Zoom In: Women Making Impacts is a new, video interview series featuring women from all paths of life on Vancouver Island. The series is intended to amplify women’s voices, ideas, passions, projects, labours, and visions, especially as they serve the interest of building a more just and equitable society.
Founder: This series was created by Melissa Stephens in Fall 2020. She is the Chair for the Vancouver Island University Faculty Association’s Status of Women Committee (VIUFA SWC, 2020-2021), and a member of the VIUFA Executive. Community outreach is part of the mandate for this role. She plans to continue this project independently after leaving her role with VIUFA.
Episodes are posted from most to least recent release. Please click the link to access earlier episodes.
Zoom In: Women Making Impacts
Episode 5: Homes and Homelessness: Women’s Struggles, Resilience, and Action
Episode 5 represents a special edition of Zoom In: Women Making Impacts, created in honour of International Women’s Day, and recorded live on Sunday, March 7, 2021, from 2 pm-3:30 pm. The panel focuses on the distinct barriers that diverse women face to secure safe homes and housing, while reflecting on the resilience of women and the actions needed to combat this global crisis. Panelists shed light on the how women’s experiences of homelessness are underestimated and misunderstood. The conversations challenge us to prioritize the experiences and knowledge of BIPOC and immigrant women so they can be central in the decision-making to improve and transform housing opportunities. We are asked to consider what transformation is needed as we rebuild, post-pandemic, safer and more equitable societies.
Gratitude: The VIUFA Status of Women Committee is grateful to live, work, and learn on the traditional and unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples, the traditional territories of the Snuneymuxw, Snaw-naw- as, Quw’utsun (Cowichan), K’ómoks and Tla’amin First Nations.
Photo credit: Dr. Imogene Lim. Image of protest of 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Speakers and Panelists:
Dr. Imogene Lim, VIUFA Chair for International Human Rights & Solidarity Committee and Professor in Anthropology and in Global Studies
Dr. Imogene Lim is a descendant of Cumberland and Vancouver’s Chinatowns, who teaches in Anthropology and in Global Studies. Her paternal grandfather paid the Head Tax when he landed in Victoria in 1890. Although she conducted her dissertation research in Tanzania with Swahili as her field language, she is known for her expertise on Chinese Canadian communities, especially on Vancouver Island. Her community engagement spans two decades, including collaboration with local museums. She co-developed the exhibit, 150 Years and Counting: Fighting for Justice on the Coast (2017). At VIU, Dr. Lim is Chair, VIUFA’s Human Rights and International Solidarity Committee, VIUFA Chair for International Human Rights & Solidarity Committee and she sits on the President’s Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Human Rights.
Aimee Chalifoux, Outreach Support Coordinator, Society for Equity, Inclusion, & Advocacy and Indigenous Literacy Coordinator at Literacy Central
Aimee Chalifoux is Metis Cree person who grew up in Nanaimo BC. She works as an outreach support coordinator for SEIA. She is blessed to be able to support women to find the service that they need and to advocate for them as needed. She gets to work with some of Nanaimo’s hidden heroes. Her newer role is at Literacy Central as Indigenous Literacy Coordinator where she has the opportunity to connect people with tutors and create programs on language revitalization and literacy wellness in our community. She is the mother of four and grandmother to two. She loves to write poetry and short stories that raise awareness about sexual exploitation, addiction and racism.
Hawa Y. Mire, Principal Consultant, HYMIRE Consulting
As the Principal Consultant at HYMIRE Consulting, Hawa Y. Mire is a proven strategic senior leader, equity consultant and community organizer with two decades of non-profit experience focused on high-impact community development. In 2017 she completed a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies from York University where her research examined community storytelling as a place of transformation. Hawa is a critical writer, commentator and columnist with Ricochet Media that has been featured on Macleans, Briarpatch Magazine, Metro Morning, CBC, CityTV, Rabble among others. She is also the NDP Candidate for York South—Weston.
Jennifer Fowler, Executive Director, Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society
Jennifer is the Executive Director of the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society, based in Nanaimo. She has been in the role for just over 3 years. Before CVIMS she was with the City of Edmonton, where she was the Director of Multicultural Relations. She also served for five years as Director of Communications for Legal Aid Alberta and, prior to that, she spent several years overseas working on development and social action projects dedicated to empowering women. She is passionate about immigration and settlement issues, with a special interest in ensuring that women are provided with equitable access to services and community supports. She holds a Bachelor of Applied Communications degree from Mount Royal University and a Masters in Intercultural and International Communications from Royal Roads University.
Michèle Biss, Project Manager of the National Right to Housing Network
Michèle Biss is the Project Manager of the National Right to Housing Network, group of over 300 individuals and organizations who are dedicated to the meaningful implementation of the right to housing in Canada. As an expert in economic and social rights, she has presented at several United Nations treaty body reviews and at Canadian parliamentary committees. Prior to her work at the NRHN, Michèle was the Policy Director and Human Rights Lawyer at Canada Without Poverty. In 2016, she graduated from the Advanced Course on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights at Åbo Akademi University in Finland. She has extensive professional experience working for marginalized groups, particularly women, persons with disabilities, newcomers, and Indigenous persons through casework, research, and community legal education. In her local Ottawa community, she sits on the board of directors of Ottawa Community Legal Services. She is a human rights lawyer and was called to the Ontario bar in 2014.
Ronell Bosman, Samaritan Program Director for Samaritan Women’s Housing, Island Crisis Care Society
Originally from South Africa, and now a Canadian citizen who has lived in Canada for 25 years, Ronnell Bosman manages several programs under the umbrella of Samaritan House Women’s Housing, including Prideaux Men’s Housing, Martha’s Place Supportive Housing, Mary’s Place Transitional Housing Services, and a Rent Subsidy Program. She has been with Island Crisis Care Society for 11 years, and she has worked in the field as a trained Social Worker for 15 years. She has worked with vulnerable new moms and babies, as an Outreach Worker, and in a second Stage Shelter for women. She is passionate about working with women at risk.
Stacy Middlemiss, Registered Psychiatric Nurse & Duncan City Councillor
Stacy is a Registered Psychiatric Nurse and City councillor who lives and works in the Cowichan Valley, where she is passionate about supporting people where they’re at in the most respectful and dignified way possible. Stacy takes pride in being a voice for the people she serves and is grateful for everything they have taught her over the years. In recovery herself, Stacy uses her innate understanding of the trials and tribulations of addiction to connect with and understand those she serves.
Dr. Melissa Stephens (she/her), VIUFA Chair for the Status of Women Committee and VIU English Professor
Dr. Melissa Stephens is the VIUFA Chair for the Status of Women Committee & a Professor of English. Her research and volunteer work in places such as Guyana, Trinidad, and Vanuatu has shaped her consciousness of the nexus between research, teaching, and activism. Her doctoral research focused on Black feminisms and creative projects critiquing neoliberal globalization. She strives to teach material from an anti-racist perspective that supports diverse experiences and backgrounds, including diverse genders and sexualities. Her more recent, local work on co-organizing creative-activist interventions—such as radical poetry collectives or women’s marches—has been vital to her experience of community-building and she believes that universities have a public duty to serve their communities.
Hannah Crawford (she/her), MSW Candidate and Research Assistant, Wilfrid Laurier University; Case Aid, Kw’umut Lelum Child and Family Services.
Hannah Crawford is a graduate student in social work and is currently employed at Kw’umut Lelum Child and Family Services on Snuneymuxw First Nation as a Case Aide. She is passionate about empowering children and families who interact with government systems and is an advocate for the rights of children in care. Hannah is a mother to a toddler and is loved and supported by her partner, Jordan. Her experience includes working alongside Dr. Cindy Blackstock at the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, caring for children and families at the Saskatoon Crisis Nursery, and she is a published author on the subject of sexual minority women’s experiences in World War Two concentration camps. As a bisexual woman with chronic illness, Hannah is familiar with systems of oppression through both learned and lived experience, and she is grateful to contribute to the facilitation and moderation of this panel.
Zoom In: Women Making Impacts
Episode 4: Educating Ourselves, Educating Our Kids: Sex Positivity, Safety, and Research with Kerri Isham
In Episode 4, Melissa speaks with Kerri Isham about challenges and opportunities for making sexual health education accessible, fun, and research-based. Kerri shares insights into her entrepreneurial journey and how she has worked to connect with diverse populations to promote teachings that reach beyond a cisgender, able-bodied student population.
Biography: Kerri Isham is a knowledgeable, experienced and passionate educator, coach and facilitator dedicated to excellence and committed to the empowerment of people of all ages. Her primary goal is to make exploring sexual health fun and meaningful, and to alleviate the shame and embarrassment sometimes associated with this topic.
Currently, she runs her own company called Power Up Education specializing in sexual health education for preschool to Grade 12. Her three main areas of focus are sexual abuse prevention, special needs education and LGBTQIQAP advocacy. Kerri completed the Sexual Health Educator’s Certification program in June 2011 with Options for Sexual Health in Vancouver.
Free resources from Power Up Education can be found here.
Kerri Isham’s books (see covers below) can be purchased here.
Open-Access Sexual Health Education Resources Recommended by Kerri Isham:
Options for Sexual Health: https://www.optionsforsexualhealth.org/
Amaze Jr.: https://amaze.org/jr/
Sex & U: https://www.sexandu.ca/
Zoom In: Women Making Impacts
Episode 3: We’re All Made of Particles: Song, Blackness, & Community with Sonnet L’Abbé
In Episode 3, Melissa interviews Sonnet L’Abbé, who discusses Black consciousness as a sustaining practice during COVID times. They reflect on creative practices of song, poetry, teaching, meditation, and activism, while addressing pressing issues of our day.
You can catch L’Abbé on Instagram, where they often do live evening music practice sessions: @sonnetlabbe
Correction: L’Abbé’s 2019 book of poetry is called Sonnet’s Shakespeare (McClelland & Stewart). Melissa regrettably referred to the collection as Shakespeare’s Sonnets.
Biography: Sonnet L’Abbé is a mixed-race Black writer, professor, organizer and emerging musician of Afro-Guyanese, Indo-Guyanese, and Québecois ancestry, and the author of three collections of poetry: A Strange Relief, Killarnoe, and Sonnet’s Shakespeare.
Sonnet’s Shakespeare was a Quill and Quire Book of The Year for 2019, was shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and the Raymond Souster Award, and longlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. Their chapbook, Anima Canadensis, won the 2017 bp Nichol Chapbook Award. L’Abbé recently wrote and recorded the song “Nazaneen: A Song for Nanaimo,” in response to the City’s ReImagine Nanaimo initiative. They live on Vancouver Island and are a professor of Creative Writing and English at Vancouver Island University.
Zoom In: Women Making Impacts
Episode 2: Hope is the Risk that Must be Run: Silent No More with Dr. Imogene Lim (December 2020)
In Episode 2, Melissa interviews Dr. Imogene Lim who talks about relationships between research and activism, anti-Asian racism, refusal to be silent, anger, and the necessity of hope.
Dr. Lim’s Biography: A descendant of Cumberland and Vancouver’s Chinatowns, Dr. Imogene Lim teaches in Anthropology and in Global Studies. Her paternal grandfather paid the Head Tax when he landed in Victoria in 1890. Although she conducted her dissertation research in Tanzania with Swahili as her field language, she is known for her expertise on Chinese Canadian communities, especially on Vancouver Island. Her community engagement spans two decades, including collaboration with local museums. She co-developed the exhibit, 150 Years and Counting: Fighting for Justice on the Coast (2017).
For Heritage BC, she prepared a commentary: Erasure: A Statement on Racism, Inclusivity and Equity. The famous Scrivener article, referred to in the interview, can be read here: Reclaiming History: Vision for the Future in Cumberland (2002). The archival photo accompanying the article includes her father’s two older brothers. She was awarded the “Hero Spoon,” pictured below, for her important intervention.
“Hero Spoon 2002, received from Ruth Masters, for ‘fighting the good fight’ with the Concerned Citizens of Cumberland in its actions towards conserving what is today’s Coal Creek Historic Park.”
For more information about Dr. Lim, please see her website.
Here is the reference to the Cumberland article mentioned by Dr. Lim in the interview:
Hume, Stephen. 2002. “Cultural Imperialism: When Cumberland Officials Decided to Redevelop their Bulldozed Chinatown, they Consulted with Many Community Groups — but Ignored the Chinese Themselves: [Final Edition].” The Vancouver Sun, Jan 12, A19. https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.viu.ca/newspapers/cultural-imperialism-when-cumberland-officials/docview/242515458/se-2?accountid=12246
Zoom In: Women Making Impacts
Episode 1: Stretching Our Imagination with Joy Gugeler
In this augural video, Melissa Stephens and Joy Gugeler discuss their backgrounds, travels, feminisms, Covid-19 perspectives, and hopes for the future. Watch the clip cued first, and then sit back and enjoy the full hour-long discussion.
In Joy’s words: I had the privilege of being VIUFA’s Status of Women Chair for 6 years and am honoured to be on Melissa’s committee this year. I have taught 5 book and magazine publishing courses in Creative Writing & Journalism and others on news, identity, literacy, and emerging tech in Media Studies since 2010. I also teach in these fields at Ryerson and at SFU where I am completing a PhD in Communications. I am the publisher of VIU’s Portal literary magazine and the Gustafson limited-edition chapbooks and have acquired literary works in-house for ECW, Raincoast, and Beach Holme presses; edited issues of ARC, Quarry, and Room quarterlies; been EiC for Suite 101, NowPublic, and Orato online; on air for CBC, Bravo!, CHLY and CKCU; and written for the Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun, and Ottawa Citizen.
In Melissa’s words: I am originally from Kitchener, Ontario, and I currently live on Traditional Snuneymuxw Territory while teaching in the Department of English at Vancouver Island University. I am the current Chair for VIU Faculty Association’s Status of Women Committee and I am so grateful to Joy for her mentorship and friendship. I acquired a PhD in the English and Film Studies Department at the University of Alberta, focusing on post-colonial and globalization studies, Black Feminisms, and Black Caribbean and American literature. I strive to teach material from an anti-racist perspective that supports diverse experiences and backgrounds, including diverse genders and sexualities. My research and volunteer work in places such as Guyana, Trinidad, and Vanuatu has shaped my consciousness of the nexus between research, teaching, and activism. My more recent, local work on co-organizing creative-activist interventions—such as radical poetry collectives or women’s marches–is vital to feeling a sense of purpose, home, and community.
Melissa Stephens works as a professor in VIU’s Department of English. You can see her profile here.