#wearRED on March 15th for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

This article was written by Sarah Rieger and originally published here.

An artist is asking Canadians to take part in a striking one-day display of red dresses to represent the country’s missing and murdered indigenous women.

Jaime Black, a Metis artist from Winnipeg, created The REDress Project five years ago. It collects red dresses from the community and hangs them in public spaces as a visual reminder of the women who are no longer present.

The red garments have been exhibited everywhere from university campuses to Canada’s Museum For Human Rights, where the Globe and Mail called the exhibit “haunting,” as it looked out on the portion of the Red River where 15-year-old Tina Fontaine’s body was found.

Nearly 1,200 aboriginal women in Canada have been murdered or gone missing in the last 30 years — 225 in 2014 alone, according to the RCMP.

In Alberta, for example, 206 First Nations women have been killed over three decades — or 30 per cent of all female homicides in the province.

On Oct. 4, Black is asking for women to donate a dress to the project, hang a red dress outside their home, or wear one as they go about their day.

“Through the installation I hope to draw attention to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Aboriginal women and to evoke a presence through the marking of absence,” Black states on her website.

Linda Nothing, who is helping to organize the Calgary chapter of the project, told Metro News that many people who see the project are shocked that it is an issue in the city.

“The image itself can speak to a lot of people,” she told the newspaper. “If they aren’t aware of the issue they are often shocked and surprised that it’s happening in Canada because there is a lot of under education and miss-education about indigenous issues here.”


Mufty Mathewson, creator of REDress Photography Project to do Presentation on #MMIW Movement

Mufty Mathewson, creator of the REDress Photography Project, has generously agreed to do a 15 minute slideshow presentation of the best of their photographs before the films are shown on Tuesday March 15th. The images are striking, affecting, riveting and arresting. We are privileged to be able to honour our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women this way. Do come out to be part of it.




Les femmes à l’honneur dans un tout nouveau festival de films

This article was written by Marie-Ève DuSablon and originally published here.

Le festival permettra, à travers la sélection de quatre films d’origines diverses, de mieux comprendre les luttes historiques pour les droits des femmes et la situation actuelle.

Les quatres films qui seront présentés pendant le festival sont:  Les suffragettes, Spirit of the Blue Bird, Finding Dawn et She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.

Michelle Brewer, la fondatrice du festival, croit que les films permettront de mieux comprendre la cause des femmes à travers l’histoire et d’inspirer.

« Lorsqu’on voit les choses qui ont été faites, on réalise que nous sommes capables d’en faire plus. » — Michelle Brewer, fondatrice du festival You Can’t Keep a Good Woman

La présentation des films sera accompagnée de discussions avec des auteures de la région qui aborderont des questions sur la situation actuelle de la femme.

Les discussions permettront aux femmes et aux hommes de trouver des mentors espère Michelle Brewer.

Son parcours

Michelle Brewer fondatrice du festival You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down d'Edmonton Michelle Brewer fondatrice du festival You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down d’Edmonton  Photo :  ICI Radio-Canada

Michelle Brewer s’est inspirée de sa propre histoire pour créer le festival. Elle espère que l’événement aidera les femmes à s’affirmer.

« J’étais dans une relation avec un homme abusif. Je suis une femme forte et intelligente. Je me suis demandée pourquoi ça m’arrive? » — Michelle Brewer, fondatrice du festival You Can’t Keep a Good Woman

Même si aujourd’hui les droits des femmes sont mieux reconnus, elle souligne que trop de femmes sont encore victimes d’abus.

« Le problème est rendu au niveau de l’estime de soi des femmes en raison des pressions externes. » — Michelle Brewer, fondatrice du festival You Can’t Keep a Good Woman

Continuer le combat

Le mouvement féminisme a fait beaucoup de chemin depuis le dernier siècle, mais il reste tout de même bien des inégalités entre les hommes et les femmes au travail, dans les médias et au sein d’une relation conjugale, selon Michelle Brewer.

Elle n’a pas tort. Un recensement d’Alberta Council Women’s Shelters fait auprès de 1478 d’hommes vivant en Alberta montre que 61 % d’entre eux ne comprennent pas pourquoi une femme reste dans une relation abusive. Ce constat prouve, selon le conseil, que ces derniers ne comprennent pas la notion de l’abus psychologique.

En ce qui concerne la femme dans l’univers du cinéma, Michelle Brewer affirme qu’elles sont peu représentées et qu’il n’y a pas beaucoup de femmes qui tiennent un premier rôle.

« Je vous donne le défi de compter le nombre de femmes qui tiennent un rôle important dans les grands films américains, vous allez être surpris! » — Michelle Brewer, fondatrice du festival You Can’t Keep a Good Woman

Michelle Brewer aimerait que ce festival devienne un rendez-vous annuel et qu’il inspire des femmes en leur inculquant que personne ne peut leur poser des limites.

#MMIW Ally and Author, Diana Davidson, to read Micro-Essay from ”Kwe: Standing With Our Sisters”

This article was written for Amnesty International and was originally published here.

kwe_frontcoveronlyKwe: Standing With Our Sisters is a 100-page anthology edited by Joseph  Boyden, featuring new writing and original artwork from more than fifty contributors, including Sherman Alexie, Margaret Atwood, Gord Downie, Julie Flett, Tom King, Lee Maracle, Yann Martel, Michael Ondaatje, John Ralston Saul and Tanya Tagaq Gillis.  At You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down, we are delighted to have local author Diana Davidson, joining us to read from her microessay in this volume on March 15th. Kwe was conceived by Boyden as a way to raise awareness of the crisis facing Indigenous women in Canada.

The idea for this book was born in November, from feelings of deep frustration, anger, and sorrow in the wake of yet another violent assault upon a First Nations woman,” says Boyden.  “This is a call for action. We’re part of a rising chorus in this nation that demands that the federal government respond in a real way. I hope this collection draws much needed attention to the crisis.”

Amnesty International is honoured that Boyden has chosen to donate the proceeds to support Amnesty International’s work on this issue. Both Penguin and Chapters/Indigo will give the full sale price of $2.99 for each ebook to Amnesty International’s No More Stolen Sisters campaign.

<< You can purchase it here

For more information about Amnesty International’s work on this issue, please visit:

Gemini & Rosie Awards Winner, Michelle Thrush, will join us March 15th

Come out to meet Gemini and Rosie Award-winning actress Michelle Thrush and star of our feature Unnatural & Accidental (and of Blackstone)–Tuesday night at the Metro Cinema.

michelle thrush 2.jpg

Michelle has won the Rosie Award for AMPIA for Best Alberta Actress in 2012, 2014 and 2015.She has starred in the award-winning show Blackstone since the beginning. She has also appeared as a guest actress for Arctic Air, winning a Leo in 2013 for her character. She is the co-director of the theatre extravaganza Making Treaty 7 which has run in Calgary for 3 consecutive years to sold out audiences. She is also the mother of two beautiful teenage daughters.

Local feminist using film screenings to spark bigger social change

This article was written by Mel Priestley and originally published here.

This year marks a feminist milestone: 100 years ago, women in Alberta were granted the right to vote. The local crop of International Women’s Day activities for 2016 is centred around that achievement—yet a darker cloud looms over the proceedings. Political, economic and social equality for women is still fiction in many instances: indigenous women didn’t get the right to vote until decades later in 1960; Edmonton currently has only one female city councillor; in 2015, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) rated Edmonton as one of the worst places in Canada to be a woman; compared to the national average, Edmonton women and girls experience higher rates of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation and sex trafficking; at the time of writing this article—and on the eve of International Women’s Day—Oxfam Canada and the CCPA released a new report stating that Canada’s wage gap has increased; women earn 72 percent of what men earn, compared to 74.4 percent in 2009.

Seeking inspiration in film, Michelle Brewer is hoping to incite changes that go beyond a one-day celebration.

“When I see these films, I’m reminded of how our achievements were hard-won, and I think sometimes we get forgetful of that, so these films are really great antidotes to amnesia,” she says. “Changes going forward might have to be hard-won too, and when I see the courage of these women I feel called upon.”

Brewer, a women’s rights activist and current PhD candidate in social-political philosophy at the Universität-Potsdam in Germany, is the sole organizer of the inaugural You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down film festival. The festival spans three (non-consecutive) evenings and features film screenings at Metro Cinema. It kicked off on International Women’s Day with the 2015 British film Suffragette. March 15 centres on indigenous women: attendees are encouraged to wear red in recognition of missing and murdered indigenous women, and the screening features a pair of Canadian films: Spirit of the Blue Bird (2011) and Unnatural and Accidental (2006). The final day of the festival, March 22, showcases the 2014 American documentary She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, which traces the rise of the women’s liberation movement in the 1960s.

Various events also precede and follow the film screenings. March 15 will feature a curated art exhibit and music from local women artists, as well as a Q&A session after the show with the filmmakers and two local activists. The pre-show on March 22 encompasses a tabling of Edmonton organizations that promote women and girls.

A portion of the March 15 proceeds will go toward the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women; part of the March 22 proceeds will go to the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council.

It’s an ambitious, packed three days—all the more impressive when you consider that Brewer put it all together on her own, though she notes that she partnered with other local women and organizations in the later days of her planning, and the response was very positive. She hopes that this festival serves as the start of a much larger movement to help make systematic, permanent changes in the health and welfare of women in Edmonton. She cites the necessity of making significant advances concerning Muslim and indigenous women in particular; regarding the latter, she notes that this year, Edmonton is expected to surpass Winnipeg as the Canadian city with the highest population of indigenous people.

“We need to take heed of that and again, because we’re an innovative city, our mayor should be making that central and making that our positive,” Brewer says. “And the most vulnerable population is indigenous women. I’m also thinking of all the Muslim women we have in Edmonton, and how we can make the city welcoming for our newcomers, because our most vulnerable is our kind of yardstick or thermometer of how we are as a society, so I think we need to think about these two groups of women.”

It can be overwhelming, Brewer admits, to consider the sheer scope of these issues and the number of smaller factors contributing to them. But because there are so many pieces to the puzzle, Brewer also notes there are, therefore, many different ways to begin addressing them.

“I also have a passion around food and body-image issues; that’s my main thing that I do,” Brewer says, mentioning that she teaches mindful eating courses throughout the city. “I hardly can talk to a woman who doesn’t feel limited about her appearance, and I feel like the macro dynamics of women’s oppression are micro dynamics of how we talk to ourselves and how we live with ourselves. If we could get over our self-criticism and our self-judgment, we would change the world. I’m hoping that seeing courageous women inspires all of us to be courageous.”

Regarding the detractors who feel threatened by, or are otherwise opposed to, feminist action (International Women’s Day’s annual round of Twitter trolls springs to mind), Brewer notes that she actually finds that resistance heartening, in a way.

“It helped me to see that the same resistances come up all the time and the same counter arguments come up all the time—and yet once we’ve made the advancements, we don’t think the counter arguments hold anymore,” she explains. “So it’s interesting to see that and think that our fear around transgender stuff, our fear around other stuff, will pass—and once it does, we forget that it was a work of intellectual labour to get to that place, of social and intellectual labour to make these achievements.”

Ultimately, Brewer extends an open invitation to anyone who wants to reach out to her about turning You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down into a larger movement.

“I’m just one person, by myself, with some really good ideas, but I think we need more ideas and enthusiasm, and action. I want to hear what we can do with this,” Brewer says. “Let’s not lose this enthusiasm. I keep thinking, we are this amazing city of visionaries and innovators, and let’s apply that here, on this topic.”

Tue, Mar 15 & Tue, Mar 22
(7 pm; pre-show at 5:30 pm)
Metro Cinema; festival pass $25 or regular Metro prices
Full schedule:

Brewing Change: Local professor inaugurates a new film festival

This article was written by Rhonda Kronyk and was originally published here.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Canadian women getting the right to vote. In recognition of these hard-fought battles, local professor Michelle Brewer is inaugurating a film festival called You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down, which will run for three consecutive Tuesdays beginning March 8, 2016, or International Women’s Day. Each evening includes a feature film and a subsequent discussion with community leaders.

The first screening of a film called Suffragette, is inspired by the women who put their lives, families and jobs at risk fighting for the right to vote. Representatives from the SkirtsAfire Festival will speak; Sally Issenman from Fair Vote, City Councillor Bev Esslinger, and author Joan Sangster will provide opening remarks. Margo Goodhand, former editor-in-chief of the Edmonton Journal, will host a panel discussion called “Edmonton Women Authors in Conversation.” The discussion will highlight the achievements of 15 of Edmonton’s best-known female authors including Alexis Kienlen, Caterina Edwards, Janice MacDonald, Kate Boorman, Wendy McGrath, Margaret MacPherson, and Gail Sidonie Sobat.

The second and third films focus on the nearly 1,200 missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada. Brewer hopes this will be the biggest night of the festival: “We want to open the conversation and not ghettoize this issue to Indigenous people. Edmonton has the opportunity to be at the forefront of reconciliation.” The evening will begin with opening remarks from Councillor Scott McKeen, Muriel Stanley Venne, president and founder of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women and Lorna Martin, the daughter of a missing woman and the Director of the Aboriginal Centre at McEwan University. The two films are Spirit of the Bluebird and Unnatural & Accidental. Following the screenings there will be a question and answer session with the filmmakers, Muriel Stanley Venne, and Roxanne Blood. The evening also includes an art show called Body Politic, curated by Stacey Cann of Harcourt House, and live music.

Brewer is a Philosophy professor at Grant MacEwan University, and a Research Coordinator in the area of Aboriginal Health and Wellness for the Faculty of Nursing in affiliation with the Unit for Philosophical Research in Nursing (uPRN) at the University of Alberta. Brewer was inspired to create the Festival after she saw the film She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, the story of the women who began the feminist movement of the 1960s in the United States. Brewer says many of their activities focus on women who want to create and orient women’s lives and shows how a small group of women can change the world. She hopes that viewers leave the festival inspired, and armed with practical information about how they can contribute to the modern women’s movement. “I want to have a conversation about the huge advancements we have made, but acknowledge that we are still limited and that we even face new limitations. I think that before we can change the world, we have to change ourselves.”

Edmonton’s first women’s film festival launches at Metro Cinema

This article was originally published here.

A new Edmonton film festival gives women’s empowerment a place on the silver screen.

“Its a chance to celebrate how far we’ve come, and have a conversation,” said Michelle Brewer, a women’s rights activist who is launching the city’s first women’s film festival. “But also to recognize that our wins have been hard fought. And going forward, the things we want will likely have to be hard fought again.”

Brewer said the festival, You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down, celebrates International Women’s Day and marks 100 years since women were given the right to vote.

“For me, it seems like a long time ago,” Brewer said during a Tuesday interview on CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM. “But to see a movie from the ’60s and ’70s, it felt a lot closer and a lot more inspiring that people can make a difference.

“I was inspired by seeing a film — She’s beautiful when she’s angry — on what a small group of people can do when they stand up for what they believe in.”

Four films related to women’s suffrage and missing indigenous women will be screened at the festival, which runs over three consecutive Tuesdays — March 8, March 15 and March 22 — at Metro Cinema.

In addition to film screenings, female authors from Edmonton will host a panel discussion, and local artists will exhibit their work.

Brewer hopes to provide an avenue for women to come together and help the community at large recognize that gender inequality continues. She points to a recent report that examined money, violence, political leadership, health and education, and determined that Edmonton is among the worst major cities in Canada to be a woman.

“If we want changes, it won’t be easy,” said Brewer. “Change for women comes from a lot of women and men working together.”

Each night of the festival will act as a fundraiser. Proceeds will benefit a women’s suffrage centennial event, the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council for its women’s initiatives, and the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women.

“I think we can judge our society on how we treat our most vulnerable. And on international women’s day, I think the most vulnerable women in Canada are indigenous women.”

International Women’s Day: Celebrations highlight how much further we have to go

This article was written by Nakita Valerio and originally published here.

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day (IWD), and many Canadians are celebrating what we believe to be achievements made by women, and the gains made for gender equality, in our country.

It is also a moment for us to remember heroines like the Famous Five Alberta women, whose petition to the Supreme Court of Canada led to women being legally considered “persons.” However, in the midst of our celebration, it is easy to forget that a notion of “inclusive” gender equality, embracing many different demographics of women in our communities including veiled Muslim women, indigenous women, women of colour, and others on the margins, remains an important and necessary goal.

It is easy to forget that it was one of the Famous Five, Emily Murphy, who remarked about Chinese Canadians: “We do not understand these people from the Orient, nor what ideas are hid behind their dark inscrutable faces.”

Divisive debate still triggered by what Muslim women wear

IWD is marked differently around the world. However, as we are celebrating, it shows how much further we have to go. It calls attention to the fact that the question of what a Muslim woman wears (whether the hijab, niqab or burka) still generates such furious, divisive debate among Canadians.

Nakita Valerio

Just last month, a woman wearing a burka was refused service at a North Edmonton business, rallying support and condemnation from both sides of the public debate. It was only recently that the federal government launched an official inquiry into the status of missing and murdered indigenous women.

IWD accentuates the fact that equality for women in this country is still heavily tied to the individual’s background, religious, racial, or otherwise.

Additionally, this inequity is highlighted this year as Women’s Day coincides with celebrations of Alberta’s 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, when Alberta joined Manitoba and Saskatchewan as the first provinces to allow women the right to vote in provincial elections.

Unequal women’s rights

While an important move in the history of the province, such an anniversary further reminds us of the unequal distribution of women’s rights because suffrage was applied unevenly at the provincial and federal levels.

The suffrage provisions of 1916 did not include Japanese and Chinese women who weren’t legally franchised until 1948, nor did it include indigenous peoples, whose suffrage also came unevenly across the country and who weren’t fully franchised until 1960.

I argue that some of the rhetoric surrounding IWD, and other events that are not necessarily promoting a brand of “intersectional” or inclusive feminism, depends on a particular vision of liberation that does not recognize a woman’s own voice.

Nowhere has this been more prevalent that in debates around whether or not head coverings are intrinsically oppressive or liberating, which continue to plague Canadian women of all backgrounds including Muslims, Sikhs and South Asians.

New feminism is based on the understanding that there is nothing inherently liberating about one expression over another. Rather, the liberation is in a woman’s choice and part of modern gender equality rests on the acceptance of diverse womanhood on her own terms, regardless of one’s background.

Edmonton hosts ongoing women’s interfaith discussions

Edmonton, thankfully, is a host to ongoing women’s interfaith conversation groups, Muslim-indigenous education workshops, and public school lectures on the status of women and veiling in Islam.

We are also lucky to have Metro Cinema’s three-night film festival titled, You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down, starting March 8, hosted here in Edmonton and supportive of dozens of local female artists and women’s social justice organizations in the city.

Indeed, local advocacy groups have taken to creating spaces that are safe and welcoming for women of all backgrounds. One such group, the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, views the day as an opportunity to engage in critical dialogue with women across the province.

Ultimately, the critique of International Women’s Day serves to unify the mandate of groups who attempt to celebrate the diversity of women on their own terms and to continue to sound the call for a new, inclusive feminism to take hold everywhere.

Nakita Valerio is pursuing graduate studies in Jewish-Islamic studies (history) at the University of Alberta. She was named one of the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation’s 2015 Top 30 Under 30 and was awarded the QEII scholarship for graduate students. She is also director of public policy with the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council.