ST. BONIFACE — It was the largest gathering of Catholic Women’s League members at a Manitoba provincial convention in recent history. One hundred and thirty women descended on Christ the King Parish May 28 — 29 for the purpose of the annual business meeting and the passing of three resolutions: extending coverage of insulin pumps and supplies to Manitobans of all ages; Canada Food Guide; Environmentally responsible solutions for the collection and disposal of grain bags and agricultural plastic waste products.
National president Barbara Dowding brought greetings and expressed delight that she was able to attend. “Meeting committed and dedicated league members as they celebrate the year’s achievements never fails to amaze me.”
Dowding expressed joy on how so much can be accomplished in many cases by so few is concrete proof that the league is alive and well. Dowding also commented on how much members enjoy the company of one another where they really encounter each other.
Provincial president Faith Anderson thanked councils for supporting the Provincial Council project of collecting toiletry items for Chez Nous and Siloam Mission. “It is amazing the generosity of everyone. Together we all make a difference,” said Anderson.
Anderson also noted that, “We are not daunted and restricted in what we need to do but always rise to the challenge. We do not set boundaries on who we help, but do what needs to be done.” Winnipeg Harvest will be provincial council’s 2017 project.
The REDress Project, an inspiration by artist and activist Jaime Black, is to provide a focus on the issue of missing or murdered Aboriginal women across Canada, and was the impetus for a visual reminder to draw attention to the “staggering amount of missing women.” Black hopes to collect 600 red dresses to display publicly across Canada.
Between 2000 and 2008 Aboriginal women and girls represented approximately 10 per cent of all female homicides in Canada, though they make up only three per cent of the female population. Only seven per cent of missing cases and 13 per cent of murder cases occurred on reserves, and most of these did not involve the sex trade.
A sacred space of a grove of trees brought onto the convention floor provided a significant idea of the scope of missing women as members had cut-outs of red dresses to hang on the tree with the suggestion of writing the name of one of the missing women or a prayer on the back of the dress.
The keynote presentation by Rita Chahal, executive director of the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council (MIIC), a recent appointee to the Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council and winner of the Nellie McClung award, described the hardships and dangerous encounters of people who have fled Syria and who were displaced by the war. Chahal said families are welcomed and helped with the process to become Canadian along the way.
MIIC is a board of 15 interfaith members and has a staff of 40 permanent members who speak an average of three languages each.
Co-worker Maysoun Darweesh, who fled Syria 10 years ago to Macau and finally arrived in Manitoba in 2013, told how they were persecuted, tortured and threatened with death. The journey was long and arduous and it was necessary to bribe officials. When the family of four landed in Winnipeg it was +25C degrees in Macau and -43C here, but they were overcome by emotion to have made it to freedom. “It was the best -43 of my life!” said Darweesh.
When people come under such circumstances, said Darweesh, they don’t care if they come with nothing. All they care about is being safe. Ninety-nine per cent say they are doing it for their children. The first thing they do is find a place of worship. Darweesh says that she has never experienced the horrific conditions they are hearing about now and the children are exposed to watching their parents and family being tortured. “The effects on children is really sad,” said Darweesh.