck up once and decide we are a total failure) or in regards to other peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s actions and the conclusions we draw based on our own feelings. The more in tune though we our feelings, where theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re coming from and so on, the less likely we are going to do this. Try and catch yourself in this, check your thoughts/conclusions and words, are they statements or ideas/feelings and are you interacting with them as facts? We all struggle to hold our fears, triggers feelings or assumptions as just that, but if we validate them as feelings. Also using absolutes like: â&#x20AC;&#x153;you
R elationship Tools 25
never do this, or I always do that” outloud or in your head is always going to cause strife and is probably not true and just makes the other person want to prove us wrong.
Mental filter Obviously we aren’t objective in the way we experience our relationships, that’s fine. But it’s important to note what kinds of filters we often have so we can check them and maybe expand our experiences/interpretations. Do you only hear or remember the negatives or the positives? Do you focus on one details of an event instead of the lesson at hand? It’s like a single drop of dye in a clean glass of water if we do. Our own stories This is a BIG one. When we are listening and talking (both to the others and ourselves) are we merely trying to find evidence to support a story we think is true ? Do we have a hypothesis i.e my partner loves someone else more ; and constantly tr y and find proof for that, or twist events to fit that story ? What alternative stories are we blocking out when we do this ? How are we treating ourselves and our partner with respect when this is what we are up to? What are we protecting when we do this ? It
26 Transformative Justice
becomes very hard to learn a new dance when we do this. Obviously it’s important to note themes, and watch out for hurtful behaviour, but the goal is to create new stories and dynamics! Involved in this is mind reading and fortune telling; you fear or think something is going to turn out bad/the person is going to act in a certain way, so you decide that’s a fact rather than a fear or possibility.
Emotional Reasoning You take your emotions as facts, don’t get me wrong trust your heart and your gut, but try not assume: you feel, therefore it is. You feel abandoned, therefore your partner abandoning you. Should statements You can not motivate yourself or another person by saying ‘you should have, you must have, etc. This just results in guilt, anger and resentment. Personalization You see yourself as the cause of a negative outside event which you were not responsible for. i.e your partner doesn’t call, moves away, drops out of school, doesn’t cook dinner, falls in love with another person. Shit, it’s not always about you.∆
On Accountability: The Role of Choice by Micah Hobbes-Frazier guided by our own boundaries, and continued assessment. Because the reality is that “our big, lofty, ambitious language and theory about accountability and conflict and showing-up” isn’t really that much good. I mean it’s great in theory, and the reality is that most of the time we can’t actually do it. Not yet. Not even with the people we supposedly and actually do love. Most of the time we just don’t have all of what it takes, all of what we need to hold accountability over time. Not yet. Not for the kind of transformative accountability we are seeking. The kind where real change and transformation happen instead of denial and minimization or punishment and violence. Leverage: the power to influence a person or situation to achieve a particular outcome. Force: coercion or compulsion, especially with hat about the person who was harmed? the use of or threat of violence. How long do we sit around and wait I think a lot about what motivates people for accountability and change? to be accountable, and the difference between Really no one can answer that question but us, leverage and force. I believe that leverage is the person who was harmed. That is one place useful for motivating someone to choose to be where we will have to each choose for ourselves, accountable, however, I don’t believe that you “I know change is hard, believe me, I know. I know transformation is incredibly painful and takes time. But what about the person who was harmed? Do we just sit around for the 5, 10, 30 years it takes for someone to change? Isn’t there action that we want to request and demand of people who cause harm in the moment and shortly after to make amends, be accountable, to take some responsibility for collective healing? What good is all of our big, lofty, ambitious language and theory about accountability and conflict and showing-up if we can’t even do it with the people we supposedly love?” -Mia Mingus
On Accountability: The Role of Choice 27
And it will get hard because being accountable and repairing relationships requires hard work over consistent time. It means doing whatever it takes to stop the harm, and keep it from happening again. can force someone. For real accountability to happen, they have to consciously choose to be accountable for the harm that they have done. No one else can make that choice for them, and it is a choice. The choice to turn and face all that you have done, and the impact that it had and continues to have. Or the choice not to. It’s really that simple. Wanting to be accountable is not enough; you actually have to choose to be accountable. And you have to keep choosing it, even when it gets hard. And it will get hard because being accountable and repairing relationships requires hard work over consistent time. It means doing whatever it takes to stop the harm, and keep it from happening again. It means seeing, acknowledging, and feeling that your actions hurt another person. It means being with the reality of the impact, no matter what your intention. It means being with the full depth of the impact, without getting lost in your own shame and guilt. It means taking a hard look at yourself, and being honest about how it is that you were capable of doing what you did. And it means doing whatever is necessary to make amends, and if possible to repair the relationship. It requires hard work, concrete skills, emotional capacity, ability to take risks, vision, and most of all it requires action. That’s part of the difference between wanting and choosing: Wanting is passive and change is not possible. Choosing is active and change becomes possible.
As I write this I am grieving letting go of someone who loved me, hurt me, and couldn’t choose accountability even though part of them wanted to. For me it took almost a year before the pain and hurt of the waiting became too much to hold. A year spent hoping, wishing, trying. A year spent making it safe and comfortable for them so that they wouldn’t be afraid or think it was too hard to be accountable. A year spent holding my anger because it scared them, and a year spent maintaining the silence around what happened because me speaking my truth made them feel unsafe. Even though they were the ones that did the harm. A year spent sacrificing my own needs, even in trying to get accountability. And my heart breaking every time it didn’t happen, every time they chose denial, blame, minimization, or whatever else instead. So in the end I chose to stop waiting for them. I chose to stop “just sitting around”. I chose to focus on my own healing, change, and transformation instead of continuing to put so much energy into someone else’s. To move to a place beyond fear that comes for me when I am able to be with what is, even when I want it to be different. And when I am able to let go, even when I wish I could stay connected. Finding ground and resilience through surrender and trust in spirit and the universe, for magic that is bigger than me. Because really, beyond that, there truly is “nothing left to tell”. ∆
A year spent holding my anger because it scared them, and a year spent maintaining the silence around what happened because me speaking my truth made them feel unsafe. Even though they were the ones that did the harm. 28 Transformative Justice
When the Forgotten Resist by Mina Ramos
n September 17th 2013, 191 immigration detainees at the Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) in Lindsay. Ontario collectively went on a hunger strike. At the time, it was one of the largest prisoner hunger strikes in Canadian history and the first time immigration detainees in Canada protested for their rights en masse. Since then, detainees incarcerated in Lindsay have been fighting along side former detainees and allies
to put an end to immigration detention in Canada.
Background on Immigration Detention At the very basics, immigration detention is a tactic used by the Canadian government to jail migrants. At this point, so many immigration laws have been changed in the last five years that it doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t matter if you are undocumented,
When the Forgotten Resist 29
a refugee claimant, permanent resident or citizen. As long as you werenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t born here, you can be subjected to immigration detention. Hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s how people become immigration detainees in Canada:
They commit a crime in Canada. This
can be any type of crime. It doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t matter how long they have lived here; their status can be taken away and they can be placed in immigration detention
They had some sort of visa and it expired. Maybe they were applying for permanent residency, maybe they were waiting for another visa to be processed. Doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t matter. If they are caught, they will be placed in immigration detention.
They show up at the airport to make
a refugee claim, but the government thinks the claim is a fraud or that their papers or identity arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t real/true. They will get arrested at the airport and be placed in immigration detention.
The government likes to call immigration detention, â&#x20AC;&#x153;administrative holdâ&#x20AC;?. They say this because technically immigration detainees arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t actually serving time for criminal offenses. Canada has just decided that they donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t deserve to live in Canada anymore and keeps people detained until they find somewhere to deport them to. Even if someone commits a crime with a prison sentence, they first serve the sentence for their crime and then get put under immigration detention. The problem is, â&#x20AC;&#x153;administrative holdâ&#x20AC;? can mean anywhere from 2 days to 10 years and detainees never know if they are going to win their case and be given bail in Canada or deported back to a country where they: a) are in danger; b) have not been to in years; or c) have never been to at all. Because detainees are technically not serving time, the government also gets away with never giving detainees an actual trial. They have something called a â&#x20AC;&#x153;detention review.â&#x20AC;? It happens once a month and is the only way a detainee can get out of detention. Instead of a judge, they have a randomly appointed member of the Immigration Review Board (ie. The people who helped to put them in jail in the first place) who meets with detainees over something similar to skype. The whole process is such a joke and the release rates are so low that in June of 2014 detainees in three
30 â&#x20AC;&#x2030; Transformative Justice
different prisons including the Central East Correctional Centre boycotted their reviews for the month. To give a statistical view of release rates; in 2013, 7,000 people were held in immigration detention but only 711 or 9% were actually released. In fact, Canada is one of the only â&#x20AC;&#x153;westernâ&#x20AC;? countries in the world that doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have a set limit on how long someone can be detained for. It is all based on the detention review process. In the past eight years, over 100,000 people have been held in immigration detention. Hundreds of these detainees are children. In 2013, 205 children were detained in Canadaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s immigration holding centres. Although there are 3 designated immigration holding centres (with a fourth being built in Toronto as we speak), almost a third of all immigration detainees are also held in maximum security prisons. Despite some of the obvious human rights issues with immigration detention, millions of dollars are invested in maintaining this system. Canada Borders Services Agency (CBSA) who play a huge role in detaining people has had their budget balloon from $91 million in 2010 to $165 million in 2014-2015. To be clear, immigration detention does not affect immigrants coming to Canada equally. 90% of immigration detainees at any point in time are racialized and approximately 75%-80% of all detainees are black. It becomes quite apparent that race plays a huge role in terms of who is profiled and targeted for immigration detention and who isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t.
detainees organizing from inside the CECC In August of 2013, the ministry of public safety decided to merge a bunch of detainees from different prisons across Southern Ontario into one unit at the CECC in Lindsay ON; a maximum security prison. The detainees who had been moved were angry. The move had happened without warning and the majority of them were now hours away from their lawyers and family. Unlike many jails across Canada there was no rehabilitative programming and no opportunities for paid work. With the average prison wage rate of three dollars a day across Canada, prison work is nothing to boast about. To go from that to nothing however, was a shock. On top of this, the detainees were being subjected to inhumane living conditions. This included constant lockdowns (which basically means never being let out of the cell), rotten food and
mould in the cells and showers. It was under these circumstances that their hunger strike began in September 2013. The detainees in Lindsay ON were in a unique position. They had previously been scattered across Ontario and for the first time they were clumped together in a large group. They started to talk. They realized that immigration detention itself was extremely problematic. They began to question why they were being held in maximum security prisons when they didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have charges or why there was no limit to how long they were being detained. They noticed that because they were on immigration hold, they were not getting equal access to the bail program even if/when they had someone to bail them out. Within the first week of the hunger strike, immigration detainees refocused and changed their demands drastically. They were focused on three things:
End arbitrary and indefinite detention:
Implement a 90-day maximum to detention. If removal (deportation) cannot happen within 90 days, immigration detainees must be released. This is recommended by the United Nations, and is the law in the United States and the European Union.
No maximum security holds:
Immigration detainees should not be held in maximum security provincial jails.
Give immigration detainees fair and full
access to legal aid, bail programs and pro bono representation.
Detainees connected with migrant justice organizers on the outside and a phone line (which continues to run to this day) was started to keep up active communication with detainees in Lindsay. The collective hunger strike officially ended in the beginning of October but detainees continued to organize. Over the last two and a half years they have drafted and snuck out collective statements and petitions against immigration detention, boycotted their detention reviews, held cell walkouts, had fasts, held meetings to negotiate with CBSA and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and done an exuberant amount of media. Despite all of this, nothing has been done to change any of the laws in respects to immigration detention.
Transformative Justice and Immigration Detention I have worked on the phone line that connects to detainees since September 17th 2013 and have seen how remarkable their organizing has been. It is difficult to sustain organizing in a prison, let alone when you are also at threat of being deported. Despite this, the guys continuously take risks to speak out and come up with new ideas to fight for their freedom. They hold range meetings and educate new detainees when they are brought in about Canadaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s immigration system and why immigration detention is unjust. Packages sent in by allies which contain a history of immigration detention, actions that have been taken to fight against it and media coverage on immigration issues are used to help educate new detainees about their situation. Apart from the organizing aspect, the detainees look out for each other. Many of them do not speak English and have a hard time advocating for themselves. Often, older detainees will work to try and connect nonEnglish speaking detainees to those that can speak their language to help translate when they need to make phone calls and speak to their lawyers. Although the guys do fight, whenever someone is sent to segregation they call the phone line to check in to see if their friends have called from segregation and are okay. In 2015, when Abdurrahman Ibrahim Hassan died while locked up at the CECC, migrant justice organizers already knew what had happened before he was officially pronounced dead. This was because the guys worked together to know exactly what was going on when Hassan was originally taken out of his cell. The phone line set up to maintain a connection with detainees and allies on the outside has played a huge role in laying down the foundations for a transformative movement. Although the line was started to hear and support the organizing being done by detainees, it has morphed to be much more than that. Overtime the line has helped to open up many different dialogues that might not have taken place otherwise. For example, in the beginning of their organizing, mental health was something that was rarely brought up by detainees. Through conversations on the line, mental health became a huge topic. As the guys felt less isolated, they opened up about mental health issues both on the line and with each other. In 2015, detainees collectively asked to be individually assessed by
When the Forgotten Resist 31
a psychotherapist to see how they have been mentally affected by immigration detention. Although it still has a focus on organizing and bringing up things that come up in the jail, for some the line has also become a place to escape from immigration detention and talk about light hearted things. For others it has become a place to talk about systemic issues. A typical phone line day can look like getting into a debate over why detainees constantly state that they are not criminals and instead exploring the idea of prison abolition, to talking about dating and relationships and the first thing to order in terms of food once they get out of jail. As someone who is queer it has been such an indescribable experience coming out to detainees over time through the phone line and getting into all kinds of discussions around misogyny, patriarchy and homophobia. Since coming out as queer I have always had such a jaded view of cis straight men and at this point spend most of my Tuesdays getting into deep discussions with cis straight men that are deemed by the state as “inadmissible” to Canada but have more brilliance than the politicians who are demonizing them. I will admit, the movement around immigration detention in Ontario has major fallbacks. Possibly the biggest shortcoming is the fact that at the moment there are very few black people involved in the movement who are not former detainees. This is not the fault of black organizers and community members but rather of migrant justice organizers who have historically failed to reach out and create genuine connections with different black communities or have straight up pushed out black folks from migrant justice organizations. The irony of working with mainly black folks in jail but having little to no black allies on the outside to connect to is too real. Over time, it has become a huge reality check for organizers working with detainees at the CECC to own up to the anti-black racism rooted in the migrant justice movement as it exists and begin to change dynamics that have led up to this. Although I write this article to demonstrate the transformative aspects of this movement, there is clearly a lot more work to be done. Although many people remain locked up and too many have been deported, there arefew who have been successful in being released from immigration detention since 2013. Just last week, a group of former detainees and people running the phone line
32 Transformative Justice
gathered for the first time as a group to hangout, eat food and strategize how to continue organizing with those on the inside. The guys exchanged news about different detainees still in jail, joked about sueing CBSA and gave each other advice on how to navigate getting ID’s, work permits, mental health resources…all kinds of things. The feeling of people being together, some of us meeting each other in persyn for the first time is hard to explain in words. We couldn’t stop taking pictures joking about who would be the first one to post on instagram. No one actively voiced what we were all feeling until after the hangout. The laws might not have changed but the fact that two and a half years later, the struggle to be free and the connection through the phone line has created deep bonds between the guys themselves and us on the line. Bonds that the system hasn’t been able to break despite their best efforts. That people are still so committed to fighting and through the fight have learnt so much about themselves, each other and the ways that we relate to each other as humans is beautiful. That this means we are winning. If that’s not transformative I’m not sure what is. ∆
Hannah B Hannah is a person who lives in Guelph and works with homeless youth and LGBTQ+ youth (both at times). She loves the youth she works with fiercely and has big dreams for all of them. Big ups to homeless and LGBTQ+ youth in Guelph!
Amber King see you there, in the free.
B I’m B. I’m Coast Salish- Lkwungen, Quw’utsun’ and Lummi on my mom’s side and French, Irish mix on my dad’s side. I am two spirit, I make art.
Kim Katrin Milan A daughter of the diaspora, Arawak, West African, Indian and Dutch, hailing from Trinidad and living between Toronto & New York. Kim Katrin Milan is an award winning internationally acclaimed artist, educator and writer. Kim is the co founder and the Executive Director of The People Project, 8 years in the making; a movement of queer and trans folks of color and our allies, committed to individual Erica Horechka and community empowerment through alterErica is a lady living her days out in Guelph. native education, art activism and collaboraShe spends her tion. A public researcher and human rights time navigating her too big feelings, learning to educator, she shares over 80 unique resources support folks in unhealthy relationships/folks and presentations as well as delivered hundreds with abusive tendencies and trying to get to of workshops around race, gender, power, privithe bottom of things people say,do and think. lege, consent, creation, food and entrepreneurYou can find her nattering about joy, deep pain/ ship. Kim also engages in community based unwellness and how cool it is that people have healing initiatives including teaching Queer capacity to find new stories for themselves! and Brown Girls Yoga. www.kimkatrinmilan.com
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Leroi Newbold Leroi Newbold is an artist, community organizer and an educator at Canada’s first public Africentric school.
Micah Hobbes-Frazier Micah Hobbes Frazier is a Black queer mixedgendered facilitator, coach, healer, doula, dj, and magic maker; living, loving, laughing, and building community in Oakland, CA. In June 2012 he founded the living room project, an accessible healing justice & community space serving black & brown queer and trans communities. Micah is a talented and experienced somatic coach/bodyworker working primarily with queer and trans people of color (qtpoc) wanting to heal and transform their histories of trauma/violence. He is a commitment to creating spaces where healing and transformation are possible, and to using his magic to help interrupt, heal, and transform the cycles of trauma and violence in our families and communities.Micah absolutely LOVES facilitating and is incredibly innovative and skilled in how he presents content, and holds the room. His peers consider him an expert in the field of Harm Reduction, specializing in the impacts of trauma on substance use and sexual behavior. Micah’s style actively engages people in integrating new concepts and learning new skills, while also identifying and building on the strengths and skills they already have.
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Mina Ramos Mina Ramos is a queer mixie based out of Guelph, Onatio. She is a radio broadcaster and migrant justice organizer and loves to play and listen to music of all sorts.
Naomi Sayers Naomi Sayers is an indigenous feminist and an Anishnaabe-kwe who writes at www.kwetoday.com. She is currently studying law at the University of Ottawa. Naomi is frequently asked to write about issues relating to missing and murdered Indigenous women. She is also regularly asked to speak on issues relating to violence against Indigenous women and sex work related policy.
Shabina Lafleur-Gangji Shabina is a queer mixed race healer from guelph. This piece is about invoking her ancestors into her healing and submerging herself into the unknowns of time travel and witchcraft. Some on the plants you will see in ‘invocation’ (inside front cover) are tulsi, blue violet, rose and borage. You can find more of her art and medicine at her etsy store: DesiSpice420
Victoria Law Victoria Law is the author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women, editor of the zine Tenacious: Art and Writings by Women in Prison, and a proud parent. She has written extensively about the intersections of incarceration, gender and resistance for various news outlets, including Al Jazeera America, Bitchmedia, The Guardian, The Nation and Truthout.
Sonali Menezes Sonali is a little brown femme living in southern Ontario. She’s a student, artist, zinester, and maker of things through her itty bitty-business GlitteringMagpiee. She enjoys living gently and cuddling with her cat.
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www.phillystandsup.com Philly Stands Up is a small collective of individuals working in Philadelphia to confront sexual assault in our various communities. We believe in restoring trust and justice within our community by working with both survivors and perpetrators of sexual assault. www.stillmyrevolution.org AJ Withers is a disabled, queer and trans anti-poverty activist living in Toronto. This site was made to help disabled people and politically engaged people have access to radical disability theory and politics, including writings on Transformative Justice. www.incite-national.org INCITE! is a national activist organization of radical feminists of color advancing a movement to end violence against women of color and our communities through direct action, critical dialogue and grassroots organizing. www.generationfive.org GenerationFIVE works to interrupt and mend the intergenerational impact of child sexual abuse on individuals, families, and communities. It is Their belief that meaningful community response is the key to effective prevention. www.criticalresistance.org Critical Resistance seeks to build an international movement to end the prison industrial complex (PIC) by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe. They believe that basic necessities such as food, shelter, and freedom are what really make our communities secure.
Readings The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities by Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (eds) This watershed collection of stories and strategies tackles the multiple forms of violence encountered right where we live, love, and work for social change and delves into the nitty-gritty on how we might create safety from abuse without relying on the state. Support by Cindy Crabb In a time when sexual assault and abuse are an increasing problem; even in so-called radical and punk communities, and when most women have been sexually abused in one way or another,thishowsways to prevent sexual violence and support survivors of sexual abuse.
â&#x20AC;&#x153;how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?â&#x20AC;? - bell hooks