Tags: Canada's Firearms Act, domestic violence, gun control, IANSA, Peacebuild, Project Ploughshares, women's rights
It’s 9:30am on Saturday, and Maribel and I are supposed to meet at the office at noon to finish up the exhibit we are taking with us to the Canadian Conference on the Prevention of Domestic Violence that begins tomorrow in London, Ontario. The conference, organized by the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children, will have about 450 attendees. We are the only organization allowed an exhibit at the conference and it will be used to launch the Disarming Domestic Violence campaign, so we need to make sure it’s good. We have been so chaotically busy since my arrival, however, that we’re both already at our desks, catching up on all of the things we need to get done individually, before working on the exhibit.
On Monday and Tuesday, we were in Ottawa, as Maribel needed to attend Peacebuild’s Small Arms Working Group annual general meeting. Peacebuild is a coalition of Canadian peacebuilding organizations, and because they are playing an active role in the Disarming Domestic Violence campaign, I attended part of the day-long meeting to meet Peacebuild stakeholders and staff. I was able to touch base with their communication’s director, and I’m hoping he will begin including more information on the issue of gun control and domestic violence on the organization’s website.
In addition to the time I spent at Peacebuild, I also met with organizations in Ottawa that have a vested interest in women’s rights. One of the individuals I met with was Erin Williams, Executive Director of the Ottawa Coalition to End Domestic Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW). Although I was a bit uneasy about meeting with someone on my own so soon, by the end of the meeting Erin had agreed that her organization would endorse the campaign, post information about it on their website, help with compiling data on the efficiency of harmonic gun control and domestic violence laws, and reach out to constituents in order to involve them in letter writing and other forms of advocacy.
Luckily, Maribel allowed me a bit of time on Monday to tour Parliament. Since my arrival, I have been asking an obnoxious amount of questions in an attempt to better understand Canada’s government, so the tour was a good way to get me to stop. In addition, we went to dinner with Maribel’s friend, who also happens to be a government staffer, which provided me another good opportunity to get my questions answered.
The Centre Block building in Ottawa is where both the House of Commons and Senate chambers of Parliment would debate gun control legislation, if brought forth for debate.
“Women are People Too” is a monument found outside of the Centre Block building in Ottawa. It was constructed in honor of the women who fought for the right to hold office in Parliment, and is a good reminder that women have equal rights and should be protected by the law.
On Tuesday, Maribel and I attended a general meeting of the Ad-Hoc Coalition for Women’s Equality and Human Rights at the suggestion of Aalya Ahmed, Co-Coordinator of the Coalition. It was a great experience, sitting in on a meeting where so much enthusiasm exists for women’s rights. All of the organizations at the meeting, including the national chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) and the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA), seemed interested in learning more about the campaign, and Maribel and I will be following up with them after the conference in London.
Although the meetings I have had have been very productive and the support garnered thus far has been tremendous, what has been a bit disconcerting to me over the past two weeks is the general lack of knowledge surrounding Canada’s Firearms Act and the protections it includes for women and children. With some of the groups I have been in contact with, I have had to spend time explaining where in the Firearms Act protections against domestic violence are included, and what they are. Additionally, I have discovered that some organizations are unaware of the proposals currently before Parliament that would eliminate the registration requirements of unrestricted rifles and shotguns (C-391 in the House of Commons and S-5 in the Senate). As a result, it has become clear that during the duration of my time in Ontario, I will need to focus some of my time illustrating the importance of following the actions of, and proposals before, Parliament. In order to successfully protect women from domestic violence by firearms, those with a vested interest need to be aware of what laws are in place, and what proposals have been made to alter the legislation, in order to successfully lobby on behalf of those that they are trying to protect.