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DAY 1 – November 28, 2019

Intergenerational Trauma-Informed Legal Advocacy

Myrna McCallum, LLB
Indigenous women are historically and disproportionately targeted for violence in all its forms. The effects of violence against Indigenous women are often felt and seen in the heart of Indigenous communities: the children, the grandchildren, and the great-grandchildren. Intergenerational trauma shows itself in various menacing forms many of us are familiar with: an inability to parent (child welfare system); an inability to problem solve (educational system); an inability to cope with emotional and mental disturbance (addictions/self-harm); an inability to form healthy relationships (intimate partner violence); an inability to make good decisions (criminal justice system); and an inability to love which fuels it all while generating crisis and chaos. As a lawyer who has encountered trauma in all these forms, both personally and professionally, I have come to understand that the legal system in which I work requires a change in approach. Trauma-informed legal practice and advocacy benefits all: survivors, advocates, support providers, adjudicators, front-line workers, offenders, and witnesses. The “do no harm” approach is the first critical step we can all take in engaging with those who carry the wounds of intergenerational trauma, and the second is to recognize and respect the underestimated resilience which also lives alongside trauma.

Myrna McCallum, LLB, is an Indigenous (Métis-Cree) lawyer from the Métis village of Green Lake, Saskatchewan in Treaty Six territory, and she is also a registered Indian at nearby Waterhen Lake First Nation. Myrna has spent most of her legal career working in Indigenous communities, most often serving survivors of sexual violence as a Crown prosecutor, an Indian Residential School adjudicator, and an Investigations Director. Throughout her legal practice, Myrna learned a great deal about trauma, its impacts on memory, communication and behaviour, and the significant difference applying a trauma-informed approach has on the survivors who entrust her to witness their pain, receive their stories, and assess their evidence. As a former Indian Residential School student (Lebret IRS) and foster kid (Sixties/Seventies Scoop), Myrna has become passionate about educating lawyers, judges, and police officers on Indigenous intergenerational and direct trauma as well as trauma-informed legal practice. Myrna owns and operates Miyo Pimatisiwin Legal Services in North Vancouver, BC.

Key Questions About Gender-Based Violence: Supporting BC Children, Youth and Young Adults

Dr. Jennifer Charlesworth
At the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth of BC, we pay close attention to what is happening to and for children, youth and young adults through our advocacy work, case reviews, investigations and monitoring activities. Gender-based domestic and sexual violence are disturbing recurring themes, and children, youth, and young adults throughout BC are being harmed. Gender-based violence is complex and pervasive and requires intentional collaborative, cross-sectoral, culturally attuned, and creative responses to support survivors and reduce children and youth’s exposure and its lifelong impacts. This presentation will address four key questions: What patterns are we seeing? What are we learning? What is needed to support children, youth, and young adults who are being impacted? How might we work together and differently to prevent the gender-based violence that is negatively impacting young people in BC communities?

Dr. Jennifer Charlesworth is British Columbia’s Representative for Children and Youth. Jennifer has worked in the BC social and health care sectors since 1977 in front-line child welfare, social policy, program management, and executive roles, and was engaged in formative work on de-institutionalization and community inclusion for people with disabilities, women’s and girls’ health, mental health, and youth services. As part of her extensive background in the service of children, Jennifer has taught child and youth care at the University of Victoria, has been the Executive Director of the Federation of Community Social Services of BC, and is the founder of the Leadership 2020 program for the Federation. She has also been involved with InWithForward and, for the past two years, has been working with Chief Wedlidi Speck and other leaders to inspire culturally safer workplaces for Indigenous staff and people served. Jennifer has a PhD in Child and Youth Care from the University of Victoria, and an MBA from Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, England. She is the parent of two vibrant young women who remind her daily of the power and promise of young people.

Femicide in Canada and Globally: Identifying Gender-Based Motives/Indicators in the Killings of Women and Girls

Dr. Myrna Dawson
Despite international recognition as a social, legal, public health, and human rights problem, femicide remains a relatively new concept with little public understanding. Broadly defined as the killing of women and girls because they are women and girls, more nuanced analyses of femicide during the past decade have sought to identify the gendered-based characteristics and contexts of such killings, including specific motives and indicators. At the same time, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its causes and consequences, continues to underscore the urgent need to collect national and global data on femicide for knowledge-based policy making and effective prevention. Launched in 2017, the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (CFOJA) established a visible, national focus on femicide by documenting the killings of women and girls as they occur in Canada and examining social and state responses to these crimes. CFOJA Director Myrna Dawson will discuss this research, including the identification of specific indicators that can increase public awareness about femicide and how these killings are distinct from other homicides, as well as how social and state responses contribute to increased risk of femicide, particularly for some groups of women and girls.

Dr. Myrna Dawson is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence (, at the University of Guelph. She is Director of the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice & Accountability (, and Co-Director of the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative with Vulnerable Populations ( For over two decades, Dr. Dawson’s research has focused on patterns in and responses to violence, particularly violence against women, gender-based violence, and femicide. A long-time member of the Ontario Domestic Violence Death Review Committee, she co-authored the foundation paper upon which the committee was based. She is author/co-author/editor of numerous publications and reports including Domestic Homicides and Death Reviews: An International Perspective (2017), Violence Against Women in Canada (2011), and Woman Killing: Intimate Femicide in Ontario, 1991-1994 (1997). She has presented research and delivered keynotes in Australia, Canada, Italy, United Kingdom, and the United States, and regularly consults with government on issues related to violence.

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DAY 2 – November 29, 2019

Immigrant Women’s Experiences of Intimate Partner Violence in Canada: Taking a Transnational View

Vathsala Illesinghe, MD
Although there are wide variations in women’s experiences of and responses to intimate partner violence (IPV) globally, immigrant women’s vulnerability to IPV is often attributed to cultural factors. Some groups of immigrant women are seen as upholding and bearing the burden of their inherited (patriarchal) cultures. As women constantly challenge their status – even among the most patriarchal societies in the world – immigrant women’s experiences of IPV cannot be understood by placing them in a static, gender-disadvantaged state. Taking a transnational view of immigrant women’s experiences of and responses to IPV recognizes the complexity of women’s lived realities viz-a-viz their contested and negotiated states of gender and power before, during, and after migration to Canada.

This presentation takes a cross-border view of women’s experiences of migration and IPV, asking the question – how do women experience and respond to intimate partner violence in their countries of origin? – in order to understand their experiences post-migration. The implications for designing and delivering ‘culturally-sensitive’ services and supports for immigrant women in Canada are discussed.

Vathsala Illesinghe, MD, is a Policy Studies PhD Candidate at the Yeates School of Graduate Studies, Ryerson University, Toronto. She is a Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Joseph-Armand Bombardier Scholar and serves as an advisor to the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability. Prior to her permanent migration to Canada, Vathsala worked on the frontlines as a doctor, researched violence against women, and advocated for practice and policy change for more than 12 years in Sri Lanka. As an experienced violence against women researcher and a new immigrant woman in Canada, Vathsala brings a deep understanding of South Asian women’s vulnerability to violence in their home countries, the complexities surrounding their migration experiences, and the gaps in services and responses to addressing violence experienced by immigrant and refugee women in Canada. Her current research is aimed at seeking a better understanding of the complex intersections of gender, violence, and immigration policy in Canada.

Dignity and Recovery Across the Lifespan: Helping Survivors of Gendered Violence Reclaim Their Lives

Dr. Catherine Richardson/Kinewesquao
In this keynote, Dr. Cathy Richardson will share ideas on how dignity calls to us differently at various points in the human developmental process.  She will draw from response-based analysis and Indigenous knowledges to show how people aim to protect their dignity and the dignity of others in the face of adversity, violence, and humiliation.  Cathy will also share examples from her practice and research with Indigenous people and communities.  She poses the questions “how can we restore dignity to violence survivors who have been acted upon and humiliated?” and “what is the role of ‘positive social responses’ after disclosure?” in helping people heal and recover from mistreatment.

Dr. Catherine Richardson/Kinewesquao is a therapist, researcher, activist, and an  author.  She is the Director of First Peoples Studies at Concordia University in Montreal and a co-founder of the Centre for Response-Based Practice.  Cathy is Métis with Cree, Dene and Gwichin ancestry. She teaches counsellors and social workers and promotes system change and decolonization in all areas of social services.

Cathy is a lead researcher for a number of current studies, such as the Quebec Youth Network Chair, the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative With Vulnerable Populations, and documenting promising practices for Indigenous transition house work (FRIDAA).  Cathy is the winner of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association Indigenous Practice Award in 2019, and she is a co-organizer of the Dignity conferences.  She is currently working on three books which should be available in 2020.  Cathy was a Green Party candidate in the Quebec provincial election in 2018.

Click here to register for ATF 2019!