Carol Slater (photo from mothersmattercentre.ca)
Carol Slater, a former vice-president of National Council of Jewish Women of Canada, was presented with the first-ever Trailblazers Award for helping bring to Canada an innovative Israeli-founded education program that empowers mothers of preschool children.
The award, presented by the Mothers Matter Centre, was part of a virtual event May 5. (See jewishindependent.ca/mothers-importance.)
Slater was one of a small group of people who brought the program Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) to Canada two decades ago. The initiative, which has taken off in countries worldwide, began out of the Britannia Community Centre and Britannia Community Secondary School, in East Vancouver. The national headquarters of the program remains in Vancouver, under the auspices of the Mothers Matter Centre. HIPPY Canada changed its name in 2017 to the Mothers Matter Centre to reflect the fact that they deliver a range of programs, although HIPPY remains the core of the organization.
Slater spoke with the Independent recently, along with Wazi Dlamini-Kapenda, a Vancouverite who was the first HIPPY director in Canada and remains head of the national program.
HIPPY was started in 1969 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem by the late Dr. Avima Lombard.
“When the first wave of African immigrants came to Israel and spoke no Hebrew, [Lombard] realized the disconnect between the children and the parents,” Slater said. “The parents didn’t know what was expected of the children, or of the parents.”
Slater and Dlamini-Kapenda take pride in the relative simplicity of the HIPPY structure. A new program is developed when a community identifies HIPPY as a program that would be of benefit to mothers and children. The community then approaches the Mothers Matter Centre to help with starting it up. In other cases, MMC approaches the community to let them know about the program and support them in implementing it, providing seed funding to get it off the ground, said Dlamini-Kapenda. The community can start with a minimum of two to four home visitors, depending on the size of the community, then each visitor recruits 10 to 12 families. The home visitor drops in on each family every week for at least an hour during the school year, and teaches the mother the week’s activities using the HIPPY curriculum. The lessons are taught using role-play, in which the home visitor and the mother take turns being the teacher (mother) and the student (child), practising the lesson before the mother teaches the week’s lessons to their preschooler.
“The basis of this program is that all parents want the best for their children, all parents want their children to succeed and to enter school ready to learn,” said Dlamini-Kapenda. “The parents themselves can play a role in this in building capacity within the home. Instead of parents relying on sending their children to preschool, which some parents couldn’t afford, we could go into the home, which is actually important because the home is where success begins. We all know that.”
“One of the very critical things,” Slater said, “is giving the parent the confidence that she can go to [her child’s] school because what has very often happened in immigrant situations is that the mother may not speak the language very well and, if she doesn’t go to school, she doesn’t follow her child and if she doesn’t follow her child, her child can fall behind and she doesn’t know about it. One of the most important things is the empowerment of the parent to understand that she is the first teacher of her children. It’s a fantastic concept when you think of it. So simple.”
The program is offered free to mothers and all supplies are provided, although almost everything that the mother will need to do activities can be found in the home. The families targeted for the HIPPY program are those with low literacy or deemed “at risk.” Special emphasis is given to immigrant and refugee communities and Indigenous populations. HIPPY has separate streams for multicultural and Indigenous families, recognizing different approaches to learning. Home visitors will usually be recruited from within the linguistic communities they serve.
Slater’s award recognizes her work in getting HIPPY off the ground in 2001.
“Carol was very instrumental in getting the funding and knocking on doors and talking to every person in a position to be able to get us the first funding to run the first four or five years of the program here in Canada,” said Dlamini-Kapenda. “I don’t know, without Carol, how far we would have gone.”
Dr. Debbie Bell, founding director of Simon Fraser University’s community education program, was working on developing strategies to create access to education for low-literacy communities. Slater and Bell connected after Slater happened upon a brochure about the nascent program. Slater, who has lived in Israel, Vancouver and, now, Montreal, saw it as an ideal fit for National Council of Jewish Women.
Seizing the moment, Slater beat the bushes for financing. Bell was emphatic that they should not launch HIPPY without a budget for several years of programming because that would be unfair to participating families. Slater went to Ottawa and, with the help of several key figures, obtained funding from the federal health ministry to get HIPPY up and running.
She credits Dr. Hedy Fry, member of Parliament for Vancouver-Centre, as an early supporter.
“She was so excited about the program,” Slater recalled. “She met Debbie and myself and we used to meet in her office. She sat me at a desk, she gave me a list of all the cabinet ministers and their secretaries and their private phone numbers. I just sat there and I phoned.”
An assistant to Allan Rock, who was then minister of health, was equally supportive. Slater left the meeting with a commitment for $250,000, which jumpstarted HIPPY Canada.
Slater also credits late Vancouver philanthropist Jack Diamond and the Diamond Foundation for crucial support that got the program started. The Vancouver Foundation also committed to four years of funding, something they had never done before, said Dlamini-Kapenda, who was then hired as the first HIPPY coordinator in Canada.
At the awards ceremony earlier this month, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, and Dr. Cindy Blackstock, a Gitxsan activist for child welfare and a professor in McGill University’s School of Social Work, received the Because Mothers Matter Award for their noteworthy professional accomplishments while giving back to their community. Two HIPPY mothers with extraordinary stories, Nusrat Awan and Jessica Seegerts, were also honoured.
Then-Vancouver mayor Mike Harcourt and members of National Council of Jewish Women in front of the first Mobile Hearing Clinic, outside Vancouver City Hall on June 11, 1984. After raising the funds to build and operate the clinic on a trial basis, NCJW sold it to the provincial health department for the nominal price of $1. They did the same with a second mobile clinic in 1986. (photo from JMABC L.16459)
Passover is one of the foundational stories of Jewish tradition. Around the seder table each year, we learn from our elders the guiding principles of Jewish life: how to be a good person, think of others and pursue justice in the face of persecution.
These same themes can be found in the history of our community locally. The families who laid the foundations of our community, and those who continue to build its future, arrived here from all corners of the world. Mutual aid societies like the Hebrew Free Loan Association (HFLA) and the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver (preceded by the Jewish Community Chest and the Jewish Fund and Council) have helped welcome and support new arrivals.
The HFLA was established in 1915 by Solomon Weaver and, while it folded in 1936, it was revived in 1979 by the Jewish Family Service Agency under the leadership of Shirley Barnett. Going at first by the name of the Hebrew Assistance Association, the organization was established to aid a new wave of Jewish immigrants arriving from Russia. With initial capital provided by Joe Segal, Jack Diamond, Morris Wosk and Leon Kahn, the association began issuing loans of up to $3,000. To date, the HFLA has granted more than 2,000 loans, giving people “a hand up, not a hand-out.”
Passover also teaches us that we should apply these principles beyond our own community. As it is written in Exodus: “You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of a stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.” This philosophy can be seen as a guiding principle for community groups such as the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre and National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW).
Founded in 1983 by local survivors of the Holocaust, the Vancouver Holocaust Centre Society for Education and Remembrance was formed with the goal of establishing an anti-racism education centre. This goal was realized in 1994 in the form of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC). Education is central to the mandate of the VHEC and, each year, the centre reaches more than 25,000 students and teachers through exhibits, school programs, teaching materials and professional development initiatives for educators.
Since 1924, the Vancouver section of the NCJW of Canada has been dedicated to social action and human rights. For close to a century, its social justice efforts have taken diverse forms, from pioneering a provincial mobile hearing screening program for preschoolers to championing the cause of Nasrin Sotoudeh – illegally imprisoned in Iran – to recent fundraising and awareness initiatives against human trafficking.
These are just a few of the many organizations and individuals who make real the lessons of Passover each day. It has been inspiring to learn more about these and other people and groups as we at the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia collect stories for our upcoming celebration book marking our 50th anniversary.
We invite you to share your story with us and be a part of this milestone publication. Share your family story, recognize someone notable, or sponsor this project. Full information is available at jewishmuseum.ca/fifty-years.
A poster in Marseille, France, in July 2020, calling for Nasrin Sotoudeh’s release from prison.
The National Council of Jewish Women of Canada spotlighted the remarkable story of Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh during a showing of the eponymously titled film, Nasrin, on Jan. 10.
Narrated by actress Olivia Colman, the film takes us into Sotoudeh’s life in Tehran, where she has been a stalwart in defending a wide array of people: political activists, women who refused to wear a hijab, members of the religiously oppressed Baha’i faith, and prisoners sentenced to the death penalty for crimes allegedly committed while they were minors. Her work has come with a tremendous amount of personal sacrifice, including prolonged periods in jail.
Among the notable cases brought up in the film is that of Narges Hosseini, who, in 2018, stood on an electricity box on Tehran’s Revolution Street and removed her headscarf to protest Iran’s mandatory hijab law. She was immediately arrested, and Sotoudeh soon took up her cause. At her trial, the prosecutor claimed she was trying to “encourage corruption through the removal of the hijab in public.”
Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi is another of Sotoudeh’s clients. In 2010, Panahi was given a 20-year ban on making films, but he has nonetheless continued to create widely praised cinematic works, such as Taxi, in which he played a Tehran taxi driver – Sotoudeh was one of his passengers. The movie won the top prize at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival in 2015. Together with Sotoudeh, Panahi was co-winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2012.
And there is the unassuming hero we encounter in Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan. His unflagging loyalty to his wife and family is underscored throughout the film. He, too, has been imprisoned several times, most recently from September to December 2018, after he wrote about human rights violations in Iran on Facebook. He was accused of operating against Iran’s national security by backing the “anti-hijab” movement. Khandan currently faces a six-year prison sentence.
The film relies on secret footage, made possible by intrepid camerapeople within Iran who took on incredible risk to record Sotoudeh in both her professional and private lives. In the midst of filming, in June 2018, Sotoudeh was arrested for representing several women protesting Iran’s mandatory hijab law. Due to health concerns, she was briefly released from prison late last year, but has since been incarcerated again.
During Sotoudeh’s furlough, she was scheduled to undergo tests to monitor her heart. At one time, she was moved to intensive care in a Tehran hospital after a 46-day hunger strike, protesting the conditions political prisoners in Iran have to endure. She also has pressed for their release during the time of the pandemic.
Shortly before her own release from the Qarchak women’s prison, Sotoudeh contracted COVID-19 but has since recovered.
Following the film’s presentation, a panel discussion took place with the film’s director, Jeff Kaufman; its producer, Marcia Ross; activist Shaparak Shajarizadeh; and former Canadian minister of justice Irwin Cotler. The discussion was led by NCJWC president Debbie Wasserman.
“One of the intents of the film is to say it is not just about Sotoudeh and Iran, it is about applying her standards to our countries and ourselves. Let’s take her example and make it global,” said Kaufman.
The filmmakers said they wanted to tell Sotoudeh’s story because she personifies a commitment to democracy and justice, and represents the power of women to shape society. Further, Sotoudeh holds a deep conviction that people of all faiths and backgrounds deserve equal opportunity and protection.
Both Kaufman and Ross spoke of the extraordinary caution taken to preserve the anonymity and security of those shooting the footage in Iran.
Asked about her reaction upon seeing the screening, Shajarizadeh said, “I cried the whole time. We could see ourselves in every minute of the movement.” Shajarizadeh, who now resides in Canada, was a women’s rights activist and political prisoner in Iran – she fought against the country’s mandatory hijab law for women.
“Nasrin is not only the embodiment of human rights in Iran, but a looking-glass into the persecution of all those who are imprisoned in Iran,” Cotler said.
Cotler advocated for “showing the film as much as we can, and [to] have the sort of conversations we are having now, and mobilize the different constituencies that she has been helping.”
Ross said the film will be out later in the year on Amazon and iTunes.
Established in 1897, NCJWC is a voluntary organization dedicated to furthering human welfare in the Jewish and general communities locally, nationally and internationally. To learn more, visit ncjwc.org.
Sam Margolis has written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.
As if the pandemic weren’t enough, I’m supposed to think of something tantalizing and healthy to cook every night? Right. Roger that. My motto is: go with the tried and true. Or, given the times we’re in: go with the tired and true. Translation: something my mom used to make in the 1960s and ’70s. Something delicious but notoriously unhealthy.
Let’s face it, back then, the general public didn’t know bupkas about heart-healthy diets, Keto or low cholesterol. Not even doctors’ families. Nobody measured their BMI (body mass index) at the gym, because no one went to the gym. No one had their goal weight etched in their brain. It was a kinder, gentler time. Albeit with lots more spontaneous and fatal heart attacks and strokes. But still.
Back to the task at hand. It was a dark and stormy afternoon. I was tired. Really tired. Of cooking. But we have to eat. So, I did what any self-respecting accidental balabusta would do: I pulled out my mother’s old National Council of Jewish Women Cookbook. It’s a miracle that it isn’t falling apart after all these decades doing yeoman service. As I was searching for something simple and doable within 30 minutes, I happened upon a dog-eared page. One my mother had probably marked for good reason. Which is ironic, since the standing joke in my family was this – as soon as my mom cooked anything that my dad loved, she never made it again. We’ve speculated on the rationale for years. Was it intentional? Happenstance? Payback for something? Maybe it had to do with the electric can opener my dad gave mom for her birthday one year; or was it their anniversary?
The dog-eared recipe, thankfully, was – drum roll, please – Meatloaf. Yes, Virginia, you heard correctly, Meatloaf. I capitalize it because, well, it deserves the recognition. There is no problem in this world that can’t be solved by a good meatloaf. (Alright, maybe athlete’s foot and world wars, but, otherwise….)
In sync with the majority of the recipes in that cookbook, it called for an envelope of onion soup mix, undoubtedly a staple in those days. Chip dip – sour cream and onion soup mix. Spinach delight – onion soup mix. Apricot chicken – onion soup mix. Being a culinary rebel (ha!), I decided to go rogue and omit the onion soup mix. I had to draw my own line in the sand. And I swapped Panko for breadcrumbs. This recipe makes a moist, dream-of-a-1960s dinner. Once again, you’re welcome. You may be excused from the table.
2 lbs ground beef (extra lean)
1 1/2 cup soft breadcrumbs (or Panko)
1/2 to 3/4 cup water
1/3 cup ketchup (or, as they called it in the ’60s, catsup)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and place the mix into a greased loaf pan. (I covered the top with more ketchup – I know, very radical). Bake for approximately one hour.
It doesn’t get much easier than this. Seriously. Both Harvey and I kept cutting little pieces off, to even out the end. We were insatiable! We easily ate half of this two-pound loaf in one sitting, and polished off the rest the next day in sandwiches. What can I say? We’re dyed-in-the-wool carnivores.
To switch it up a little, and marry old school to multicultural, I also made Greek lemon potatoes. While I could eat meat and potatoes every night of the week, I don’t. And don’t go getting all judgy on me, either – there was broccoli in attendance.
The Greek lemon potatoes were a new thing for me (the making part), and I only made the Greek kind because I had a bunch of fresh rosemary leftover from baking focaccia the day before. (It was delicious!) Plus, we had a truckload of lemons in the fridge getting overripe from neglect (scurvy in our future?). I have to say, the potatoes were simple and simply delicious. Again, Harvey declared them “guest-worthy.”
GREEK LEMON POTATOES
2.5 lbs potatoes (about 4 large russets)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
5 cloves garlic, minced (I used 4)
2 tsp salt (I used 1 tsp)
dash of pepper
1 tbsp dried oregano (I used 2 tbsp fresh rosemary instead)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel the potatoes and cut into semi-thick wedges. Place in a roasting pan with all the other ingredients; toss well. Roast covered with foil for 40 minutes. Remove foil and turn the potatoes. Roast for another 25 to 30 minutes until the liquid is mostly absorbed by the potatoes. If you like your potatoes a bit crispy, leave them in for another five minutes or so.
They end up super-moist, soft, lemony and fabulous. Oh yeah, and garlicky. Harvey said they were even better than the ones at Apollonia, our favourite Greek restaurant. It was hard to refrain from eating the whole darn batch, but we showed the teensiest bit of restraint. After all, we wanted some left over for the next day. They’re like potato candy, if you will. Except better.
Sometimes, the most obvious recipes are the best. I often consult that Council cookbook. Who better to advise on such Jewish delicacies as honey-glazed cocktail franks, deviled tongue canapes and fruited rice salad? I rest my case.
There’s no question that the NCJW of Canada does many admirable things to enhance the community through education, social action, furthering human welfare and more. Far be it from me to make it sound like all they did was produce a cookbook. But, thank you, NCJWC for having done so – the meatloaf alone is worth the price of admission. And, of course, kol hakavod for all the great work you do.
Shelley Civkin, aka the Accidental Balabusta, is a happily retired librarian and communications officer. For 17 years, she wrote a weekly book review column for the Richmond Review. She’s currently a freelance writer and volunteer.
Pamela Jeffery, founder of the Prosperity Project. (screenshot)
Pamela Jeffery, the driving force behind the Prosperity Project, led an Oct. 7 webinar entitled When Women Succeed, We all Prosper – Don’t Let COVID-19 Hold Us Back, which was part of a National Council of Jewish Women of Canada series on women and justice.
Launched on May 21 of this year, the Prosperity Project hopes to ensure that gains made by women in the workplace and elsewhere are not set back permanently by the pandemic. In July, a Royal Bank of Canada report showed that women’s participation in the labour force had decreased to its lowest level in 30 years. Women, according to RBC, have been disproportionately affected by the overall decline in work hours since March, and this has been exacerbated by the household and childcare responsibilities for which women take on a greater share than men, particularly when children are not learning in school.
“We all know that the women’s movement is unfinished,” said Jeffery. “This is why our leadership is necessary – no matter what our age or our gender. It is up to all of us to ensure that men and women have equal opportunity, which is at the heart of the Prosperity Project.”
She stressed, “There is a clear focus on making sure that the progress made over the last 60 years on gender equality is not rolled back. That is why the Prosperity Project exists.”
Jeffery spoke of three essential themes to advancing the movement: resourcefulness, relationships and risk. “Each of us has the power to bring an idea forward. We can take a calculated risk and draw on our resourcefulness and relationships to make things happen,” she said.
The Prosperity Project has several initiatives it hopes will safeguard the progress by women in the past few decades and propel it further. Among them is a “matching initiative” for nonprofit organizations whose mission is geared towards helping women with training, employment pathways, crisis counseling and mental and physical health. The initiative introduces women and men in the private sector with specific skill sets to the staff and existing boards of these nonprofits for extended volunteer assignments.
Jeffery pointed out the importance of role models and mentors for women. “A good mentor pushes someone outside of their comfort zone. Women are less likely to have mentors than men, which can explain our different career trajectories,” she said.
The Prosperity Project also plans to research and share practical solutions that will provide insights to employers and policy-makers on how to improve gender equality. Furthermore, it will enable women to learn from one another, to increase their employment income and well-being.
Jeffery cited a 2017 study by McKinsey & Co., reporting the overall societal benefits of advancing women’s equality. By addressing this issue, McKinsey found that Canada could “add $150 billion in incremental GDP in 2026 or see a 0.6% increase of annual GDP growth.”
The Prosperity Project also plans to create a modern-day Rosie the Riveter campaign, inspired by the iconic image used in advertising materials to encourage women to do factory work during the Second World War. The modern-day objective is to increase the labour force participation rate of women and, at the same time, encourage partners to share household responsibilities equally and motivate employers to bolster advancement opportunities and achieve gender parity at all levels of an enterprise.
The Prosperity Project has thus far brought on board 62 diverse female leaders from across the country, such as Enterprise Canada chief executive officer Barbara Fox, Sleep Country co-founder Christine Magee and former B.C. premier Christy Clark.
Jeffery’s own biography is one of enterprise, determination and success. An MBA graduate from Western University, in Ontario, she is the founder of the Women’s Executive Network and Canadian Board Diversity Council. She has served on the board of numerous organizations and has been a frequent contributor to the Globe and Mail and National Post.
“I am optimistic about the situation we find ourselves in, in 2020. I remind myself of how far we have come,” she said. “Back in 2003, six percent of FP500 board seats were held by women. Now, it is over 25%. I am confident we are going to be able to work together to make sure that COVID-19 does not bring us back.”
The webinar was serendipitously scheduled for an hour before the American vice-presidential debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence.
“We are doing quite a lot, but there is so much more to be done,” Jeffery concluded.
For more information, visit canadianprosperityproject.ca.
Sam Margolis has written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.
Dr. Patricia Daly (photo from vch.ca)
Dr. Patricia Daly, the chief medical officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, provided an illuminating but discouraging perspective on the status of women in leadership positions in medicine during a National Council of Jewish Women of Canada webinar Oct. 14.
A familiar media presence in Metro Vancouver since the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier in the year, Daly touched upon the history of women in medicine in Canada and their underrepresentation at board tables and in positions of authority.
Daly, who is also a clinical professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health, pointed out that, at the time she graduated from medical school in the mid-1980s, one in three students were women. “I am at the stage in my career where physicians would traditionally be in leadership positions,” she said. “Yet, when I look around the tables where I sit, I don’t see one-third of those leaders as women, and I don’t see leadership reflecting the current reality that most students are now women.”
By 1995, there were more women entering medical school in Canada than men. By 2018, 63% of the student body nationwide was female. Nevertheless, only two of 17 Canadian medical school deans were women in that year and the Canadian Medical Association board was comprised of 20 men and six women.
Some of the theories put forward as to why there is a lopsided domination by men in positions of leadership include “unconscious biases” against women, family demands and a confidence gap between the genders, said Daly.
In the Vancouver Coastal Health region, just over 40% of doctors are women, reflective of the national average. Still, she said, fewer than 20% of all VCH leadership roles are filled by women, and that percentage decreases at more senior levels.
Recommendations of how to address this problem encompass leadership training, mentorship opportunities for young female employees and the creation of structures that would incorporate, among other things, the provision of childcare.
“We need to think about how we can support women (and men) who want a work-life balance so that they can advance in their careers and they can achieve leadership roles,” she maintained.
Daly then went into a wide-ranging overview of public health, a field with the mandate of improving the health of entire populations – through prevention of disease and injury, promotion of good health, and protection from potential harms.
Among public health’s many achievements in the past century are vaccinations, family planning, motor vehicle safety, healthier foods, control of infectious diseases, fluoridation of drinking water, safer workplaces and recognition of the hazards of smoking. Recent areas of focus in public health have been climate change and the prevention of substance abuse.
According to information provided by Daly, the average lifespan of Canadians has increased by 30 years since the 1900s, much of which can be attributed to advances in public health.
She added, “A lot of the work we do is centred on maternal-child health. In order to maximize someone’s health potential, we need to start in early childhood; in fact, in utero. Brain development is most important in the first two to five years of life. About 80% of our resources, including public health nurses, are focused on early childhood, supporting women to have healthy pregnancies, to help vulnerable mothers and for childhood immunizations.”
Public health also works on what is known as the “social determinants” of health, said Daly. These include levels of education and income, social connections and risk behaviours, i.e., diet, exercise and smoking.
“People living in poverty are at much greater risk of illness and disease, as well as injuries, despite universal healthcare,” she said. “The goal of public health is to reduce these disparities and bring the system towards one of health equity.”
The third part of Daly’s lecture was about public health and how it handles pandemics. In 1918, Vancouver’s chief medical officer, Dr. Fred Underhill, had to deal with the deadly outbreak of the Spanish flu. (The photos presented at the lecture from at that time showed an exclusively male and Caucasian medical leadership.)
COVID-19 has been Daly’s primary focus for the past eight months. As is broadly known, public health policies during the current pandemic have focused on the need to isolate cases and contacts for 14 days until a person is non-infectious; restrict travel; limit public gatherings; encourage people to physically distance; and have physicians provide virtual care when possible.
“Having access to tests is an important public health measure,” said Daly. “The single most important intervention is to isolate people who test positive and to identify their close contacts and quarantine them. We are fortunate that COVID-19 has a long incubation period. If we can identify cases, then, even if they get sick, they are not going to pass the virus onto others.”
She warned, “Despite the relatively draconian measures taken, we are not going to stop this virus without a vaccine.”
Daly also brought up some of the unintended consequences of the pandemic response, such as the growing number of overdose deaths, increased social isolation in long-term care facilities, suspended elective surgeries and the effects on the broader economy.
She concluded, “The good news is that vaccine development is very promising.”
Sam Margolis has written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.
Newcomer to Vancouver and longtime National Council of Jewish Women of Canada member Rachel Ornoy, left, cheers the Purse Project volunteer gang on.
Members of National Council of Jewish Women of Canada, Vancouver section, under the guidance of Cate and Jane Stoller, stuffed purses with cosmetics, toiletries, comfort candles, chocolates, gift cards, pyjamas and other useful items on the morning of Sept. 27 for partner agency Atira Women’s Resource Society, a not-for-profit organization committed to the work of ending violence against women.
Thank you to everyone who dropped off purses, helped fill the bags and collect their contents – more than 100 purses were delivered to Atira. Also thank you to Jane Stoller for putting together the hostess table with coffee and Timbits. It was a lovely pre-Kol Nidre morning mitzvah and it was great to have a socially distant visit with our NCJWC Vancouver friends.
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This year’s Project Isaiah campaign required Jewish Family Services (JFS) to change the way it looked at the traditional food drive. From Sept. 8 to Sept. 29, JFS ran its very first virtual community food drive, ending with a COVID-19-safe drive-thru drop off.
Despite the needs being greater than ever – more than double compared to last year – this year’s Project Isaiah campaign has been the most successful food drive in the past 10 years. Thanks to donors, the Jewish Food Bank will be able to feed 700 clients (up from 450 last year) over the next four to six months; recipients include 175 children and 118 elders within our community.
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Carolyn Digby and Aaron Klein were wed in a romantic ceremony, surrounded by family and friends, Nov. 9, 2019, at VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver. The couple resides in Toronto, where both are pursuing studies, Carolyn in a clinical psychology counseling master’s program, and Aaron in aerospace engineering, doctorate program.
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The Peretz Centre has appointed Liana Glass to lead the centre’s pnei mitzvah program. The Peretz pnei mitzvah – pnei (faces) rather than b’nei (“sons of”), to reflect a gender-neutral descriptor – is a two-year program in which students meet once every second week for two hours, culminating in a group ceremony. The next intake period is this fall.
Glass, who has earned a master’s of community and regional planning at the University of British Columbia, has considerable experience in teaching and facilitating groups from diverse backgrounds, most recently as a research intern with Vancouver’s Social Purpose Real Estate Collaborative.
Glass’s path to secular Judaism was not a straight one. After studying Yiddish at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute’s summer program in 2017, she found that “Yiddish opened up a secular avenue for me to explore my Judaism and connect with it on a different level. It allowed me to reexamine Judaism in the larger context of my life and as part of my cultural identity. The prospect of helping pnei mitzvah students find that sense of connection through the various subjects we’ll explore in class is extremely exciting.”
“In our search, we indicated that we were looking for a candidate who is dynamic, enthusiastic and firmly committed to secular Jewish ideals and learning. Liana brings all that and so much more. We’re looking forward to working with her and seeing where she’ll be taking the program next,” said David Skulski, Peretz Centre general manager.
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Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver elected its 2020-2021 volunteer board of directors at its annual general meeting Sept. 30. New directors, elected for a two-year term, are Hodie Kahn, Shay Keil, Kyra Morris, Lisa Pullan and Stan Shaw. Each of them brings a background of community leadership and past contributions to Jewish Federation.
Kahn is currently chair of Jewish Federation’s Jewish Day School Council, whose work addresses the ongoing enrolment and financial stability needs facing the day schools; she is also a member of the Community Recovery Task Force. Keil is chair of major gifts for the Federation annual campaign and a member of the Jewish Day School Council; he is a past co-chair of men’s philanthropy. Morris is the new chair of the Axis steering committee, which oversees Federation’s programs for young adults. Pullan has lent her fundraising and leadership expertise to Federation for many years, including chairing women’s philanthropy and serving on the board in that capacity. And Shaw has held several leadership roles with Federation; he co-chaired the Food Security Task Force and is now bringing his cybersecurity expertise to the new cybersecurity and information protection subcommittee.
Returning directors elected for a two-year term are David Albert, Bruce Cohen (secretary), Alex Cristall (chair), Jessica Forman, Rick Kohn (treasurer) and Lianna Philipp. They join the following directors who are in the middle of a two-year term, and will be continuing their service on the board: Jim Crooks, Catherine Epstein, Marnie Goldberg, Candace Kwinter (vice-chair), Melanie Samuels and Pam Wolfman.
Joining or continuing to serve on the board are Sue Hector (women’s philanthropy co-chair), Karen James (immediate past chair), Jonathon Leipsic (campaign chair), Shawna Merkur (women’s philanthropy co-chair) and Diane Switzer (Jewish Community Foundation chair).
For more information, visit jewishvancouver.com.
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At its Oct. 14 annual general meeting, the Vancouver Holocaust Centre Society confirmed the society’s board of directors: Rita Akselrod, Marcus Brandt, Jeremy Costin, Michelle Guez, Belinda Gutman, Helen Heacock-Rivers, Philip Levinson, Michael Lipton, Shoshana Krell Lewis, Jack Micner, Talya Nemetz-Sinchein, Ken Sanders, Joshua Sorin, Al Szajman, Robbie Waisman and Corinne Zimmerman. For more information, visit vhec.org/who-we-are/#board.
Linda Silver Dranoff kicked off the four-part National Council of Jewish Women of Canada Women and Justice speaker series on Sept. 23. (screenshot)
National Council of Jewish Women of Canada started its four-part Women and Justice Speaker Series on Sept. 23 with retired family law lawyer Linda Silver Dranoff, who lives in Toronto.
The online setting allowed NCJWC members from across the country to be involved. The talk was opened by national president Debbie Wasserman, in Toronto, and closed by co-vice-president Debby Altow, in Vancouver; the question-and-answer period was handled by a committee chair, Bianca Krimberg, in Calgary.
Silver Dranoff’s talk was sobering, explaining how women in Canada have been defined by their subordinate role in the family, in relation to a man. She gave examples of laws that have reinforced this status, but also offered possible solutions, as legal reform has been an important part of her career. Among the books she has written is a memoir, called Fairly Equal: Lawyering the Feminist Revolution.
“Throughout human history, women were unprotected and vulnerable. Husbands controlled the purse strings, all property, any pension and the children,” she said. “A woman did not even own her own clothing, which was called ‘the wife’s paraphernalia.’ Women and children were property, not people. Once a woman was married, she was stuck, even if her husband beat or starved her. What we call domestic violence was considered, until very recently in human history, a private family matter that the state and the community did not get involved in.
“There was no divorce law in Canada until 1968,” she continued. “If a woman was guilty of marital misconduct, such as adultery, she could lose her right to have custody of her children and often even access to visit with them.”
Silver Dranoff became a lawyer in family law in 1974. At the time, she witnessed women staying in abusive marriages because they had little choice – if they left, they could become destitute and lose their children, too. “Marital misconduct ended any right to financial support, even if it happened after separation and divorce,” she said, explaining that settlement agreements often included a dum casta clause, a “while chaste” clause.
If a woman left her abusive husband, she said, anyone helping or harbouring her could be charged as a criminal. “This was an offence in our criminal law until the 1970s – that’s how recently it was. The law permitted a man to disinherit his wife and leave her destitute, no matter how long they’d been married and even if she was the model of a perfect wife.
“The husband controlled the wife’s reproduction. Contraception and abortion were criminal offences. A husband and wife were considered one person in law – the husband. This concept of the legal unity of husband and wife is what allowed a man to control his wife in every respect.” Until 1983, a husband could legally rape his wife – “marriage was considered consent to conjugal relations,” explained Silver Dranoff, who stressed that, of course, many men didn’t take advantage of their power – “but those who did could do so with impunity” and with legal sanction.
In addition to these restrictions, married women were discouraged from working outside the home. “In 1941,” said Silver Dranoff, “fewer than four percent of married women were employed. It wasn’t until 1955 that married women were eligible to be employed in the federal civil service. In any event, there was almost no publicly supported childcare – this actively discouraged women from employment. Even if women worked, usually out of necessity, there were no laws protecting them from discrimination in employment.” This meant that women could legally be paid less, disregarded for promotion consideration and fired if a man needed a job. “There was no law against sexual harassment in the workplace; it didn’t even exist until the early 1980s in law.”
In the public arena, said Silver Dranoff, “women were invisible.” While most women have had the right to vote since 1918 – a right won by the efforts of the first-wave women’s movement – government policy usually overlooked issues of concern to women. “Only five women were elected to Parliament before 1950,” she said. “It wasn’t until 1957 that the first woman ever was appointed as a federal cabinet minister. And a woman lawyer was a rarity – in 1951, there were 197 women lawyers in all of Canada out of a total of 9,000.”
This was the world in which Silver Dranoff grew up, and it energized and impelled her to action, as it did others. “I believe the most significant transformation allowing women a less dependent role in society came about when women could control our reproductive powers,” she said. “The birth control pill was developed in 1961. While contraception and abortion were still criminal offences, the pill gradually became publicly available in the 1960s, and that is when the second-wave women’s movement began.”
Women’s groups proliferated in the 1970s and 1980s. “The National Action Committee on the Status of Women comprised most of the major women’s organizations of the day, totalling, at its height, 700 women’s organizations that all gathered together to promote the rights of women with one voice.”
Silver Dranoff went to law school in 1969. She was a single parent with a 2-year-old and had been out of school for eight years. “Other women were also seeing a life outside the family as a possibility,” she said. “In my law school class, there were 14 women out of 300; we were five percent of the class. Had I attended eight years earlier, when I graduated from history, I would have been the only woman in a law school class in Toronto.”
With more women lawyers, there was more pressure for change and Silver Dranoff spoke about some of the advances that have been made in family law reform, Charter equality rights, abortion, violence against women, childcare, pay equity, and representation and power.
When Silver Dranoff came to the bar in 1974, women had no right to share property accumulated during a marriage, and spousal and child support amounts were “paltry and difficult to enforce.” By the 1980s across Canada, improvements had been made both in multiple laws and in their enforcement. “These changes enabled women to leave bad marriages and live independently,” she said.
However, there is more to be done. Husbands and their lawyers still “use the legal system and its processes and delays as a club to intimidate women.” As well, she added, “It is often too expensive to seek the rights which the law gives, and legal aid is severely underfunded.” Another problem is that mediation and arbitration are replacing the courts in some cases and, “as a result, women may be encouraged to make a deal that doesn’t give them the benefit of the laws we fought long and hard for.”
When the Canadian Constitution was repatriated from Great Britain in 1982, a new Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted. Women’s groups lobbied the government of the day, led by then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau, “to include constitutionally entrenched equality rights in the Charter – by the way, a right that American women still don’t have. Our women lawyers provided the wording to protect us, using the lessons taught by the ineffective Bill of Rights passed in the 1950s.”
One of those lessons was the need to make sure the rights were actually protected. “We had to lobby, we had to organize, we had to participate in court cases that would affect our equality rights. So, we founded the Women’s Legal and Educational Action Fund, known as LEAF, in 1985, when equality rights came into effect, to try and ensure that court interpretations of the Charter did not erode, but enhanced and ensured women’s equality rights.”
In the late 1960s, Trudeau, as justice minister under then-prime minister Lester B. Pearson, brought in amendments to the Criminal Code that permitted abortion under defined conditions. The amendments did not legalize abortion, but said the prohibition would not operate if a medical committee deemed a pregnant woman’s life to be in danger if she carried to term. This law did not work, said Silver Dranoff. Among other things, there was inconsistency among hospital abortion committees in rulings and there were no guidelines on what constituted endangerment.
“Dr. Henry Morgentaler became women’s champion,” she said. “He opened a clinic in Montreal and women traveled there from across Canada to be assured of getting and having a safe abortion.”
Morgentaler challenged the medical committee law, she said, and his goal was to get abortion removed as an offence under the Criminal Code; he also challenged provincial laws. “The main challenge was decided in 1988 by the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Silver Dranoff, “which agreed with defence counsel’s constitutional argument that the abortion provisions of the Criminal Code breached the rights of Section 7 of the Charter to life, liberty and security of the person and, therefore, was unconstitutional.”
There is no longer any federal law preventing or criminalizing abortion, or requiring anyone’s consent to the procedure other than that of the pregnant woman. There have been challenges to the change, though, including the federal government under then-prime minister Brian Mulroney, which tried twice – unsuccessfully – to form an anti-abortion law that wouldn’t violate the Charter.
“This shows how important it is to keep vigilant and organized and focused,” said Silver Dranoff. “There’s no such thing as a permanent victory, only a continuing struggle.”
A case in point is the progress that has been made with respect to dealing with violence against women. The courts used to accept the argument that, if a woman had ever had sex before with anyone, she probably consented to the approach by the accused. Victims can no longer be cross-examined on their previous sexual experience, unless the trial judge determines there is some compelling reason to allow it, said Silver Dranoff. However, “victims are still being mistreated by the courts,” she said. “As a result, many women are reluctant to complain.”
In addition to a need for more education of lawyers, police and others in the system before attitudes will change, Silver Dranoff spoke of the need for prevention, offering the example of proactive imprisonment, which is practised in some communities in the United States. Whereas a bail hearing assesses whether an accused is likely to flee before trial, this process assesses how likely an accused is to murder their accuser. If the risk of murder is high, the accused would be imprisoned until their trial and the victim (and their children) would be able to stay at home instead of having to seek shelter and protection, for example.
“I think it’s a plan that’s worthy of consideration in Canada,” said Silver Dranoff. “We also need gun control. In the hands of men who are violent against women, guns are dangerous. And the only way to control violent men using guns is to control guns. Canadian statistics show that access to firearms by an intimate partner increases the likelihood of murder by 500%.”
Childcare is another integral issue, she said. “I personally think that women will never be able to take their full place in our workforce unless we have proper health- and childcare. We need government-paid, government-subsidized childcare centres, regulated places for our children to go and be cared for while women are employed in the paid labour force.”
She said that, 50 years ago, in 1970, the importance of childcare was recognized in the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, “which called for a national childcare plan. The royal commission identified the care of children as the responsibility to be shared by mothers, fathers and society, without which, women cannot be accorded true equality. Just as true today as it was in 1970.”
She pointed to other instances in which a national childcare program had been recommended or dismissed by a federal government. Most recently, on Sept. 23, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government “announced plans for a significant long-term investment in a national childcare and early-learning system, including before- and after-school care, and built on the [publicly funded] Quebec model.”
Silver Dranoff warned that government announcements, and even the making of laws, do not necessarily translate into changes. In Ontario, for example, there have been equal pay laws since 1951, she said, while the Pay Equity Act, which applied to the federal public service, didn’t come until 1984. Changes to the various laws have occurred as a result of complaints from workers, she said, and different governments and employers have either progressed or hindered pay equity.
“Statistics tell the story, too,” she said. “In 1965, women earned, on average, 41% of men’s pay…. Today, Ontario women earn, on average, 70 cents for every dollar a man earns.” While an improvement, it took more than 50 years and it’s not good enough, she said. “These statistics repeat themselves all over the world. Women are still paid less than men in every country in the world, according to research by the World Economic Forum.” And the pay gap is even larger for Indigenous, racialized and immigrant women, she said.
Potential solutions include a law requiring pay transparency, wherein a wage is assigned to a particular job, not the gender of the person filling it, and requiring companies to get equal pay certification from the government or be fined. The latter policy has been implemented in Iceland, she said.
After a few more examples of ways to improve pay equity, Silver Dranoff moved on to her final topic – representation and power. She noted that, in 2013, there were six female premiers, now there is only one (Caroline Cochrane, in the Northwest Territories).
“We need more women in positions of power and we’re having great difficulty in achieving it,” said Silver Dranoff. One deterrent is that women in politics receive significantly more abuse and nastiness than male politicians. Much of this abuse is online in social media and even anonymous; two factors contributing to the fact that few perpetrators are charged or convicted.
She said, “The law could be strengthened in this way: make social media platforms legally responsible for the content they post, just as newspapers have a responsibility to ensure that the content they print is not defamatory.”
She noted there are no provisions in the Criminal Code for online bullying, online criminal harassment, online misogyny. “The Criminal Code only deals with in-person offences,” she said. Of course, to make these types of new laws work, she added, anonymity on the internet must be curtailed or eliminated.
To sustain the advances made by the women’s movement, she said, “Feminists must run for office and be elected. Parties must nominate feminists in electable ridings.”
In Silver Dranoff’s use of the term, feminists can be any gender, just as patriarchs can be any gender. Not every woman, she said, will stand up for the interests of women.
In addition to electoral reform – she believes that proportional representation of the mixed member proportional type is the best bet, “both for society as a whole and for women in particular because it requires consensus decision-making” – Silver Dranoff would like to see changes made in the corporate world, as well. She sees a need for things like mandatory quotas for women on boards, to ensure equal representation. “Voluntary doesn’t work,” she said.
Canada also needs a national women’s organization, she said, “like we had in the early days of the women’s movement. The National Action Committee on the Status of Women represented all of us…. We need that national voice to ensure that women’s issues are monitored and our interests are heard.”
Such an organization should not be dependent on government funding, she said, “which can be, and has been, withdrawn due to the ideology of the day. And, in fact, that’s what happened to NAC in the end. The National Action Committee was relying on government funding and an unsympathetic government removed it.”
Women cannot just accept the status quo, she said, or “that makes us complicit.”
She concluded, “My message to you all is carpe diem, seize the day. There is work to be done. It is, without a doubt, long past time for women to achieve equality and justice.”
Note: This article has been amended to make clear that it was married women who weren’t permitted to work in the federal public sector until 1955.
Books for Kids volunteers at NCJWC Vancouver’s 96th AGM, left to right: Jodi Seidelman, Rhea Lazar, Gail Gumprich and Tanya Hebron. (photo from NCJWC Vancouver)
On International Women’s Day, March 8, National Council of Jewish Women of Canada, Vancouver section, planned, learned, noshed and welcomed newcomers.
Sunshine was all around the room at NCJWC Vancouver’s 96th annual general meeting, which took place at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver in the Snider Senior Lounge.
Members were welcomed by president Catherine (Cate) Stoller and the new board was installed by Shirley Hyman, Limmud Vancouver program chair and longtime volunteer for NCJWC.
The new executive board is Stoller (president), Fran Ritch (treasurer), Jackie Krystal (co-treasurer), Linda Arato (recording secretary), Anne Lerner (vice-president, social action), Ricki Mintz (vice-president, engagement), Marnie Weinstein (vice-president, marketing and administration) and Rochelle Garfinkel (member-at-large). Appointed board members are Rhea Lazar (chair, Books for Kids program) and Sandy Hazan, Sarah Morel Shaffer and Jane Stoller (co-chairs, Operation Dressup).
After the AGM, Anna-Mae Wiesenthal, a Jewish history teacher at King David High School and a PhD student in Holocaust studies, gave a presentation on the “othering” of indigenous peoples in Canada during the settler colonial period and of Jews in Germany during the Holocaust.
Stressing the strong connection between NCJWC’s social action in the Jewish and non-Jewish communities in British Columbia, council’s advocacy nationally against antisemitism, its support for family services in Israel and its international role supporting human rights, Cate Stoller cheered the passing of the baton between generations. For more information about the Vancouver section of NCJWC, visit ncjwvancouver.org.