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Local Meets Global: Imagining an intersectional response to mobility and migration issues

December 9, 2015

By Rachel Kohut and Tahnee Prior

It was with great pleasure that Tahnee and I were able to participate in the FemNorthNet webinar on migration and mobility. We left the presentation feeling slightly overwhelmed by the number of issues facing women in northern communities, but also left inspired by the depth, sincerity and passion that the presenters brought to the discussion. It is evidence-based, constructive, collaborative and intersectional dialogue like this that will foster unique solutions to complex problems, driving change in communities.

From the experiences of disabled women in remote communities to employment mobility across northern regions to the precarious situation of indigenous women fleeing violence in communities, the webinar addressed a wide range of issues. The take away point at the beginning of the webinar was: you can’t talk about women in northern communities unless you talk about how a wide range of issues intersect, diverge and, at times, collide, into one another. That is what an intersectional discussion brings to the table and anything less, misses the bigger picture.

Upon taking this step back, and trying to conceptualize how to drive policy, it is easy to forget that the same resources are not available to everyone, and this is particularly true for remote, northern and rural communities. We assume that resources available to disabled people in an urban centre will be similarly available to people no matter where they are in Canada. We assume that a woman fleeing a violent home will have a place to go, rather than staying in an abusive home due to a lack of housing infrastructure. We assume that people move because they want to, not because their community just boomed and busted. Rarely do we look at the underlying drivers of peoples’ ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Still, that is the reality of remote communities and it must not be neglected.

So to drive policy that is truly reflective of the needs of women in northern communities, we must challenge our assumptions, understand the existing realities through conversation and exchange, and imagine new avenues to tackle these complex issues that are deeply imbedded in the unique experiences of individual communities. But turning this into reality is more often than not, an uphill battle.

Although it is important to delve deep into the local in the push to create intersectional policies, we must also not forget the global. We continue to hear stories and evidence from local communities, but now we must translate this up the ladder. This will require us to turn to our neighbours to learn from upcoming trends and to pull on their experiences to foster a more innovative, robust and resilient response to these issues.

The full Migration, Immigration, and Mobility webinar will be available online in the coming weeks. Check out www.femnorthnet.ca for the latest project updates.


Rachel Kohut is a second year law student at McGill University. Tahnee Prior is a 2015 Trudeau Scholar and PhD candidate at the Balsillie School for International Affairs. Together they recently launched a platform called Plan A to foster dialogue between women across the Arctic.


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