MAP’s In Focus presents: See the humans behind the trauma: Indigenous and asylum seeker experience

Thursday December 2nd at 7pm, online

You are invited to join a conversation with Linda Epp and Malena Mokholikova to explore the mutual, though separate, experiences of displacement and trauma that indigenous survivors of discrimination and violence have in common with refugee claimants fleeing persecution.

Based on that understanding we will discuss how to build stronger links and mutual support and tackle the very human challenges we all share.

Moderated by Mariana Martinez Vieyra, Clinical Counsellor, VAST

Speakers for the event

Linda Epp


Photo credit: Scott Brammer

“I stand and raise my voice for those who find it hard to keep fighting, who feel beaten down or feel like their voices are not being heard.”

Linda Epp is a survivor of the Sixties Scoop. Her ancestry stems from the Sechelt Nation on the Sunshine Coast of BC. She organizes the Whistler’s Sisters in Spirit Vigil on October 4th which honours the hundreds of missing Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited in Canada. Leading up to the vigil she installs “Red Dresses” in various locations which signifies an Indigenous woman, girl or two-spirited who has gone missing or has been murdered.

Linda is an accomplished public speaker and spoke at the Indigenous Women’s Leadership Summit, is a TEDx Speaker, and spoke at Capilano University, Sechelt campus. She has moderated several events in Whistler on behalf of the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (SLCC), and recorded a podcast with Whistler Community Services, topic of discussion was Truth & Reconciliation.

Linda continues to organize events addressing issues Indigenous Peoples currently face. She has a natural ability to bridge Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities together in attempt for all to walk together with one heart towards Truth & Reconciliation.

Linda currently works at the Native Education College (NEC) in Vancouver as the Program Manager for Essentials: Skills, Culture, Knowledge. She is passionate and dedicated in her advocacy work, and she brings awareness to all while standing up and for Indigenous people.

Find Linda Epp on LinkedIn
Facebook Page: Whistler’s Sisters in Spirit Vigil

Malena Mokhovikova

Malena Mokhovikova came to Vancouver as a refugee from St. Petersburg, Russia in 2012 with her family as a result of racism, discrimination, and the fear of persecution.

She studies psychology at the University of Victoria and loves to write, draw and hike in her free time.

Malena is a member of the Youth Advisory Group for the Government of Canada, a writer for Stories from Newcomers to Canada (https://sntc.squarespace.com/), as well as an advocate for mental health destigmatization. She is working towards becoming a clinician and supporting others in overcoming trauma. She hopes her story will connect with those struggling with an immigration identity crisis and finding “home”.

Art By Malena

Background Information

The following information is provided as background to the event and the main themes of displacement and trauma in indigenous and refugee experiences.

Definitions

Canada offers refugee protection to a number of individuals who fear persecution or face personal dangers in their home country. But what is the difference between the groups of individuals that come seeking a new home?

  • Migrants
    A person who is outside their country of origin. Occasionally this term is used to cover everyone outside their country of birth (including people who have been Canadian citizens for decades). More often, it is used for people currently on the move or people with temporary status or no status at all in the country where they live. 1
  • Asylum seeker
    A person who is seeking asylum (protection). Until a determination is made, it is impossible to say whether the asylum-seeker is a refugee or not.
  • Refugee claimants
    A person who has made a claim for protection as a refugee. This term is more or less equivalent to asylum-seeker and is standard in Canada, while asylum-seeker is the term more often used internationally. 2
  • Government-Assisted Refugees
    Individuals are selected through the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program and referred by the office of the UNHCR and supported through the federally funded Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP). 3
    Refugees admitted through the RHRP have access to federally funded settlement services both prior to arrival and immediately upon landing. Comparatively, refugee claimants do not have access to settlement services, with the exception of refugee claimants who live in Quebec.

Indigenous populations in Canada have faced inter-generational assimilation that has been identified as having long-lasting effects on the physical and mental well-being of Indigenous populations in Canada. Assimilation is the social process of absorbing one cultural group into another. What does it mean to be affected and what were significant events that lead to it?

  • Displacement
    Aboriginal peoples were displaced physically- they were denied access to their traditional territories and in many cases actually forced to move to new locations selected for them by colonial authorities. They were also displaced socially and culturally, subject to intensive missionary activity and the establishment of residential schools – which undermined their ability to pass on traditional values to their children, imposed male-oriented Victorian values, and attacked traditional activities such as significant dances and other ceremonies.1
  • Trauma
    While attempts at forced assimilation have ultimately failed, it is apparent that they have nevertheless had profound effects at every level of individual identity and mental health, to the structure and integrity of families, communities, bands and nations. The concept of historical trauma suggests that the effects of these disruptive historical events are collective, affecting not only individual Survivors, but also their families down through generations, and communities.
  • Residential Schools
    Beginning in 1849, the joint government and church residential school program removed children from almost every Aboriginal community -Indian, Métis and Inuit – across Canada.
    The program included boarding schools, built close to the reserves for children between the ages of 8-14, and industrial schools, placed near non-Aboriginal urban centres to train older children in a range of trades.
    The removal of children from their homes and the denial of their identity through attacks on their language and spiritual beliefs were cruel. But these practices were compounded by the far too frequent lack of basic care — the failure to provide adequate food, clothing, medical services and a healthy environment, and the failure to ensure that the children were safe from teachers and staff who abused them physically, sexually and emotionally.2
  • Sixties Scoop
    Refers to the mass removal of Aboriginal children from their families into the child welfare system, in most cases without the consent of their families or bands. Although the practice of removing Aboriginal children from their families and into state care existed before the 1960s (with the residential school system, for example), the drastic overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in the child welfare system accelerated in the 1960s.3 The policy saw thousands of Indigenous children taken from their homes and families, placed in foster homes, and eventually adopted out to white families from across Canada and the United States.
  • Missing and Murdered Indigneous Women and Girls
    Indigenous women and girls in Canada face greater risks of violence and homicide. In 2010, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) confirmed 582 cases over 20 years of missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls.
    The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) conducted a review in 2013, which confirmed 1,181 cases of “police-recorded incidents of Aboriginal female homicides and unresolved missing Aboriginal females” between 1980 and 2012. The RCMP report also stated that Indigenous women made up roughly 16% of all female homicides between 1980 and 2012, despite making up only 4% of the female population.
    According to Lisa Meeches, an acclaimed Anishinaabe filmmaker from Long Plain First Nation in Manitoba, indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or missing than any other women in Canada, and 16 times more likely than Caucasian women.

Linda Epp has developed a way of reminding us about these missing and murdered women – she designs red dresses and hangs them in galleries and at events, and they become part of meetings and ceremonies so that those women will never be forgotten.

Important Documentation

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation: https://nctr.ca/records/reports/

Recommended Reads

Indigenous experience and reconciliation:

  • 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality by Bob Joseph
  • All Our Relations: Finding the Path Forward by Tanya Talaga
  • Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga
  • Decolonizing Trauma Work: Indigenous Stories & Strategies by Renee Linklater
  • Colonized Classrooms: Racism, Trauma & Resistance in Post-Secondary Education by Sheila Cote-Meek
  • Five Little Indians by Michelle Good

Asylum Seeker experience:

  • What Strange Paradise: Omar El Akkad
  • The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives: Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • In the Midst of Winter: Isabelle Allende
  • Sea Prayer: Khaled Hosseini
  • Ru: Kim Thuy
  • The Boat People: Sharon Bala
  • We have always been here: Samra Habib

MAP's In Focus Series

IN FOCUS is a MAP BC Information Working Group initiative designed to open public dialogue on important refugee claimant issues. The four-part online lecture series, open to everyone, ties local to international refugee claimant issues. IN FOCUS invites well known speakers to address issues of concern and converse directly with participants in open Q&A periods.