The Bradford Bulletin Archive

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Click here to see the February 5, 2014 - Honouring Black History Month

Click here to see the November 18, 2013 entry - "Connecting with the Community"

Click here to see the November 24, 2013 entry - "UNiTE for Gender Equity"

Click here to see the December 9, 2013 entry - "In pursuit of justice and equity."

January 2015

Dealing with Separation

Happy New Year, Bradford West Gwillimbury! The New Year marks a new chapter in all of our lives. 2015 also marks my thirteenth year working in the field of social work. I have learned many important lessons with each passing year, all of which have helped contribute to my passion, knowledge base, and skill level as a social worker. One such lesson I have learned is how to effectively help people cope with separation or divorce. I have observed the stress and pain that clients experience when approaching a separation or divorce, especially when custody of children is involved. Matters of custody and divorce are emotionally complex. Aside from legal implications, one must recognize the emotional effects on all parties involved.

Often, when working with clients who are facing separation and/or divorce, I notice a lot of nervousness about the process. Embarking on this journey means turning your life upside down and not really knowing what the future will look like. Counselling sessions often include conversations about fear. Fear has many dimensions and it challenges people to doubt their abilities. Some concerns I hear are: “I don’t know how to be alone,” “I’m afraid my children/parents/friends will think I’m a failure,” and, “I don’t know what to do with my life now.” These are very important and valid concerns that require careful thought and reflection.

 In the thirteen years I have spent working with individuals, couples and families, I have learned that there is potential for healing in all of us. As painful as this process might be, it paves the way for a new chapter in life, offering important lessons about moving forward on the path to wellness.

 Some helpful family law links:

 Your Law: Family Law in Ontario is an excellent resource for people of all ages to find out more about family law. It walks people through the process of separation, answering important questions such as, “why is it important to have a legally binding agreement?” and, “what do I do when I receive court papers?” NOTE: this website also contains a link to the Ministry of the Attorney General’s pamphlet for children, which outlines the separation/divorce and court process in child-friendly language.

The National Association of Women and the Law has useful financial information about relationships and the law. If you are in a common-law relationship or marriage and want to educate yourself about your financial rights and responsibilities, this website will answer your questions. It also contains a directory of legal services.

 A directory of FLIC (Family Law Information Centre) offices is offered through the Ministry of the Attorney General’s website. FLIC offices help people to get started with the legal process, answering questions about the paperwork required to get things going.

February 5, 2014

Honouring Black History Month

Many people in Canada and the United States know that February is Black History Month. However, not everyone knows why this is so, or how it came to be.

Black History month began almost a century ago when Harvard graduate Carter G. Woodson launched Negro History Week in February 1926. Woodson recognized the need for increased awareness, as well as a platform to inspire African-Americans to achieve their goals and dreams.

But why February? According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the month of February was already noted for its significance in African-American history. Both former president Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass were born in February. Lincoln was renowned for the role he played in ending slavery, while Douglass, an African-American, was a trailblazer for abolition as well as other social movements.

Negro History Week quickly became adopted throughout the United States with the purpose of educating people about African-American history, celebrating the accomplishments of famous African-Americans, upholding cultural traditions, and instilling a strong sense of pride in people of African heritage. This tradition continued for 50 years until 1976, when it was expanded to a whole month, thus creating Black History Month.

Rosemary Sadlier, President of Ontario Black History Society, has noted that although the province of Ontario did not formally recognize Black History Month until 1993, celebratory events have occurred in Toronto since the 1950s, thanks to the early efforts of the Canadian Negro Women’s Association. She credited Black History Month with influencing young African-Canadians to look up to strong role models and aspire to achieve great goals. Black History Month has also been an effective tool in teaching Canadian students about African-Canadian history.

Canadians are well noted for their anti-slavery efforts. One of the best known examples of this is the Underground Railroad, in which oppressed slaves were able to escape to Canada from the United States. Thanks to the Underground Railroad, thousands of slaves found freedom in this country once they arrived. However, not all of Canadian history has been positive; racism and inequality have persisted throughout the centuries. One such outcome of racism and segregation is the former community of Africville. A Nova Scotian village inhabited by former slaves and escaped slaves, Africville started out as a tiny settlement in the 1800s and became a thriving community in the 20th century. Land was purchased by the village’s inhabitants, who built their own homes as well as a local church. Although residents paid taxes and earned a living in surrounding cities such as Halifax, they were denied safe drinking water, sewage services, street lights, and emergency fire services. In addition, a landfill and a prison were built just outside the village because they were not wanted in the larger cities. In the 1960s, Africville was deemed by the city of Halifax to be in poor condition and was demolished. The residents of Africville were forced to abandon their homes and moved into public housing. It has been noted that the residents were excluded from participating in this process and were greatly misled by the city of Halifax. As a result, a vibrant community was destroyed. In 2010, more than 40 years after the resettlement, an official apology was made and the city of Halifax revealed a plan to help finance a new Africville commemorative project.

Although many important steps have been taken to combat racism and promote equity for African-Canadians, there is still a long way to go:

“When the contributions of people of African descent are acknowledged, when the achievements of Black people are known, when Black people are routinely included or affirmed through our curriculum, our books and the media, and treated with equality, then there will no longer be a need for Black History Month.”

- Rosemary Sadlier
President,
Ontario Black History Society

For more information, please visit the following websites:

http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/multiculturalism/black/index.asp - Citizen and Immigration Canada’s Black History Month website
http://www.blackhistorycanada.ca/ - Black History Canada
http://www.toronto.ca/blackhistory/ - city of Toronto’s Black History Month website; offering historical facts and information about current celebratory events
http://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/black-history-month/ - CBC news website: “23 Historical Black Canadians You Should Know”
http://www.africville.ca/ - chronicle of Africville from its origins to the present day
http://www.africvillemuseum.org/   - museum dedicated to preserving the history and cultural significance of Africville
http://www.blackhistorysociety.ca - non-profit charity committed to preserve history and educate Ontarians about Black History and heritage
http://www.asalh.org/blackhistorymonthorigins.html - Association for the Study of African American Life and History 
http://www.freedomtrail.ca/ - detailed history of the Underground Railroad

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December 9, 2013

In pursuit of justice and equality

“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”
― John F. Kennedy, 1963


December 10 is International Human Rights Day. Since its inception in 1950, the world has been challenged on this day to reflect upon the manner in which humans are treated. In 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights adopted a crucial document called the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. This document set the stage for worldwide changes in favour of ensuring fairness, safety, and equal rights for all. On December 10, we are all urged to remember the grave injustices that have been committed on humankind and continue the fight for equal rights.

With the recent passing of Nelson Mandela, it seems fitting to talk about the importance of Human Rights Day. Among his vast lifetime accomplishments, Nelson Mandela was known for his extraordinary efforts in fighting oppression on a large scale. Much of his work may have been done in his native country of South Africa; however, his impact has been felt around the world, even in Canada. In fact, in recognition of his long, hard fight against injustice and oppression, Mandela was bestowed an honorary Order of Canada as well as an honorary Canadian Citizenship.

Mandela was a role model for millions and his promotion of passive resistance challenged us to think about the possibility of significant change without the use of violence. Even though the world has lost an icon, we must hold on to the fact that strong efforts will continue to be made on a daily basis. Here in Canada, we are blessed with privileges that many in other countries can only dream of, such as the right to vote, freedom of speech, and freedom to practice the religion of one’s choosing. However, we still have some ways to go. Because of this, organizations like the Ontario Human Rights Commission are such important resources. Based on the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Ontario Human Rights System monitors and investigates human rights violations, and it also works to educate people in Ontario about our rights. For example, as Ontarians, we have the right to be free from discrimination of any kind and to be treated equally and respectfully in our homes, schools, places of employment, and in our communities.

So what can we do as individuals? You may recall that in a previous blog post I printed a quote about the power of a few individuals to create large scale change. As individuals, we all have the power to influence change. One way is to speak up if you notice a human rights violation. If you are a writer, Amnesty International has created “Writeathon,” a campaign to mark Human Rights Day each year through writing letters, signing petitions, or organizing events. For more information or for examples of what you can do to effect change on a local level, please send an email to writeathon@amnesty.ca.

Let us mark the passing of Mr. Mandela with a commitment to uphold his beliefs of peace, equality, and justice, on December 10 and every day of the year.

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November 24, 2013

UNiTE for Gender Equity

 Over the last 20 years, our exposure to news has dramatically increased, thanks to the internet and 24-hour news stations. More recently, the development of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have made it possible for traditional and citizen reporters to transmit and receive news instantly. With all of this information at our fingertips, humans have become more aware of issues occurring all around the world. Fifty years ago, the concept of domestic violence or violence against women was relatively unknown. So how is it that, in 2013, every time we open a newspaper or look up a news site, we are bound to see some kind of report about violence against women?

There are a number of possible answers to this question. I believe one primary cause of this shift is increased awareness. In the last few decades, there have been massive campaigns to inform and educate the general population about domestic violence and violence against women. One such example is Take Back the Night, an internationally known organization that has sponsored walks against sexual violence since 1975. Movements like this started out with a few determined people and steadily grew in support over the years to eventually reach worldwide partnerships. Thanks to the internet and social networking sites, the reach (and support) of these campaigns has skyrocketed.
 
                                "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.
                                                                             Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
                                                                                               –Margaret Mead

 
Monday, November 25, 2013 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The United Nations has also declared November 25 as the UNiTE to End Violence Against Women Day. Without these campaigns, we might never have known how much destruction has been caused due to violence against women. So what is this destruction? According to current statistics:
 
    - 1 out of every 5 homicides in Canada is a result of partner abuse
    - 1 in 3 Canadian women will experience sexual assault as an adult
    - 83% of spousal violence victims are women
    - 91% of spousal homicide victims are women
    - These statistics only refer to reported incidents: only 1 in 10 victims of sexual assault report the crime to police
                                                                                                                                (Source: http://www.women.gov.on.ca/english/recognizing/wapm.shtml)
 
November is Women Abuse Prevention month. As this month winds to a close, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on these statistics. It is my hope that, because of increased access to knowledge and information, all people will recognize the need to promote equitable and fair relationships between genders.
 
                                                            “People with clenched fists can not shake hands.”
                                                                                        – Indira Gandhi

 

 


Further reading:
International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (official UN website)
UNiTE to End Violence Against Women Day, November 25 (official UN website)
Ontario Women’s Directorate - Woman Abuse Prevention Month page – a government of Ontario site that includes information about campaigns, statistics, tips, and resources
White Ribbon– based out of Toronto, White Ribbon is the world’s largest movement of men and boys working to end violence against women and enable gender equity
Take Back the Night– using awareness campaigns to bring an end to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse, and all other forms of sexual violence
Women Thrive Worldwide– the leading non-profit organization bringing the voice of women around the world directly to decision-makers in Washington, D.C.

 

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November 18, 2013

Connecting with the Community

This past week was a shining example of community involvement right here in town. Saturday, November 16, 2013, marked Bradford West Gwillimbury’s annual Santa Claus Parade. Every year, hundreds of people gather to see the cheerful and colourful floats that pass through Holland Street, culminating with a friendly hello from Santa Claus himself. It is a yearly tradition that many people have come to incorporate into their lives. What better way to kickstart the winter season than to huddle with your fellow neighbours, hot chocolate in hand, and observe the local organizations, clubs and businesses that contribute to the character of this wonderful town.

The Santa Claus Parade draws people from all age groups, backgrounds, and life situations, whether they believe in Santa Claus or not. The essence of the parade is an opportunity to unite as a community and experience a sense of togetherness and connection.

Connection is an essential human need. As social creatures, we rely on connections with others to thrive. This might explain why so many of us feel better after spending some quality time with a loved one. This also applies on a larger scale, in which we find ourselves joining communities, clubs and special interest groups. MacMillan and Chavis (1986), pioneers in research about psychological sense of community, believed that the feeling of belonging in a community is characterized by four distinct components:

1. Membership – I belong to this group or community
2. Influence – I have an impact on this community; my contribution is meaningful to my fellow members
3. Integration and fulfillment of needs – Being a part of this community is rewarding and satisfies a need
4. Shared emotional connection – I have something in common with my fellow members and can connect with them on a meaningful level

For those who participated by observing, as well as those who organized, volunteered, or were part of the actual parade, the Santa Claus Parade allowed for all four of the above mentioned components to be met.

MacMillan and Chavis put forward the idea that sense of community results when “faith, hope, and tolerance” are favoured over “fear, hatred and rigidity” (p. 20). With events like the Santa Claus Parade, Bradford West Gwillimbury is well on its way towards becoming a community known for its sense of belonging and inclusivity.


References:
McMillan, D.W., & Chavis, D.M. (1986). Sense of community: A definition and theory. American Journal of Community Psychology, 14(1), 6-23.