Prince Edward Island and Halifax
Canadian Council of Muslim Women,
Ottawa Chapter Report - 2010
Members of the Ottawa Chapter have been meeting regularly on the first Sunday of the month at the All Saints/ First United Church on Richmond Road, Ottawa. Here are some of the highlights of our events and engagements within the Muslim as well as the larger community in Ottawa during 2010:
May 2 - Interfaith symposium organized by the Women's Auxiliary Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at Ottawa. Sr. Khadija Haffajee and Farhat Rehman participated.
May 9 - Child Care Action demonstration was held on Parliament Hill. Chapter members participated and supported demands for Universal Child Care for Canadians.
May 18 The Chapter participated in Faith Communities in the Voluntary Sector, and event organized by the Church Council of Canada. Many representatives from the major faith communities spoke about their accomplishments in the face of many challenges. A panel discussed Faith Communities in the Voluntary Sector. The panelist were: Rabbi Reuven Bulka, Congregation Machzikei Hadas , Farhat Rehman, Ottawa Chapter, Canadian Council of Muslim Women, and Don Hutchinson, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.
May 13-14 Farhat Rehman attended the Feminist Legal Activism at Fifty: Critical Reflections, at the University of Ottawa. Many speakers articulated the feeling of hopelessness with the current government, the bureaucracy and the opposition parties, but reminded us that Feminism has encompassed and debated the biggest issues of our times. Feminism is a necessity of womens movement. Dialogue and collaboration are needed. There was a consensus that there is a deficit in Democracy in womens issues. We need a big brawl regarding womens space in todays democracy. Legislation as a result of 9/11 has particularly impacted voice of Muslim women. Isolation and neo-liberal politics and power has resulted in silencing of struggles. We are lacking in analysis of where we are at. Challenge is to investigate why this is happening. We need to be ungovernable; we need to push the edge for government to listen to us. The mass of people like us needs to be enlarged, or we cannot talk to this government. Sharon McIvor spoke about the work of aboriginal women to amend the Indian Act, and their frustration with men who usurped their efforts. Women spoke out against the Law and Order agenda of the government, escalating costs, deprivation of women in prisons and removal of 2 for 1 sentencing.
Ottawa Chapter delivered two Pre-Nuptial Agreement Workshops:
Saturday, June 5 - First workshop, presented in collaboration with the Catholic Immigration Center was facilitated by Dr. Safaa Fouda and Afshan Khan.
Saturday, June 19 - Second workshop, presented in collaboration with the Afghan Womens Committee was facilitated by Najia Haneefie and Fauzya Talib.
June 10-11- Farhat participated in a forum by Mental Health Commission of Canada. The round-table on social inclusion includes people with mental health illnesses in Canada. This was the first time a group of interested stakeholders was brought together to deepen a common understanding of the meaning and importance of social inclusion and the development of a Mental Health Strategy for Canada.
June 13 Farhat Rehman was a presenter at the Information Session on Muslims in Detention, organized by the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre & Crime Prevention Ottawa. The event was organized by the umbrella organization, Muslim Coordinating Council of the National Capital, of which the Ottawa Chapter is a member. A disproportionately high number of Muslims are in detention, casting untold difficulties over their lives and those of their families. In addition, reports of overcrowding and lack of services for the inmates have been an ongoing concern. The event was organized to respond to these concerns and to address why this is happening and how the community might be able to help deal with this tragic situation.
June 21-Farhat attended an Interfaith Restorative Justice and Conflict Resolution gathering. This Round Table is described as a voluntary vehicle for stakeholders of goodwill to create a safe, efficient and productive path based upon universal principles towards social advocacy. Monthly meetings are ongoing. Community Service request: Afshan Khan helped a family with 3 young children in care of Childrens Aid Society (CSA) for the last 2 months by providing advocacy and liaison with CAS to resolve this case. In addition to meetings with the family and the lawyers she attended Court conference prior to the case presentation for decision. Afshan Khan said, I am in touch with the family and we all are making efforts to get issues resolved in the best interest of the children.
June 26 - CCMW members supported MPV Ottawa and the family of Nathalie Morin, the 26-year old Canadian who along with her three small children has been held against her will in Saudi Arabia by her common-law husband. The demo was held outside the Saudi Embassy, calling on the the Kingdome of S.A and the U.S Government to respect the Human rights of women and children and ensure their safety.
July 28 - Together with Shahla, a CCMW member and Chair of MPV Ottawa, took part in a radio interview with Dr. Qais Ghanem, creator and host of Dialogue with Diversity Radio Show on CHIN Radio. We spoke about what it means to be Muslim and Progressive and about future plans for MPV.
September 6 - Grassroots initiatives Task force participation. A meeting was called by CAIRCan in view of Ottawa Muslim Community members arrests. About 40 people attended. Farhat attended on behalf of CCMW. The effect on the Communities and families of the accused was assessed. Six task force groups were set up and some chapter members volunteered to be on the following: Citizenship Task Force, Farhat Rehman; Communication Task Force, Dr. Ferrukh Faruqui; Strategic Planning, Alia Mirza. The mandate was to develop an effective and coherent first response by Muslims to future incidents where urgent action is needed.
October - Minister MacKay cancelled the speech that Imam Zijad Delic was to deliver at a Department of National Defence (DND) function to inaugurate Islamic History Month. That was bad enough, but the Muslim Canadian Congress spokespersons gave some incendiary comments to the media. Ottawa Chapter members decided to show support for Imam Delic based on our perception of his hard work in the Ottawa Community, his openness and rapport with youth. A letter protesting the cancellation was sent to Minister MacKay.
October 2 MY Canada Project - Ottawa Youth Workshop was organized. Chapter members helped with securing the venue and refreshments. By all accounts, the workshop went very well. Dr, Zijad Delic was able to come and speak to youth. Some members of the media, who were eventually allowed to film the session for a few minutes and talk to Chapter members, had followed him to the session. The Workshop had a good turnout. Team Ottawa/youth organizers seemed to accomplish all they needed to. What was heard of Dr. Delic's presentation hit the right notes (identity vs identities, leadership, and community involvement). He was understandably low-keyed and not his usual buoyant disposition due to the incident and the media attention. Speakers Faiza and Stephan were also impressive and effective.
October 24 - A highlight of this year for us was the participation for the first time of the Ottawa Chapter in the Islamic History Month. The event on October 24 at the Public Library opened with a Native prayer and drumming ritual lead by the Native Friendship Center womens group. These women expressed their pleasure at the enlightening event and noted the commonalities of experiences and struggles for equality among Native and Muslim Women. Alia Hogben, Executive Director of CCMW graciously accepted our invitation to speak and travelled from Kingston for the event. Alia spoke about the Contribution of CCMW to Canadian Society. We heard about the ongoing challenging work and the future vision of CCMW. Dr. Ferrukh Faruqui spoke about the experiences of women in Canadian history. She traced the slow gains made by Canadian women towards achieving recognition and equality. She tied in the work of Muslim women in the same context. Dr. Safaa Fouda reminded us that men and women are differently enabled and equity and equality are different. The three-member panel of Alia, Ferrukh and Safaa Fouda then answered questions from the audience. This event was well attended by both Muslim and Non-Muslims as was the intent of the event.
September 14 A contingent from the Ottawa chapter participated in the orientation workshop in Toronto on the CCMW project, Being A Canadian Muslim Woman in the 21st Century. A post-orientation meeting followed on November 28. Attendees continue to reach out to educational institutions and are planning to deliver sessions soon. Thanks to those who attended the orientation session: Iman Zebian, Dina Shalabi, Ferrukh Faruqui, Chelby Diagle and Sana Khalil
November 6 Peace of Mind series was conceived and presented by Chelby Marie Daigle and Farhat Rehman, two Muslim women whose lives have been affected by Mental Illness. Farhat, as a member of the Family Council, an advocacy group of parents and caregivers of clients, got approval from Royal Ottawa Mental Health Center to hold an educational seminar at the ROMHC auditorium for mental health awareness. The intent of the Peace of Mind series is to support other members of our community by challenging the stigma associated with mental illness in our communities. Over 40 participated in this first session, representing diverse ethno-cultural backgrounds, high school and university students, and parents with children. Service providers from eight organizations attended. The objectives were: to share information about services for people living with mental illness; to encourage Muslim community members to become involved in professional and volunteer opportunities; and, to develop the cultural competency of service providers. Berak Hussain, a counsellor for International Students at Carleton U and a graduate from the Masters of Counselling Program at the University of Ottawa, and Abdourahman Kahin, a psychotherapist in private practice and a graduate from the Centre de formation professionelle en psychotherapie en Montreal explained that counseling is not a foreign concept for Muslims. By quoting examples from the life of the Prophet Mohammed, pbuh, they emphasized that there is neither shame nor religious contradiction to seek treatment.
November 16 - Smart Justice initiative. Farhat was part of a presentation organized by the Church Council on Justice & Corrections to the Justice and Corrections Committee of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in January. This had a profound impact on Committee members. The Committee agreed to take a motion back to FCM to look into the local issues from a municipal level on how Justice issues impact on citizens February 5, 2011 - Muslims in Conversation about Mental Health and Mental Illness organized a session entitled, Coping with Depression: Treatment and Prevention The Second Session in the Peace of Mind series focused on raising awareness about depression and its treatment, with a particular focus on how families and communities can support people coping with depression. Again the event drew people from diverse background in the Muslim Community. Subject of youth suicide was discussed. Dr. Helen Ward, head of forensic psychiatry at the Royal Ottawa Hospital kindly attended and was accompanied by Karen Poole, head of Social Work at the Royal Ottawa. Together they answered many questions during and after the presentation. The third session in March or April will focus on Schizophrenia.
February 12 Books and Biryani, a large turn-out was on hand to hear personal insights on the writings of Tarek Ramadan as presented by Dr. Ferrukh Faruqui and Yayah Abdul Rahman. A lively discussion with Qs & As followed. We were awed and inspired by the spoken-word poetry of Assma Basalamah before enjoying some delicious biryani and other goodies.
February 24 - Farhat Rehman is part of the group Ottawa Health Coalition. She attended the monthly meetings. The aim of the group is to voice concerns and draw attention to the crisis of health care in Canada. Publicity, bumper stickers and Town-Hall meetings are planned for March and April
February 26 A planning session for future events, organized by Muslims for Progressive Values MPV Ottawa- was attended by Farhat Rehman and Fauzya Talib.
March 1 - Alia Mirza and Farhat attended a Community Meeting held by Somali Mothers Assoc. in collaboration with Crime Prevention Ottawa and RCMP. There is a concern that Canadian Muslims have been overly scrutinized and profiled since September 11, 2001. Young men are hurting from labels of extremism and radicalism. Security Services may conduct legitimate investigations of criminal activity, but the community feels there is no justification to profile young people in the streets, places of work and worship. This is continuing to happen, adding to the anxiety and frustrations of young people. The dialogue was expected to have a productive and concrete result that would alleviate the fears of the community.
THANK-YOU CHAPTER MEMBERS AND SUPPORTERS!
We are very grateful for the participation of many women and men in the Ottawa community, and for the support and collaboration with other organizations, including:
Being the Chapter in the National Capital Region, we are often called upon to speak up, participate, support or sponsor events held by other faith communities, various levels of government departments, and community organizations. It seems that there are not enough members who can respond to these calls for participation. It is a daunting proposition to be called upon to make a statement on National TV/radio at a short notice. Since before Sept 11, 2001 Muslims and Muslim women have been in the limelight, but it is unfortunate that we have not taken on the challenge of training women with the skill sets to become spokespersons in each chapter.
Getting younger Muslim women to participate and carry the CCMW work forward is also proving to be an uphill task. Their priorities are tied with their school, university, or careers. The challenge is to impress on them the importance of the CCMW advocacy work. Our chapter is not the only organization that faces this challenge. At the Feminism at 50 conference, several speakers addressed the issue of making feminism appealing to the novice feminists. Some of the ideas expressed, were: senior feminists mentoring young women, holding seminars, coffee rants and keeping contact, older women to listen to younger women. We will continue to pursue the same ideas in Ottawa.
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