MSWC's Response to Recent Statement from Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Posted 23 July 2021, 11:28 am ADT

For Immediate Release
June 13, 2021

On June 10, 2021, the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay (HVGB) released a statement and video entitled "Town Will No Longer Tolerate Government In-Action". Mokami Status of Women Council (MSWC) is responding to this statement in the spirit of education and collaboration. We want to acknowledge that these topics are complex in nature and complicated to navigate. Our goal is to amplify recommendations of those with lived experience of homelessness and the findings in research which clearly indicate that to end homelessness, we need to change the system, not the people.

With this in mind, we support the Town of HVGB's call to action to our Provincial and Federal Governments for more affordable housing and more mental health and addictions supports. MSWC also calls for more infrastructure, more affordable and accessible child care, raising the minimum wage to a living wage, avoidance of austerity and cuts to social services, more supports for gender-based violence survivors (particularly sexual violence), holistic release programs for people who are currently incarcerated, meaningful engagement and support for precarious workers and sex workers, sustainable funding for 2SLGBTQIA+ supports and services, better access to justice and restorative justice options and implementation of the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the recommendations of the National Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

We do not support communication and approaches that contribute to the stigma and stereotypes surrounding mental health and addictions and homelessness. Prioritizing the concerns of those with privilege leads to social inequality and oppression towards the most vulnerable members of our community. This is why we are advocating for a trauma-informed approach to address these issues and trauma-informed communication by the Town of HVGB and all other community and government organizations. Non-judgmental and safe spaces and conversations are the key to addressing these issues.

Furthermore, an approach grounded in harm reduction is vital. In fact, we recognize that MSWC can also do better and we are currently in the process of reviewing our procedures and policies in our Supportive Living Program to ensure that they are inclusive, trauma-informed and value harm-reduction. Harm reduction is a key principle to the housing first model. This approach recognizes the barriers and challenges that exist to addressing mental health and addictions when someone is also experiencing homelessness. In many cases, it is not realistic to even begin to address struggles with mental health and addictions if people do not have a safe place to live. Housing must come first.

We also know that Indigenous people are disproportionately represented within the homeless population. This means race and culture must be considered. When we intentionally remove these factors from the conversation or fail to acknowledge them, we are missing out on uniquely specific needs and the experiences of those who are black,indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC). For instance, the impact of intergenerational trauma is absolutely necessary to acknowledge and reflect on. We share the perspectives of BIPOC leaders, elders and community members who have clearly stated that more policing and security is not the answer. The suggestion to implement security measures on our trail system will contribute to colonial practices and risk criminalizing mental health and addictions. We are also troubled by the announcement of brush cutting activities as this will ultimately displace people, perpetuate shame and most importantly, not provide them the support that is needed. It is critical that we work to decolonize our policies, procedures and approaches and prioritize cultural safety and humility.

Similarly, we are advocating for a feminist, intersectional and gendered analysis in order to make informed and equitable decisions about housing and homelessness. For example, to fully address homelessness in our community, it is important to note that it is not always visible. In fact, statistics indicate that homelessness experienced by women and gender diverse individuals is generally less visible than homelessness experienced by cis-gender men. Hidden homelessness may include couch surfing, overcrowded homes, survival sex where sex is traded for food, housing and other basic needs, or individuals unable to leave unsafe living situations.

MSWC is committed to creating safe, trauma-informed programming and spaces and encourage any woman or gender diverse individual to reach out to us for support.

Finally, MSWC believes that collaboration and education is the way forward and we are interested in connecting with the Town of HVGB to have further discussions. We are happy to provide education on the above suggestions if requested. We encourage you all to lead with empathy and compassion and we look forward to more conversations focusing on growth and inclusion.

Media Contact:
Stacey Hoffe, BSW, BEd, MEd, RSW
Pronouns: She/Her
Executive Director Mokami Status of Women Council/Women's Centre
P: 709.896.3484 Ext. 202

About MSWC
Located in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Mokami Status of Women Council is an equality seeking feminist organization that is dedicated to serving the needs of the women and gender diverse people. We acknowledge our home as the traditional and ancestral homelands of the Innu of Nitassinan, the Inuit of Nunatsiavut, and the Inuit of NunatuKavut.

Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay
Premier Andrew Furey
Minister John Hogan, Justice and Public Safety
Minister Lisa Dempster, Labrador Affairs Secretariat
Minister Pam Parsons, Office of Women & Gender Equality
Perry Trimper, Member of the House of Assembly
Yvonne Jones, Member of Parliament

Mokami Status of Women Council