Feminist activists meet to talk about indigenous justice, racialized and migrant workers

Panelists  talk to  a group at Ryerson about justice for indigenous people, racialized and migrant workers. (Courtesy of Sonia E Boury/ Ryersonian Staff)

Panelists talk to a group at Ryerson about justice for indigenous people, racialized and migrant workers. (Sonia El Boury/Ryersonian Staff)

Lawyer Shalini Konanur says she sees as many as 700 clients a month at her clinic on Shepherd Ave. E north of highway 401 in Toronto.

Of those clients, she says, 60 percent are women. Each of them comes to the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario needing help to navigate a world of systemic racism and marginalization.

Konanur was one of the speakers at the first “Speak Up! Speak Out!” panel held at Ryerson last week in recognition of International Women’s Day. It was one of a week-long series of events that centred on feminist voice for change, and it brought together students and activists like Konanur.

“Speak Up! Speak Out!” focused on the justice for indigenous people, racialized and migrant workers. The panel, moderated by Debbie Douglas, included  Ryerson’s vice-president Pascale Diverlus, Elder Wanda Whitebird, from No More Silence, Ayesha Jabbar from Workers Action Centre and Konanur.

The issues raised at the panel included discussions about violence against Indigenous women, Islamophobia, low minimum wages, and combatting racism via #BlackLivesMatter.

“While there are differences, there is a sameness to the issues we’re dealing with,” said Kononur. Black lives matter the same as South Asian lives matter, she added.

The speakers at the event said while they’re fighting for different issues they are all fighting for one cause.  It’s a fight against “sexism and prioritizing women’s voice in our everyday societies and interactions with each other, in our culture and our campus,” said Diverlus.

There was a sense of urgency at the panel as each panelist shared similar experiences against systemic racism and marginalization across all platforms.

“(The) time is now before it’s too late,” said Ng.

“We are all responsible,” added Whitebird. “We have the power to make these changes and not accept this (intolerance) in our lives.”

In addition, the panelists all agreed that educating the younger generation is a good way to start.

“The long history of change in Canada is rooted in students,” said Diverlus.

Diverlus said Ryerson students need to mobilize against something they strongly believe in.

“It’s going to have to start from the ground up by supporting us in the different initiatives, or coming and speaking for us.”.

But for Whitebird, the solution is solidarity.

“We want people to become allies—to champion the cause, not to take over. Join in and speak out about atrocities.”

Diverlus said the conversation doesn’t end here, and hopes that Ryerson will continue to hold this event next year and continue to support open discussions on the issues raised.

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