A thoughtful discussion about gender violence in Canada
By Katie Czenczek, News Editor
From September 24 to September 28, Douglas College’s New Westminster Campus will be hosting SHIFT: Let’s talk gender violence.
The weeklong event aims to promote discussions about gender violence and the numerous different ways this violence can be experienced. Issues such as the lasting impact of colonialism, intimate partner violence, violence based on gender identity, toxic masculinity, and rape culture will be featured at the exhibit.
Funded in part by the Douglas College Faculty-Wide Professional Development Fund, Lisa Smith, an instructor in the Sociology Department at Douglas, has helped organize SHIFT and will be speaking on the panel on September 28. In an interview with the Other Press, Lisa Smith said SHIFT was a way to keep the conversation moving forward following the #MeToo movement and the influx of social media activism.
“We can’t underestimate the power of that, and I think that it’s a really positive thing in many ways,” she said. “One of the things that does concern me though is that there’s all of these ideas floating around in space, and I don’t necessarily see the space for good, thoughtful conversation about what’s [a] really difficult and pressing issue.”
SHIFT started off on September 24 with a virtual reality documentary about the Highway of Tears. The documentary is four minutes long and focuses on the murders and disappearances of predominantly Indigenous women between 1969 and 2011 that happened all along British Columbia’s section of Highway 16. After the film, an information stand offered additional resources for those who wanted to learn more.
The rest of the week features film screenings that bring up issues to be discussed later at the panel.
Smith said that SHIFT is about violence at the criminal level and how those violent incidents that are overlooked on a day-to-day basis are connected.
“It’s a much broader way of thinking about the different kinds of violence people experience, and it can encompass things as broad as against your gender identity to workplace harassment,” she said. “The reason we fit those two pieces together is that sexual violence is a kind of gender violence. So, when we think about gender violence, what we’re trying to think about is are there certain groups that are more or less likely to face these kinds of experiences.”
Lisa Smith said that one of the motivations for creating this event was to get involved with IMPACTS, a seven-year research project designed to address sexual violence on campuses across Canada and internationally. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada has given $2.6 million in funding towards the project. Partnered with McGill University, Smith will be conducting climate surveys to get statistical evidence to back up the claims being made about sexual violence on campuses.
The McGill-based project, said Smith, “is really about exploring the role of colleges and universities in taking a leadership role around issues related to sexual violence and providing public education about these issues more broadly.”
She also said that there isn’t currently strong statistical data for instances of sexual violence at institutions.
“Getting good statistical data about any kind of gender violence is very difficult,” she said. “In the Canadian context, to my knowledge there are actually no studies that look at instances of sexual violence that we can record in terms of what’s happening on Canadian college campuses.”
Douglas College and McGill University are two of the institutions that will be surveyed.