Thursday, February 25, 2016

Spread the word for Canada Without Poverty

Did you know that your basic rights like access to housing, food, water, and healthcare may not be safeguarded by Canadian law?

Canada Without Poverty, along with several other NGOs, has put together this letter asking that economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights be protected under the Charter.

"Although I’m an educated professional, I lived most of my life in poverty. It is clear to me that Canada does not connect poverty, homelessness or food insecurity with human rights. Paragraph 3 in Canada’s response to the list of issues is clear, in the Government’s opinion, my right to an adequate standard of living, to adequate housing and food, is not protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They have closed the door on people living in poverty, denying us access to justice. "

Help by sharing on Facebook, Twitter, and email! Spread the word!

You can also help by making a donation.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Crown responds to Court Watch Report

A Whitehorse Star article posted last Tuesday has reported on the Crown's response to our recently released Court Watch Report.

You can read the article by downloading this pdf (don't forget to scroll to the bottom to see the article) or by subscribing to the Whitehorse Star and looking through their online archives.

Any comments? Thoughts? We'd love to hear it!

Thursday, January 7, 2016


The Yukon Status of Women Council is pleased to release our much anticipated

The report provides the findings and recommendations of the Court Watch Yukon program from June 2014 to the end of May 2015. Court Watch volunteers observed proceedings with respect to violence against women, spousal violence, and sexualized assault in Whitehorse, Dawson, and Watson Lake. Information in this report focuses on Whitehorse, since limited data was available from the communities at that time. The report has been organized into the following sections: Background, Methodology, What we learned from victims of violence, Demographics, Court environment, Bail hearings, Domestic Violence Treatment Option Court, Trials, Sentencing, Victims’ experience in court, Victim safety, Language, Reflection, Recommendations, and What’s next.   This is followed by a bibliography as well as an appendix.

The Yukon Status of Women Council wishes to thank all the hard-working, enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers from Whitehorse, Dawson City and Watson Lake who sat through many hours of court proceedings, trainings and meetings in order to make this project a success.  We are thankful to the women victims of violence who contributed their experiences with the legal system. We are very grateful to our research advisors, Dr. Kate Rossiter and Dr. Margaret Jackson, for their direction and to the many justice professionals who freely gave of their time to educate us and offer their insights into the workings of the legal system. Finally, we appreciate the support generously given by the members of the women’s community in the Yukon whose valuable perceptions and questions helped inform this project.

Since September 2015, CWY has resumed observing bail hearings, trials, and sentencings in Whitehorse, Dawson City, and Watson Lake. CWY is no longer observing the Domestic Violence Treatment Option court in Whitehorse.

You can also find a copy on our Publications page.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Court Watch Seminar in Brief!

“…Increased focus on victim safety and minimize re-victimization in the courts, more use of Victim Impact Statements, increased use of testimonial aids, increase the use of analysis of the dynamics of violence against women in trials and sentencings with respect to spousal assaults, more accurate descriptions of violence that include victims’ responses for better picture of incident and deliberateness of the accused’s behaviour, and victims should have access to legal advice and advocacy….”

 These are just a few of the recommendations brought forward by Court Watch Yukon at their seminar, coordinated by the Women’s Coalition,  to the public on August 27, 2015.

 Fully trained CWY volunteers began observing court proceedings in Whitehorse related to violence against women, sexualized assault, and spousal violence. Volunteers have been taking note of court room environment, mutualizing language, respect and dignity shown to the victims, and dual charging.

Observers noted numerous times that it was difficult to hear in the court room and that there were inappropriate comments made before and after proceedings by court workers, members of the legal community, and support workers. 

Of specific interest to CWY was observing if language was used to minimize or mutualize violence. This type of language conceals violence and removes abusers’ accountability and responsibility. Studies have noted that there is a correlation between the use of minimizing and mutualizing violence and lighter sentences. Observers noted that there was more mutualizing language used in the court room than minimizing language. The use of either of this language to describe violence is a concern since it does not give an accurate picture of the incident and the violence that occurred.

Observers noted that in sexualized assault trials consent, dynamics of violence against women, and safety concerns were brought up either by the Crown and/or Judges. This is an improvement since the last CWY program with respect to sexualized violence. However, in spousal assault cases dealt with outside of the Domestic Violence Treatment Option (DVTO), which means that the accused has plead not guilty and has chosen to go trial, it was rare that the dynamics of violence against women were brought forward.

The information presented to the community also included interview findings with women who have had experience in the criminal justice system by the YSWC coordinator. Women interviewed expressed that re-victimization/re-traumatization, negative experiences with the justice system, and court room environment safety were barriers to their participation in the criminal justice system.  If they had support, positive social responses, and their safety concerns respected they felt that their experiences would be better and would engage more with the process.

Court Watch Yukon (CWY) was revived by the Yukon Status of Women Council (YSWC) in April 2014. CWY builds on the 2002-2004 pilot program of the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre. The program aims to improve women’s experience of the criminal justice system by providing oversight to the Yukon courts and practical recommendations. CWY volunteers began observing court proceedings in Watson Lake and Dawson City in December 2014.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Together for Safety Protocol

Together for Safety includes the Whitehorse RCMP and the signatories Les Essentielles, Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre, Whitehorse Aboriginal Women's Circle, Yukon Status of Women Council, Public Service Alliance of Canada Regional Women's Committee and Aboriginal People's Committee, and Yukon Women's Transition Home Society.

Together for Safety was created in order to improve response services to women in Whitehorse. By strengthening relationships between the Whitehorse RCMP and women's advocacy groups they will build mutual understanding and trust. The protocol, Together for Safety was signed on May 29th, 2015.

Click link to view Together for Safety Protocol 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Together for Safety

Following the signing of the Together for Justice Protocol on March 8th, 2013 between Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society and Watson Lake RCMP, Whitehorse women’s groups began working with the Whitehorse RCMP to create a Whitehorse RCMP Division safety Protocol titled Together for Safety.

Together for Safety outlines how Whitehorse RCMP and the signatories will work together to foster a community that is safe for all women. The signatories include Les Essentielles, Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle, Yukon Status of Women Council, Public Service Alliance of Canada Regional Women’s Committee and Aboriginal People’s Committee, and Yukon Women’s Transition Home Society.
The signatory members and the Whitehorse RCMP share a common goal: to improve response services to women in Whitehorse. By strengthening relationships between the Whitehorse RCMP and women’s advocacy groups they will build mutual understanding and trust. Whitehorse RCMP and Whitehorse Women’s groups signed Together for Safety May 29th, 2015.
Over the past three years, the relationship between the women’s community and the RCMP has improved greatly, as we have strengthened our relationships and understanding of each other. This, in turn, has improved our respective services and ability to collaborate. One objective of Together for Safety is to ensure that the collaborative relationship that was built between Whitehorse women’s groups and Whitehorse RCMP during the creation of the Together for Justice Protocol continues.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Here is an Update from our Yukon Court Watch Program

As of June 2014, the Yukon Court Watch project was revived under the Yukon Status of Women Council and supported by the Women’s Coalition in the Yukon. This project originally began in 2002 and ran for a period of 18 months by the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre to address the need to respond to extreme levels of woman abuse and sexualized assault (1).

Why a Yukon Court Watch program revival?

In 2010 and 2011, three studies were written in the Yukon by various concerned women’s groups calling for not only a revival of the Court Watch program but an establishment of a continuous program. These studies were: Yukon Sexualized Assault and Male-Violence-Against-Women: Gaps in Services Report by Yukon Status of Women Council; If My Life Depended On It: Yukon Women and the RCMP, Submission to Review of Yukon’s Police Force by Lois Moorcroft; and Sharing Common Ground Executive Summary by the Government of Yukon.

More recently, according to the 2013 Measuring Violence Against Women: Statistical Trends Report:

The Territories consistently record the highest rates of violence against women in the country;
In 2011 the rate of the police reported violent crimes against women in the Yukon was four times higher than the national average;
The rate of sexual offences against women in the Yukon was more that 3.5 times the provincial average.

At the same time, sexualized assault and male-violence against women is under-reported in the Yukon.

What is Yukon Court Watch doing?

Yukon Court Watch will provide necessary oversight of the Yukon Courts to address gender inequality in court, along with improving services and supports for victims. We will be sharing the information that we collect with community agencies to ensure that women are treated with respect, dignity, and equality in the justice system as well as improve support systems and legal knowledge available for victims in the criminal justice system. We also are seeking to raise public awareness with respect to violence against women in our community and positively influence the social responses towards women who have experienced violence.

Court Watch Yukon observations will focus on inaccessible and mutualizing language, the court atmosphere, respect and dignity shown to victims, the process of therapeutic courts in the Yukon, and dual charging.

Fully trained Yukon Court Watch volunteers began observing court proceedings for sexualized violence, violence against women and spousal violence. Volunteers note women’s experiences in court atmosphere, mutualizing language and dual charging. Volunteers attended a training that involved local representatives from the Public Prosecution of Canada, Crown Witness Coordinators, Offender Supervision Services, Victim Services, Legal Aid, private lawyers and Aboriginal Court Workers. Volunteers record information about the crime, accused, sentencing, environment of the courtroom, and the proceedings. We have had incredible support from researchers with Feminist Research and Education Development Action (FREDA) at the Simon Fraser University with respect to information gathering and upcoming analysis.


Mutualizing language is of particular interest to us for two reasons. First, mutualizing language are words that conceal the level of violence in an incident (e.g. “he kissed her” vs “he put his mouth on hers”). Second, research has found that there is a correlation between the use of mutualizing language and lighter sentences (2).

Be a Court Watch Volunteer!

Keep up to date on women’s issues and learn about the Justice System
Observe trials, bail hearings, and Domestic Violence Treatment Option court
Commitment of 4 to 8 hours a week
Complete a criminal records check

Contact Us!
Reem Girgrah
Yukon Court Watch Volunteer Coordinator

The revival of Court Watch Yukon has been made possible by the generous funding support of the Community Development Fund, Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Fund, Department of Justice Canada Victims Fund, The Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council, and the Yukon Law Foundation.


1) Coates, L. & Wade, A. (2004). Telling it like it isn’t: obscuring perpetrator responsibility for violent crime. Discourse & Society, 15(5), 3-30.
2) Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre. (2004).Final report of the Court Watch Yukon project.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Safe Place

Since December 2013, the Yukon Status of Women Council and the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre have been running a program for Whitehorse women called A Safe Place.  The program provides a low-barrier, supportive drop-in space for women and children on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. A hot, nutritious meal is included, and the activities are led by the wishes of the participants themselves. Two facilitators who have training in counselling are present each night and can provide both one-on-one and group support if that is what the women want.

The program fills an important gap in services for women who need a place to feel safe, get a hot meal, warm up, or simply spend time in the company of other women. The program came out of the findings of the Yukon Status of Women Council’s Repairing the Holes in the Net research project, which identified evening drop-ins with a hot meal for women and children-only as a gap in services. The low-barrier nature of the program allows women to come at any point that they feel they need to, rather than expecting that they be in a particular kind of frame of mind – provided that they are not a risk to themselves or others. If the women have other needs that cannot be filled by the A Safe Place facilitators, they are referred to other services around the city.

A Safe Place has been able to operate thanks to the support of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the Women’s Directorate, the United Way, crowd sourcing, and recently the Prevention of violence Against Aboriginal Women fund and the Yukon Women's Directorate. Women who attend really value the program and say there is nothing to take its place.  

Donations of food, coffee/tea, supplies for personal care and activities, and hygiene products such as toilet paper, soap, tampons and pads are always welcome. If you have ideas to share about possible long-term funding sources for this program, please get in touch with Hillary at the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, 667-2693.Donations can be dropped off or mailed to VFWC, 503 Hanson St., Whitehorse, YT, Y1A 1Y9.  A charitable receipt can be issued for amounts over $20.00.

Monday, November 19, 2012

YSWC Monthly Collective Meeting

Come join us for the Yukon Status of Women Council monthly collective meeting
The 3rd Tuesday of every month at 5:30pm
503 Hanson Street, Whitehorse

New collective members welcome!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

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