By Samantha Elmsley
On June 13, thirteen women met in the KIAC ballroom to discuss ongoing issues pertaining to women in the Yukon. Hosted by the Yukon Advisory Council on Women’s Issues (YACWI), the meeting provided a forum for local women to voice their concerns and celebrate successes in their community. Though many attendees were community representatives of YACWI, the meeting was open to the public and anyone was welcome to join for snacks and discussion.
Moving around the circle of chairs, representatives from Whitehorse, Dawson City, Mayo, Teslin and Watson Lake took turns bringing the group up to speed on relevant issues. Issues in mental health care, problems resulting from lateral violence, and lack of housing dominated the agenda.
“Mental health is the ugly cousin in the health community,” says Kim Solonick, representing Yukon Women in Trade and Technology (YWITT). “No one wants to talk about it.”
In general agreement, the women expressed a need for social, rather than purely medical support.
“I think [success] would look like… if someone in the community was distressed, they would have someone to go to for help,” says Diane Schroeder, representing Dawson City.
One community member from Dawson City, who wishes to remain anonymous, agreed.
They are concerned that those responsible for health care are too quick to medicalize mental health patients. Rather than turning to medicine right away, simply having someone to talk to about their trials would benefit those struggling to maintain mental health, this community member feels. Many women spoke of the strength of support groups in their own communities, and the centrality of such groups in staying healthy.
No plans for such a group in Dawson have been formed as of yet.
“We [the Tinglit] are a matriarchal people… but for whatever reason, we’re really lacking women in power,” says Karen Keenan, representing Teslin. Explaining that narrow perceptions of a woman’s role was limiting female empowerment in her community,
Keenan told the group of a three- day workshop the Teslin Tlinglit Council (TTC) recently held to deal with lateral violence in their own workplace.
Lateral violence occurs when a victim of violence deals with their experience by taking it out on others, who may have no idea of the victim’s history.
Lack of Housing
Lack of housing, particularly social-assisted housing, is a major problem throughout the Yukon.
“Housing is the biggest issue,” says Betty Irwin, speaking as councilor of the City of Whitehorse.
The stress of homelessness, in combination with the obvious physical risks, was perceived by those at the meeting to take a huge toll on those living the experience. The bureaucracy often involved in acquiring assisted housing was agreed to be a major roadblock to getting assistance in this area.
After a respectful and supportive two hours of discussion, the group of women ended the night.
For more information on women’s issues in the Yukon, visit http://www.womensdirectorate.gov.yk.ca/yacwi.html.