The Women’s Centre is located in Nelson and serves the West Kootenay region. We acknowledge that this is unceded Indigenous territory belonging to the Sinixt Nation.

The Nelson and District Women’s Centre provides space, support, free resources and engagement opportunities for women, trans, non-binary, intersex and two-spirit people.

For 45 years, we have worked to build a healthy community by advancing gender equality. You can learn more about the history of the West Kootenay Women’s Association here.

Letter to Our Members:

To our Member Community:

These have been challenging times within which we have found ourselves. The good news is, in the wake of these challenges, new opportunities are presenting themselves. Our membership community is thriving and growing. As highlighted during our Annual General Meeting, our relatively stable membership of 150 has blossomed to in the neighborhood of 400 members. There is a budding interest in that which the Centre offers and represents to our community. Any organization facing growth and change will inevitably experience growing pains. We are committed to moving through them.

With pride we can claim the distinction of being the longest-running Women’s Centre in rural Canada. This has been achieved through the tireless and sometimes thankless efforts of a lengthy list of volunteers and staff who believe in fundamental principles underlying the feminist movement. Core to this movement has been the desire to dismantle patriarchal and colonial structures within which we have been subject to all manners of oppression, terrorism, intimidation, fear, disrespect, and dishonor. As with any movement, philosophy, or vision, the constant we can be assured of is change.

Within our very membership there are many interpretations of that which represents contemporary feminism and how we consider and pursue those guiding principles. As a diverse membership, we straddle many generations, socio-economic realities, gender expressions, and life experiences which for some include stability and privilege and for others, scarcity, violence, and hardship. Often, in our personal journeys we have experienced elements of these and many more as life is seldom linear and predictable.

To suggest that our differences in interpretation of contemporary feminism are entirely age dependent would be erroneous. Our elders have carved pathways for our younger members to traverse and build upon. We are delighted to see the spirit of openness, curiosity, and inclusion which comes so naturally to these younger souls. Many of us did not experience a similar openness and freedom of expression while we attended school, matured, and sometimes hardened into adulthood. We will endeavor to listen attentively to the collective heartbeat of our membership.

It was deemed a regrettable but necessary step to schedule the annual closure during the past two weeks while safety issues were addressed for our staff, volunteers, and clients. The Coordinating Collective will be working diligently to process the experiences and learnings which we can take away from the months leading up to the AGM as well as the meeting itself. We encourage every one of us to take a step back to reflect on how our individual beliefs, thoughts, concerns, fears and conduct have contributed to or have become barriers to community engagement, our good work in the community, and our individual experiences. While perhaps difficult, there is much to be learned. We are in this together.

It is also very clear that we need to agree to disagree at times so we can continue to evolve in a manner which best serves our membership and the wider community. We will continue to rely on a democratic process to create and evolve our vision, our charter, and our programs. We will endeavor to engage resources in our community to provide insight, wisdom, and respectful leadership as we move toward creating non-patriarchal, non-colonial structure and governance in step with the democratic voice of our membership.

Next Steps

Minutes from the AGM

Minutes from the AGM will be distributed as soon as the compilation between our two minute takers has been completed.

The Resolutions

The ballots completed by our members have been counted by an independent body in our attempts to best assure the privacy of our members for whom we hold both a legal and moral responsibility. We are committed to releasing those results to the membership this week. Please do not approach our program staff at the Centre for this information upon on re-opening on Tuesday, October 16, as they will not have access to it prior to its release and will be unable to provide commentary.

Communications and Community Engagement

Despite the significant efforts the Coordinating Collective and staff have made to engage and to communicate with our membership while creating a vision and charter for the Centre, it is clear there is much more work to be done. It is very clear that thoughtful and manageable dialogue needs to replace that which we have experienced in recent months. As we develop our policies, procedures, and practices, we will be reassessing our community engagement and communications strategies to ensure we can move forward in a positive and productive direction.

As the current Coordinating Collective were not benefactors of clearly documented operating and communication policies and procedures, it has become clear both to the Coordinating Collective and the membership that this work needs to be completed as a priority.

The Coordinating Collective will be developing a Communication Plan detailing how we will engage with our membership, our staff, and our user community in the future. We will remind our members that our resources are extremely limited and our workload is great. For this reason, we need to communicate to you that our members need to respect the time and space needed to complete this work. Without this structure in place, our operations will simply remain unsustainable.

We understand that, as a consensus-based organization, additional time is required to respond to inquiries from our community. We believe the benefits to this approach significantly outweigh the liabilities.

If you do not wish to remain on the Centre email distribution list, please do contact us at info@nelsonwomenscentre.com. If you suspect we have inadvertently excluded an active member, please feel free to share this communication with them. They are welcome to contact us via the same email address or by telephone at 250-352-9916.

Organizational Health

We, the staff and Coordinating Collective, are all individuals will full lives and families which also need to be prioritized. Our expectations are that our private time away from the day-to-day work and management of the Centre will be respected as such.

Safety issues, which have been raised by our staff and volunteers, will need to be addressed in order to ensure we are meeting our legal obligations as an employer as well as providing a safe, healthy, and welcoming space for the individuals who are devoted to conducting the day-to-day activities of the Centre and our user communities.

Code of Conduct

Stating without judgment, as we have experienced in recent months, the need for a Code of Conduct and its strict interpretation and enforcement has become a necessary feature in our daily operations. This is a standard practice in any organization serving the public. A baseline expectation of the Centre, its governing body, staff, and user communities is zero tolerance for violent and disrespectful behavior.

The Coordinating Collective will continue to examine how we can best exhibit leadership, direction, and self-awareness as well as to ensure that this is reflected in our membership and user communities while accessing the Centre. We must all, as integral parts of this community, take time out to reflect on how our individual thoughts and actions contribute to or detract from the experience of our members and the community beyond.

The Coordinating Collective has reached out to supports in our community and beyond to assist us to navigate the waters in which we find ourselves, assessing our history, our current state, and how we will move forward from here. This process of inquiry and reflection needs to be respected.

Privacy Considerations

As many of our members are survivors of domestic and other forms of violence, it is even more essential that we remain committed to their rights to safety and privacy, while remaining in keeping with both the letter and the spirit of the law. To ensure due diligence and as part of our communications and operating plans and policies, this will be researched and formalized into our operating documents. This will include a protocol to formalize member voting in the future.

In Summary

We, the Coordinating Collective and staff, remain committed to the notion that we have more in common than we differ. We believe that building bridges of understanding within our membership and our community beyond will do more to ensure a positive future for the Centre, the West Kootenay Women’s Association, and each of its members. We encourage us all to reach deeply within ourselves to cultivate greater hope, courage, empathy, willingness to listen and hear, to stretch and to grow ourselves, and to find new ways to reach out and connect with one another. This can be difficult but also so very rewarding.

Respectfully,

The Coordinating Collective for the Nelson & District Women’s Centre

 

 

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