Blanca Haydee Lopez de Brizuela
Sophia Colantonio
Raven Bowen
Lindsay Monk

Blanca Haydee Lopez de Brizuela, M.A. in Legal Studies
Juris Doctor (LLB) Candidate 2013
University of Ottawa

Blanca is a Juris Doctor (LLB) candidate at the University of Ottawa. A lawyer and a former judge from El Salvador, Blanca completed a Master in Legal Studies at Carleton University. Her research “En-gender-ing Gender Sensitive Decisions: A Challenge for Decision –makers” draws on the issue of the impact of gender discrimination and domestic violence in refugee cases.

Two things are the cornerstones in Blanca’s life: her family and her commitment to social justice for the advancement of women. Blanca is a mother of six sons. She and her family came to Canada seeking protection ten years ago. As a single mother and as a refugee, Blanca knows the struggles women face in order to survive. One good thing about being a survivor has been the development of a deep understanding of other people’s pain. Her experiences have taught her to combine work with compassion and how to balance family and professional life. She believes, without a doubt, that her personal history has shaped the path in her career.

Outside academia, Blanca has had invaluable work experience supporting women. For more than five years Blanca has facilitated an art and sharing discussion group for refugee women. Impressed by the courage of these women and the power of art as a tool of healing, Blanca and her co-workers at SASC were inspired to give voice to women’s experiences. “Our Unspoken Stories: The Stories of Butterflies” is a book that Blanca has co-authored with the Women and War program coordinator at the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa (SASC). Some of the stories will be featured at the Women’s World 2011 conference (www.womensworlds.ca) in Ottawa. In her capacity as the Women of Colour Outreach Coordinator, for SASC, Blanca has supported women survivors of violence, rape, torture and trauma. She also worked as a settlement counselor for Catholic Immigration Centre and volunteered with the Community Legal Clinics in Ottawa, helping women in their immigration and settlement processes. Her choice of pursuing a law degree in Canada was the result of those experiences.

After living in Canada for a number of years, Blanca realized that having a law degree and work experience from her country was not enough to work as effectively as she wanted for the advancement of women. She believes that being accredited here as a lawyer would be the best way for her to work for women’s equality and access to justice. Upon completion of her law degree Blanca wants to provide legal services from a gender perspective to one of the most disadvantaged and oppressed groups in society: immigrant and refugee women. Blanca’s goal is to work in Immigration and Family Law. Not only is her dream to work for and with marginalized women in need of legal services but also to support them to feel empowered and in control of their lives.

SOPHIA COLANTONIO – Summa Cum Laude, Biology
Doctor of Medicine Candidate – University of Ottawa
Public Health Master’s Degree Candidate – Yale University

Sophia Colantonio is a promising young medical scholar and leader, with a very strong research interest in clinical medicine and public health. She graduated with summa cum laude from the University of Ottawa, in Biology. She has been a well rounded student all throughout school, where she played competitive soccer from a very young age and was a volunteer in her community, providing education and support to young teens about health and health lifestyle choices through Planned Parenthood.

A values driven, high performing physician in training, Sophia Colantonio is determined to make a difference in the lives of Canadian women and children through medicine and public health. To be able to contribute her skills and abilities to the fullest, she is working on her Doctorate of Medicine at the University of Ottawa and is also completing her Master’s degree in Public Health at Yale University. This will serve her to good advantage as a future clinician where she hopes to apply the valuable lessons of prevention and population health improvement in her future work as a practicing clinician. Eventually, Sophia Colantonio envisages not only a leadership role in medicine, but also a teaching one, where she can impart the lessons of an interdependent world, with her knowledge of bench science and medicine.

Raven Bowen – School of Criminology, Simon Fraser University Master’s
Student School of Criminology May 2011

Raven left home at 15 years of age and was a single mother at 17. She has used her experiences with homelessness, poverty and underground economies to inform her work with sex workers and exploited youth, and to motivate her to seek social justice for marginalized individuals. Her university career has been inspired by 15 years of community support and outreach work with sex workers, and almost 2 years as a provincial government Employment Assistance Worker.

Raven has strived to build alliances between sex workers and government and law enforcement officials to develop programmes to reduce the violence and predation experienced by this group of women. She has been instrumental in establishing many projects and programs in Vancouver, British Columbia. In addition to founding The BC Coalition of Experiential Communities, the West Coast Cooperative of Sex Industry Professionals, HUSTLE Men on the Move (an outreach and support project for male and transgendered workers run by PEERS Vancouver), and the Mobile Access Project (MAP). In her role as Executive Director of PACE, Raven co-developed the MAP project with Kate Gibson, Executive Director of WISH Drop In Center Society. This outreach project has been in operation for the past 7 years and continues to provide supplies, support and resource information to active sex workers. The assault, rape and the brutal murder of numerous street involved women have inspired Raven to help develop these programmes and continue to promote social change.

Raven has many community-based publications to her credit (visit: http://bccec.wordpress.com for publications), including, i) “Research Ethics: A Guide for Community Organizations”, in which Raven collaborated with sex workers and academics to establish ethical parameters for researchers conducting projects with sex workers, in keeping with the Tri Council Policy Statement. ii) “Human Trafficking, Sex Work Safety and the 2010 Games: Assessments and Recommendations”, for the Sex Industry Worker Safety Action Group, which explored human trafficking and hallmark events, in preparation for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games (available at the Vancouver Police Departments’ website: http://vancouver.ca/police/assets/pdf/reports-policies/report-human-trafficking-2010-games.pdf).

Raven is currently co-authoring a chapter on collaborative research with sex workers as co-producers of knowledge, for a book entitled: “Critical Perspectives on the Politics of Sex Work” (working title).

In 2005 members of the sex working community named a service award after Raven given annually to those who provide outstanding support to sex workers. Raven was awarded the first Naked Truth Lifetime Achievement Award, to be received in June 2011, for her exemplary contributions to capacity building among sex workers, and her dedication to expanding their protections, liberties and choices. Upon completion of her studies, Raven plans to continue work in public or voluntary organizations that prioritize the social, economic and political inclusion of women from marginalized populations, and support their equal and safe participation in civil society.

Lindsay Monk: Master of Arts Candidate 2012
University of Victoria

Lindsay Monk is a Master of Arts candidate in the School of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria. Her academic research is focused on First Nations’ housing and the ways in which First Nations are engaging the problem of housing.

First Nations in Canada are facing a housing crisis, with severe housing shortages being exacerbated by a deteriorating housing stock and deplorable living conditions on-reserve. The issues inherent within the on-reserve housing system became apparent to Lindsay through her work with the federal government in Aboriginal housing and led her to question how the on-reserve housing system can be improved and have a restorative effect on the well being of a community. Housing plays a crucial role in family well-being and greater representation and responsibility for women in housing could have a restorative effect on familial relations, gender issues, and overall well being of the community. The aim with this research is to examine how the efforts of First Nations, and First Nations women in particular, can be supported and sustained to enable their engagement with housing to facilitate a wider change.

Lindsay graduated from Queen’s University in 2006, earning a B.A.H with a dual concentration in Environmental Studies and History and began her work with the federal government soon after graduation. Through various positions within Aboriginal housing in both Montreal and Ottawa, she gained an understanding of the on-reserve housing system as well as the potential inherent in capacity building initiatives. Focusing on promoting self-sufficiency and innovation in housing on-reserve, capacity development initiatives shaped Lindsay’s ideas of how First Nations can initiate changes to housing. She was chosen as the federal representative on the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association’s Youth Steering Committee for the 2010 Congress and continues to volunteer with the organization.

Improved housing on reserve will have obvious benefits for families including improved health, and the involvement of women in improving housing on reserve can also empower these women to act more effectively on wider issues within their community. It is this empowerment process that Lindsay intends to pursue following completion of this project, with a career in focused capacity development working with and for women in the improvement of living conditions on reserve.

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