‘The process is the goal’: family violence prevention committee creates collaboration across community

The challenges faced by newcomers to Canada can be varied and complex. For 20 years, the Immigrant Family Violence Prevention Committee (IFVPC) has been providing awareness, education and advocacy for service providers. 

This committee works collaboratively Community Initiatives Against Family Violence (CIAFV), an ummbrella group that works with agencies around prevention, intervention and crisis. The group consists of more than 40 members, including REACH Edmonton and IFVPC. 

“The committee enhances capacity, collaboration, and coordination of resources and services to prevent family violence in newcomers and diverse ethno-cultural communities,” says committee chair Naheed Amjad-Minhas, IFSSA’s Programs Lead (Islamic Family and Social Services Association). “Through member agencies, we increase awareness while providing education, consultation and advocacy in the Edmonton area.”

Newcomers to Canada experience family violence differently than those who were born here, says education committee co-chair Meital Siva, Diversity, Inclusion and Community Initiatives Team Lead for SACE (Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton). 

“Many times sexual violence is happening within existing relationships like family relationships. SACE is on the committee because newcomers, immigrants and refugees experience specific barriers to addressing it. There is an intersection between family violence and sexual violence,” says Meital.  

Culture plays a key role in addressing the complex challenges of adjusting to life in a new country, and the stresses that accompany the entire newcomer experience.

“We think about violence through our cultural lens. Compared to the dominant culture, it might be spoken about differently in other cultures and even criminalized differently. Support might look different,” says Meital. “Maybe folks are not comfortable with one-on-one therapy, maybe they’d prefer speaking to a religious leader. I don’t want to say it’s a barrier, it’s just different. We have to be aware of it and try to support healthy relationships however we can. There are different ways to address healing.”

A key way of addressing these challenges is education. 

“There are especially barriers with mainstream providers. Immigrant families come here with so many complex, culturally diverse backgrounds. There are different kinds of cultural values,” says Naheed. “Canada is individualistic. Individual achievements are emphasized. Independence is emphasized. In families that come from collectivistic cultures, instead of ‘I achieved,’ it’s ‘we achieved’.”

The family situation is often also different from statistical Canadian norms. Many newcomers live together in large extended families which changes the dynamic of relationships in the home. 

The committee is made up of two working groups, an Education Committee and the Influencing Change committee, as well as a steering committee. 

The Education Committee is open to anyone who works in the family violence or settlement sectors. 

“The Education working group specifically does education for prevention, however, we recognize that intervention and prevention are tied together, so if you want to address one you address the other sometimes,” says Meital. 

The second working group aims to close gaps in systems that serve immigrants. 

“The Influencing Change committee’s mandate is to advocate for systemic change in the area of family violence in the newcomer community,” says Meital. 

“They meet a few times a year. It’s made up of people who have the ability and experience in advocacy and changing systems,” she says. “So they are looking at things like interpretation services for newcomers who experience family violence because they realize there are gaps there.”

The years of work show slow but measurable changes in how services are delivered and organizations work together.

“I see that mainstream family violence organizations understand that addressing family violence in newcomer communities has to be part of their regular operations. So we’re seeing a systemic change,” says Meital. 

Naheed echoes this sentiment.

“We are seeing changes, because we do this work for the service providers,” she says. “We do see the service providers becoming more culturally informed about the immigrant communities.” 

In addition to doing valuable work in the area of family violence, the committee itself is creating lasting connections between organizations and encouraging across-the-board collaboration.

“It’s been such a positive experience on many levels,” says Meital. “We’ve built relationships with other professionals in this field. Based on this relationship, I’ve partnered with Naheed on other projects because we have this history of working together now.”

“It’s networking, relationships and understanding the trends in the sector,” she adds. “There are a lot of benefits. Working with each other is the work itself, because we are self-creating, connecting with each other. The process is the goal.”

For more information about the committee, click here []



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