A Reflection: Race, Gendered Violence and the Rights of Women with Precarious Immigration Status

In 2016 after completing a decade of my work with women with precarious immigration status here in Canada. I identified that in the resource available there was a gap, as most of the resources did not capture the experience of racialized women and the systemic barriers they faced in accessing services while negotiating precariousness of their immigration status. I got an opportunity to create a resource and study the relation between Race, Gendered Violence, and the Rights of Women with Precarious Immigration Status as part of my Community Leadership in Justice Fellowship. These fellowships are granted to connect leaders in the public interest organizations with Ontario universities, law schools, and community colleges. The partners work together to improve access to justice and promote professional excellence. I applied for Fellowship in partnership with Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto in community partnership with the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic and the Rights of Non-Status Women’s Network (RNSWN).

This fellowship had two distinct phases first phase focused on the research and drafting of the service provider’s resource toolkit and the second phase was focused on delivering training for service providers. Prior to the creation of these materials, there was a gap in the existing literature regarding the analysis of the intersection of race, gender-based violence, and women living with precarious immigration status. In order to fill this scholarly gap, this fellowship project offers an analysis of how race factors into the experience of racialized women living with precarious immigration status, and their confrontation with gender-based violence.

The training toolkit analyses the complex relationship between race, gender, and immigration status, and provides information on issues affecting racialized women living with precarious immigration status who have experienced gender-based violence. This training toolkit is available online http://schliferclinic.com/race-gendered-violence-toolkit/. I had an opportunity to work with an advisory committee comprising of members of Right of Non-Status Women Network. They reviewed the materials of the toolkit and assisted in designing the focus areas for the training. This project focuses on the following research areas using a trauma-informed approach to service delivery:

  • The benefits women qualify for under different immigration applications
  • A catalogue of gender-based IRPA statute framework and guidelines, as well as an identification of gaps in the legal framework
  • An overview of Toronto’s privacy legislation and the requirements of service providers to disclose information regarding a woman’s immigration status to the CBSA

Using the tool-kit as a theoretical framework, I delivered a series of over 12-service provider trainings onsite in Toronto and the surrounding GTA. I also delivered a webinar for service providers and presented the materials from the training at two sector conferences. For most trainings, advisory committee members co-presented the material with me. The goal of co-presentation was to increase the capacity of the network and deliver more trainings in future. These trainings are designed to build the capacity of Service providers, settlement workers and students to work effectively with racialized women with precarious immigration status who have experienced gender-based violence. Reflecting on the past year and the training completed I believe this resource created, and project overall is only a beginning. There is more work to be done in the area of Race, Gendered Violence and the Rights of Women with Precarious Immigration Status.

Deepa Mattoo is a passionate defender of women’s rights to safety, access to justice and self-determination. Deepa is currently working as Director Legal Services at The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic (2016 to now). Before joining Schlifer, Deepa was Community Legal worker, Staff lawyer and Executive Director at the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (2007 -2016). Deepa was Law Foundation of Ontario’s Community Leadership in Justice Fellow at Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto (2017). Deepa has appeared before parliamentary committees and commissions on a wide range of social justice and human rights issues as well as acted as an observer at various forums. She has represented hundreds of clients at multiple tribunals and courts. She has presented on access to justice issues at many conferences local, provincial and national conferences. Recently, in November 2017, Deepa supervised the Clinic’s intervention at the Supreme Court of Canada on a case related to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. She appeared before the court to offer the perspective of survivors of gender-based violence engaged in family proceedings; specifically, those brought using the Hague Convention. Deepa is a mother, a Kathak dancer and writes social justice oriented poetry. Two of her poems are included in training tool focusing on Race, Gender, Precarious Immigration Status and Experience of Violence.