President’s April Message

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The endless violence and destruction in Afghanistan has been in world-wide news for at least 40 years. It is a country a bit smaller than Texas but with more people.  A quarter of the population lives in urban areas while the rest of the people are mostly agricultural workers in the countryside. Almost all are Muslims, but they are divided into about 20 ethnic groups, each with a distinct language and culture which partly explains why it has been so difficult for them to unite into a modern nation. It is bordered by Russia (Communism), Pakistan (backing the Taliban), and Iran (backing Al Qaeda) and all have been involved in hostilities along with the US, the UK and Canada as part of the NATO peace-keeping force.

Some other details were filled in for me several years ago when I attended a CFUW Welland meeting and heard Murwarid Ziayee, then the National Director of Canadian Women for Women of Afghanistan (CW4WA) speak about her beautiful, mountainous homeland and what it was like for her as a woman raising a family to live there. The situation was even more dire than I imagined and with increasing threats whenever she left the house, she and her family had to emigrate to Canada. She ended her talk with ways women of the world could help: fundraise to help girls go to school and lobby our government to participate in the peace process. She stressed that the Afghan voice alone is weak and needs to be strengthened with that of international partners.  Now with Zoom meetings available, it might be possible to have her or another activist speak to us in the future.

This past February, I registered for a joint Zoom meeting being presented by the GWI NFA2NFA* Partner Project between CFUW and GWI-Netherlands. Both countries have been active in learning about, discussing the issues and developing an Advocacy Tool kit. The topic was “The Significance of Ongoing Afghanistan Peace Negotiations for Afghan Women.” One speaker was Dr. Lauryn Oates, from Vancouver, who among her many titles is the Executive Director for CW4WA. She likened the plight of Afghan women to being “Canaries in the Coal Mine”. The maintenance of rights for women often determines the success of peace negotiations for the country. What is happening to women in Afghanistan is happening elsewhere in the world. The price for stopping the violence and killing is often the loss of women’s rights. The other speaker was Salma Alokozai, an activist and the CW4WA Country Director, speaking in the middle of the night from Kabul. They both described the unsatisfactory negotiations starting in February 2020 when the US actually signed an agreement to stop the violence during peace talks with the Taliban without the participation of the democratic Afghan government! Although promised, the Taliban refused to stop the campaign of attacks and assassinations, and between March and June the violence was the highest in the last 19 years. Many journalists, activists and women have had to leave the country. The Taliban want to change the Constitution to remove rights of many, including women, and the democratic institutions are in danger. The Taliban has not negotiated in good faith, and there is disaster in the offing if forces keeping the peace are removed too soon. Women could be forced to return to the dark days of Islamic apartheid, be incarcerated in their homes, required to wear veils, be accompanied by men, and be denied education, employment and health care. Their position is perilous because few women’s voices are heard at the peace table, and terrifying bomb blasts and gunfire prevail. Notably, the Taliban have included no women on their 21-member negotiating team. The Afghans have included four women on theirs, so of the total of 42 members on the complete team, only four are women!

Remarkably, despite threats, there are many women’s groups in Afghanistan that are joining forces and demanding that the negotiations result in peace with dignity. They fear that negotiations will result in trading rights for education for both girls and boys for lack of violence. The Taliban claim of support for education is belied by their actions. Many schools are presently closed in Taliban controlled areas. Although they recently threatened to restrict girl’s education to the third grade, they have backed away from that at the moment.

CFUW Ottawa has been learning about this human tragedy since 2010 when a small group of members were inspired by a talk given by Dr. Sima Samar, a human rights activist. They were shocked to learn the plight of women in her country, but also discovered that education was their hope. So, they formed a Study and Interest group called University Women Helping Afghanistan Women, (UWHAW). When Dr. Simar was asked what Canadians could do to help Afghan women, she suggested they share their campaign with other women’s groups. And the CFUW Ottawa Club has done just that. As they became more informed, they were invited to be speakers at local women’s organizations and other CFUW clubs. They have written to the Prime Minister and other senior Canadian officials urging Canada to play a leading role in the ongoing peace talks. They have presented seminars and workshops at National AGMs across Canada, at the GWI Triennials in Istanbul, Turkey and Cape Town, South Africa, and presented a Parallel Session at the 2014 UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York.

Along the way, GWI has been extremely supportive by highlighting their activities on their website and in their programme materials. The imminent need for international participation in the peace process resulted in the design of a six-month project replicating the process of the UWHAW but included working with other NFAs. The project got National approval and was accepted by GWI for the NFA2NFA platform. GWI-Netherlands asked to join them, and their first webinar was the one I described above.

The final webinar is on April 24, 2021 and will feature three remarkable Afghan women including one of the women peace negotiators, and a moderator from the EU. The GWI network can potentially reach 15,000 educated women in 75 countries! Those interested can replicate the project in their own club. As CFUW Ottawa says “We can use our GWI voices across our globe to strengthen those of the Afghan women. Together we can encourage our governments to hear these courageous and articulate women, and work with them and their government towards a permanent and just peace not only for these women, but for their daughters and granddaughters. These women, who have suffered through 40 years of war, need and deserve our support at this critical period. Let their voices be heard.” Watch for the invite link to register on the GWI website.

*(NFAs: National Federations and Associations are members of GWI. There is one NFA per country.)

Vaccination Support Committee

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Effective Wednesday April 7th, if you were born in 1961 or earlier, the Provincial online portal & call centre is open for registration for a Covid-19 vaccination appointment.  In addition, many pharmacies and physicians across Niagara also have vaccine doses for customers/patients 55+ and will be calling them to book appointments. For some pharmacies, you can pre-register on their website.

Below are the details on how to register using the Provincial online portal:

      • Click here for the Ontario website
      • Call centre phone # is 1-888-999-6488 open 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. every day
      • You will need information from both the front & back of your green health card, birth date, Postal Code and email address and cell number (with texting capabilities). You may need access to a printer.
      • If you only have a red & white health card, you must phone to book.
      • You can register for any clinic in the region. Click to see list of clinic locations & dates/times they will be open or visit the Niagara Region Public Health website.
      • Niagara residents taking transit for COVID-19 vaccination clinics will be able to travel for free to any Public Health Vaccination Clinic and to pharmacies and doctor’s offices for inoculations as they become available. Accessible shuttles will be available from Brock Transit Hub to the clinic. Riders will need to show proof of their appointment when boarding and proof of vaccination on return trips. Users will also be required to wear a mask on the bus. Information about bus schedules can be found at or by calling 905-687-5555.
      • For your appointment:

      – Wear a mask
      – Bring your Ontario Health Card.
      – Bring your booking confirmation number or QR code from the provincial booking portal, preferably a printed version.
      – Have something to eat to prevent feeling faint while receiving the vaccine.
      – Be sure to wear a comfortable shirt which is loose along the arms (so you can receive a vaccination in the upper arm).
      – Arrive no more than five minutes prior to your appointment time.

      CFUW St Catharines Ad Hoc committee continues to ensure that all our senior members who wish to receive their Covid-19 vaccination do not miss the opportunity. If you were born in 1946 or earlier and think that you may need assistance with any of the following, please send an email to and we will contact you with further details.

      • Assistance with knowing when the vaccine is available to the over 80’s
      • Assistance with registering for the vaccine
      • Assistance with knowing where to go to be given the vaccination
      • Assistance with arranging transportation to/from an appointment for a vaccination

      Depending on the success with our over 80 members, we will consider expanding our mandate to other age groups in the future. Watch for updates on this page.

      CFUW St Catharines Vaccination Support
      Ad Hoc Committee
      Susan Middleton – Chair
      Carol Dueck – member
      Kathy Pagonis – member
      Pat Paulin – member

President’s March Message

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I hope you found the links about GWI in the February Newsletter helpful in learning more about our grandmother organization. More are after this message which I hope you will access and read. I attended both the Dialogues in January and found them mostly monologues defending the National Board decision to allow clubs to decide whether to support GWI. The 35 or so PowerPoint slides mainly explained how CFUW works with only one slide about GWI. I have attached the link for the slides so you can judge for yourself.  Slides from Dialogues Presentation

Questions were to be typed into the Chat and periodically summarized with answers. Frustratingly, many were not answered. I did spend much of last weekend reading the massive number of unedited chat comments emailed to me by a friend who took screen shots.

Here is one: Sample Comment

A summary of some of the questions with answers has just been sent with the February 19 Club Action News-letter and can be found here:  Q&A Summary If you are interested in having any remaining information from the dialogue sessions sent to you, please email me and I will forward anything I receive.

In the last 45 minutes of each session, we were invited to join breakout rooms to talk amongst ourselves, and these were the best part of the sessions. There were between 4 and 10 participants and we had too short a time to hear much of how other clubs were operating and hear reasons for their club’s inclinations. In one of my breakouts, a participant asked if GWI membership was worth the money when they only support six projects. I pointed out that GWI aims to make systemic change through its advocacy. Projects help only a few people in a specific place, but GWI also has permanent members monitoring and contributing to discussions in UN meetings in all four venues of Paris, Vienna, Geneva and New York, and since it is highly respected for its advocacy for education of women and girls, it speaks with the voice of 50 plus countries, whereas CFUW speaks for only one! I am glad to support GWI’s international advocacy so I can concentrate my efforts on our local and national issues.

Of course, the overriding question is what our dues will be going forward. I feel that the issue of dues is unnecessarily complicated and therefore allows for misunderstanding and misinterpretation. It is described on several of the Dialogue slides but here is what I understand: In February 2020, our club sent $76 of our dues per member to CFUW. This covers about $54.50 for National and $21.50 for GWI. The GWI portion pays for the January to December 2022 year. The rest pays for the National June 2021 to May 2022 year. The National Board claims that $21.50 isn’t enough to cover the GWI dues and that it has incurred a debt of about $9,000 for the 2020 year! Many club members disagree with the bookkeeping and thus the ongoing arguments. The dues can only be changed at an AGM, so unless the clubs vote for a dues increase next June, we will pay the same as always.

Another complicating factor is that only CFUW National is the member of GWI, and only clubs are part of CFUW National, not us as individual members. Our dues are dependent on how many women are in each club. This is why National wants to know how many clubs want to support the work of GWI. The National Board has been negotiating with the GWI board about dues and although they have not finalized anything, there is a suggestion that a sliding scale might be used, and if our Canadian numbers are about 6,000 members, our dues will remain about the same. The greater the number of opt-in club members, the lower the dues per club member. Another suggestion is that GWI dues might need to be raised about $5.00 starting in 2023. We should find out more at this year’s National AGM in June.

I believe the reason we need to vote our preference by March 31 is that National wants to estimate how many clubs will opt in so they can estimate what our GWI dues will be in 2023 after the results of the current negotiations. Your Executive is planning to have an electronic vote after the March General Meeting but the date has not yet been set. Please keep an eye out for an invite to vote via Survey Monkey sometime between March 9 and 31. The outcome of this vote is not written in stone and can be adjusted next November. Any questions? Please email them to me.

GWI Information:

GWI Projects:

GWI – The case for educating women:

Brochures: GWI Brochure; STEM Brochure

GWI Newsletter February 3 GWI Update

Sign up for GWI twice monthly newsletter: GWI Newsletter Sign-Up

Creative Writing Contest

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The CFUW St. Catharines 100th Anniversary Creative Writing Contest beckons. Let your inventive artistic talent flow from mind to page in no more than 750 words. the only requirement is that your story must begin with “The meaning was clear”.

Confirm your intent to enter by March 5th to Trish Loat, Bettianne Matheson or Caroline Nolan. Submit one copy of your entry by April 30th. Results will be announced in October 2021.

REDress Project – February 8 – 14

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Missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people (MMIWG2S+) will be remembered by the Brock University and Niagara College communities during a weeklong display of red dresses and through several virtual events from Monday, Feb. 8 to Sunday, Feb. 14.

The REDress Project, which involves the hanging of red dresses in public spaces, began as an art installation by Métis artist Jamie Black first displayed at the University of Winnipeg in 2011 and has since been replicated in communities across Canada. The empty red dresses are meant to signify the loss of thousands of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit, lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual (2SLGTBQQIA) people over the past 40 years to colonial violence.

Since 2019, Brock University has hosted an installation of red dresses around campus and a public event raising awareness about MMIWG2S+ organized around Feb. 14 in solidarity with the annual Women’s Memorial March held in Vancouver since 1991.

Brock’s Acting Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement, Robyn Bourgeois said continuing to raise awareness of the longstanding injustices the week discusses was of critical importance.

“Violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGTBQQIA people has always been a part of colonialism in Canada, and it continues to be a part of Canadian society because Canada remains a colonial country,” she said. “While Canada undertook a formal inquiry into this violence, the government has yet to respond to its findings and, more importantly, take action to protect Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGTBQQIA people from violence. This inaction comes with an extraordinary cost for Indigenous Peoples.”

Along with an array of virtual events to further raise awareness, this year will see red dresses hung at Brock University and Niagara College, the latter of which is participating in the initiative for the first time. Dresses will be hung outside at the University’s main campus and the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, and at Niagara College’s Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Welland Campus — each including an attached note with information about the project to help increase awareness. The College community is encouraged to share photos of themselves tying a red ribbon to a tree to honour the MMIWG via social media.

“Being a part of the REDress Project with our partners at Brock University and having the opportunity to display the red dresses on our campuses is very meaningful to the Niagara College community. It will offer a striking visual reminder in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day and Family Day that each and every missing and murdered Indigenous woman and girl was loved,” said Lianne Gagnon, Director, Student Services, Niagara College.

“The important issue of MMIWG is in the hearts and minds for all of us at Indigenous Education, and supporting the LGBTQ2S+ community is a vital component of our core NC values to ensure a safe, diverse and inclusive place for all. We hope that our involvement will further engage our College and the public to learn more.”

Bourgeois said the partnership with Niagara College showed awareness of the issue was growing.

“I’m so excited this year’s REDress event is a collaboration between Niagara College and Brock University,” she said. “Partnership and collaboration are the cornerstones of success, and I’m so pleased we can work together to raises awareness about MMIWG2S+.”

Along with the existing red dress display and participating in the virtual events, community members are also encouraged to hang a red dress where they are (for example, in a window or outside) for the week and to send a photo of the dress to to be part of a virtual display.

By hanging red dresses, participating virtually and taking time to learn about ongoing injustices, Bourgeois said participants can contribute to appropriate remembrance and necessary changes in policy going forward.

“We need events like this because the work isn’t done,” she said. “Not only do we need space to remember MMIWG2S+, we also need to continue to press this issue and demand justice for MMIWG2S+, their families and Indigenous communities generally. We cannot be silent as long as this violence continues.”

The REDress initiative is sponsored and supported by Brock University’s Human Rights and Equity Office, Social Justice Centre, Sexual Violence Prevention Committee, Faculty of Social Sciences Dean’s Discretionary Fund and Office of the Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement; and Niagara College’s Facilities Management and Indigenous Education. That support will allow virtual events for REDress 2021 (listed below) to run from Monday, Feb. 8 to Friday, Feb. 12.

Both the Brock and Niagara College communities, as well as the public, are encouraged to attend the virtual events to learn more about the REDress Project, the MMIWG inquiry and the impacts the issue is having in Niagara.

Families of MMIWG
Monday, Feb. 8 from 2 to 4 p.m.
To launch REDress week, we are centring the stories of families of MMIWG. Community member Linda John will share her family’s experiences.
To attend the event, please visit Brock’s REDress website.

Tuesday, Feb. 9 from 1 to 2:30 p.m.
This session highlights the experiences of 2SLGTBQQIA and features panelist Nenookaasi Ogichidaa.
To attend the event, please visit Brock’s REDress website.

Brock’s Decolonial Reading Circle hosts Helen Knott
Wednesday, Feb. 10 from 7 to 9 p.m.
Brock’s Decolonial Reading Circle (DRC) will host author Helen Knott to discuss her memoir, In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience.
To attend this event, please email Bourgeois at rbourgeois@brocku.cato be added to the DRC email list and receive link information.

Men, Masculinity and MMIWG
Thursday, Feb. 11 from 1 to 2:30 p.m.
This panel discussion considers the role of Indigenous men in addressing the issue of MMIWG2S+. It features a panel of prominent Indigenous men: former CFL player JR LaRose, journalist Sean Vanderklis and filmmaker Nick Printup.
To attend the event, please visit Brock’s REDress website.

Our Sisters in Spirit Gala
Friday, Feb. 12 from 7 to 9 p.m.
A gala film screening of Brock student and NC alumnus (2015) Nick Printup’s film Our Sisters in Spirit. Printup created the film as a student in NC’s Broadcasting — Radio, Television and Film program to explore the question of calling a national public inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The screening will be followed by a discussion with the director. The event will be opened by Fallon Farinacci, a Métis woman who served as a member of the National Family Advisory Council for the National Inquiry into MMIWG2S+.
To attend the event, please visit Brock’s REDress website

President’s February Message

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For the past 101 years, CFUW National, and all its Canadian clubs, have been members of the international organization, IFUW now called GWI or Graduate Women International. Membership in GWI has always been required in the National Constitution in Article 4.

As many of you probably know, membership in GWI has been a bone of contention for the last five years partly because of increasing fees. The motion to remove Article 4 has been voted on at each National AGM but has failed to reach the required two-thirds majority each time. To date, no solution has been proposed that satisfies both sides of the issue, and the divide has become wider and deeper to the point that several clubs are withholding their dues and threatening to leave the national organization.

As a result, the National Board voted on December 1 to allow clubs to decide if they wanted to be a member of GWI or not, even though this contravened the constitution and therefore was illegal! The National President sent a message to all clubs on December 9 announcing the vote which of course resulted in a flurry of angry emails. Only local clubs can vote to change the National Constitution! President Wilkinson’s message and the dates for two scheduled Dialogues to discuss this issue are in the January 7 and January 13 Club Action Newsletters. I strongly encourage you to register for one or both Dialogues, scheduled for January 28th at 7:30 PM and January 30th at 12:00 Noon. You can read and register here: From National Board – GWI/Dialogues.

I have been attending monthly meetings of three different President’s Groups for the past year and have been hearing about this growing crisis. One group has been trying to come up with a solution to satisfy both sides. Last Wednesday, several members presented a novel proposal for the others to discuss. We all thought it might work but wanted a way to be sure this option would be put on the Dialogue agenda for discussion. It needed a non-controversial club to send a letter requesting the addition of the option to the agenda, and St. Catharines best fit the bill. So after much discussion and editing, your Executive unanimously approved the letter, and it was sent on Sunday, January 10, to the National President and Board. It is also being sent to all 99 other clubs across Canada. You can read the letter by clicking: Letter to CFUW National re: GWI proposed solution.

I believe in the value and importance of GWI and the work they do across the world. However, your Executive did not commit you to support the option mentioned in the letter or any position at all. We will be asking for your opinion in the next few months. We will need to vote, perhaps as early as March to decide whether we, as a club, support GWI membership or not.

As with all votes, we need to understand the facts in order to make a decision. If you want to start increasing your understanding of GWI, please see my updated history of events here: My Case for GWI. Please also visit the GWI website: GWI website and check out the 2020 Year in Review: GWI Year-at-a-Glance. Former CFUW President Tammy Irwin also wrote about a GWI success story that illustrates cooperation in action. You can read that here: GWI Success Story by T. Irwin.

As for our current daily situation, I find a good thing about February is that the days become noticeably longer. This will be especially important during the next month of lockdown. I am also realizing that attending virtual General Meetings reinforces the feeling that although I am physically isolated, I am not emotionally isolated. Thank goodness for Zoom, my family and you! Please stay home and stay safe.

President’s January Message

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In the delightful presentation “If Teapots Could Talk” at our December General Meeting, Pauline Grondin referred to several historical events in the enfranchisement of Canadian Women which I think bear expounding upon.

In the early 1900s, when women were campaigning for the right to vote, their suffrage meetings were frequently disrupted by angry opponents. In those days, many women were forbidden to attend these meetings by their husbands or fathers, or simply lacked confidence to do so because of strong public opposition. But women did traditionally hold teas when children were born, and for other family events. Since men didn’t attend these gatherings, the suffragists started calling their political meetings Pink Teas. Only women were invited and frilly decorations and many pink doilies festooned the tea tables. If opposition did appear, the organizer simply changed the subject. Thus, Pink Teas became a way for women to meet and discuss various issues of importance, including suffrage.

Nelly McClung was a suffragist in 1914 and was one of the founders of the Political Equality League in Winnipeg. When she and her group of supporters met with Manitoba Premier Rodman Roblin to argue their case for allowing women to vote, they were met with derision, rudeness, and lack of respect, such as, “Nice women don’t want the vote.” Nelly, a well-known author of a highly successful novel and other published works, decided to write a play in the form of a mock parliament which would use the antifeminist rhetoric to argue against giving men the vote! Her female cohorts imitated the mannerisms and language of the male legislators, and she took the part of the swaggering, cigar smoking Premier. It was called “Let Them Howl.” By all reports, the performance was extremely funny and so effective that many felt it was a major reason why the Roblin government was voted out of office in 1915 and Manitoba women were given the vote in 1916. Some of you may remember a re-enactment of the play in 2017 when our club hosted the CFUW National AGM at Brock University. St. Catharines member Pat Milland played Nelly McClung/Rodman Roblin and I was one of a dozen parliamentarians. I remember being so impressed with the cleverness of the dialogue.

By 1924, most Canadian women had the vote but were still not able to be appointed to the Senate because they were not considered “qualified persons.” This outraged suffragists. An especially determined one, Emily Murphy, discovered a little-known provision in the Supreme Court of Canada Act that said that any five people acting as a unit could petition the Supreme Court for an interpretation of any part of the Constitution. So, she enlisted four of her activist friends in Manitoba, one of whom was Nelly McClung, and they submitted their petition. When it was declined, they went to a higher power and petitioned the Privy Council in England! Thirteen years after winning the right to vote, on October 18, 1929, the Canadian decision was overruled, and women were deemed “qualified persons,” able to run for and hold any public office. This became known as The Person’s Case, and the suffragist group became The Famous Five.

Fast forward to 1955 when Laura Sabia was president of our club and later president of CFUW National from 1964 to 1967. She had been advocating for women’s rights and, being unhappy about the slow progress, pushed for a Commission on the Status of Women. When that issue seemed to be going nowhere, in frustration, she told an aide to tell Prime Minister Pearson that if he didn’t move on the proposal, she would march two million women to his office! The press had a field day with the remark and even though Laura confided to friends that she doubted she could get two women to march, her reputation was such that the wheels were set in motion and this past December 7th was the 50th Anniversary of the establish-ment of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. (However, more work needs to be done – see page 3 of the January 2021 Newsletter)

The major milestones throughout history did not happen overnight but were the result of persistent advocacy often over many years. This is what will be needed in the coming years as we support progress in Long Term Care of the Elderly, National Childcare programs, elimination of Violence Against Women, and the end of Human Trafficking, just to name a few goals.

Happy New Year!