Canada’s Longest-Running Rural Women’s Centre Needs Your Help
Since opening in 1973, the Nelson & District Women’s Centre has upheld its feminist mandate of promoting women’s equality while supporting and serving all women. The Centre has operated democratically with well-run annual meetings and elections of its board of directors. There has been open communication between the Coordinating Collective (board members and staff) and the membership.
Now that is all at risk, and we’re asking you to help us restore democracy at the Women’s Centre.
We are the Bread & Roses Collective. Our members include founding members of the Women’s Centre; former staff and board members; and long-time volunteers, members and users of the Centre. Bread & Roses came together in early 2018 out of concern for changes occurring at the Centre, changes that shift its direction from serving women to serving all genders.
In Bread & Roses’ view, this change isn’t occurring in a democratic manner and doesn’t have the demonstrated support of the membership. At the last annual general meeting (September 2018), the board of directors brought forward a resolution to change the Constitution, which currently refers to serving women. They wanted to add ‘and marginalized genders’ to every mention of ‘women.’ That motion failed to reach the required threshold of member support. Nonetheless, the Centre board and staff are continuing to implement their vision as if they have a mandate to do so.
They are doing this in a house that was purchased for the Women’s Centre in 1995, through the hard work of hundreds of women and men; it’s a valuable asset and a permanent home for the Centre. That is at risk, as is the provision of a safe, welcoming and empowering place for women.
Bread & Roses’ goal is to return the Centre to democratic functioning, with an elected and representative board that maintains its primary focus on women and acts in compliance with all bylaws and laws. That’s the first step. After that, respectful and inclusive conversations among the membership would determine how and when change happens at the Centre.
Change will not be driven, as it is now, by a small group of self-appointed leaders, who don’t hold elections for directors (as happened at the 2018 AGM). A group who has banned women from the Centre for questioning what’s happening. A group that makes up rules as they go along, in support of their agenda.
The Bread & Roses Collective has made several attempts to engage in an open dialogue with the current “leaders” of the Centre, but our attempts have been rejected or ignored. We have considered various options, and in the end have had to turn to legal assistance to restore democratic functioning to the Nelson & District Women’s Centre.