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Men for Change - Safe Cities

Submission to Halifax City Safe Cities Committee by Men For Change, February 12, 1993

Halifax Safe Cities Committee,

As a follow-up to our consultation of February 10, 1993, please find enclosed some additional recommendations from our groups perspective.

Let me reiterate how pleased I am to be able to respond, on behalf of Men for Change, to this important initiative by the Safe Cities Committee in the City of Halifax. This is indeed a worthy project and fits well into the spectrum of the social issues and concerns the members of Men for Change are currently engaging. Perhaps not surprisingly, there are few male organizations that have formed with the agenda of challenging ourselves as a gender to speak out and become accountable and responsible for our participation in an increasingly sexist and violent society.

Since the Montreal Massacre there has been a general awakening to the issue of the war on women in our society. Of particular interest to us is the blossoming of the so called Men's Movement. Men who have come forward to educate ourselves about our privilege and the inherent oppression of women in a male dominated society. Sexism and it's painful manifestation of violence will only be revealed and diminished when all of us speak out. Your committees efforts towards this goal are to be commended.

As deputy mayor Walter Fitzgerald pointed out in his introductory letter, the issue of violence against women is indeed part of an overall continuum of violence. As men, we hope to offer our analysis and possible solutions to challenge and end the male need to dominate and control "our" world. Whether these initiatives reach a teen involved in swarming, a physical or sexual abuser or even a male in the office who gets laughs retelling sexist jokes, the message must be clear and united. This violence is symptomatic of an unhealthy notion of masculinity and gender power. Changing this root construct of male identity is to end sexism that keeps ourselves and women in a very limited notion of what it means to be male and female.

The issue of violence cannot be restricted to simply discussing physical or sexual violence. As women have been identified and victimized as a gender group within this continuum the fact remains as a clear starting point in any discussion that sexism is a significant base attitude. It is therefore critical to guide the impending solutions presented by the Safe Cities Committee with the understanding of how violence fits into a spectrum of sexism towards women. From listening to women, we as men have learned that their experience of being oppressed, because they are women, extends on a continuum from sexist jokes at one end to pay scale differentials for work of equal value and to the extremes of rape and murder.

In short, in our opinion, the Safe City Committee must consider violence against women as a predictable extension of sexist attitudes towards the female gender and violence in general as an inappropriate practice of the male gender. With all subsequent recommendations and actions tested against this fuller analysis, Halifax will indeed become a safe city because of the healthy attitudes of all it's citizens.

We have reviewed the strategies for action in the four city departments that have an up front influence on citizens. We also include a fifth category in the hope that the city, as an institution, employing thousands of men and women will seriously consider getting it's own house in order. To neglect the violence and power relationships, whether emotional, psychological or physical harassment, that are part of every work place is to risk being hypocritical. Therefore, we include in our presentation some suggestions to apply the same working principals noted in the summary of action with the four key identified departments to include all city staff and internal departments. We hope the following recommendations will find a place in your committees action strategy.

On behalf of Halifax Men For Change, I thank you for offering us an opportunity to participate in this very urgent and long awaited process to make Halifax a safer city for all it's citizens.


Peter Davison -- Men For Change


RESPONSES to the Halifax Safe Cities Committee


1. After a review of the strategies for action for the four departments within the City of Halifax what is your critique of the initiatives outlined?
The strategies outlined offer worthy beginning points to focus on a very complex issue. Our concern for these broad goals is twofold.
A. To ensure that each department engages in an internal process of change so these goals are not treated as token dictates from a committee "somewhere out there" and
B. The obvious reality that the implementation of these goals are only as effective as the money behind them.


2. What additional initiatives can the City of Halifax undertake re: the issue of violence against women?
A. The inclusion of all city departments in the process would be a significant initiative.
We believe that in order to seriously deal with the issue of violence and sexism against women the challenge is for Halifax to become a model city in it's struggle to eradicate all forms of violence.
Include all city departments in the program model under the fifth category called something like Internal Departmental Affairs so all city employees receive professional development and develop within their departments how to communicate with a united message that violence in all it's forms must end.
Every department in the city will discuss a formal commitment to the issue of violence and sexism in the work place. The Social Planning Department could facilitate program development.

NOTE: Men For Change endorses and recommends an organization called Neighbours Consulting out of Ottawa, Ontario, that specializes in workshops and intensive programs to enhance men's participation in creating a equitable, effective and more healthy workplaces. They are recommended for their extensive experience in this growing field having dealt with a variety of Government Departments, universities and businesses.

Address:KEN FISHER, NEIGHBOURS CONSULTING. 32 MORRIS STREET, OTTAWA, ONTARIO, K1S 4A7 tel. (613) 233-7376 fax. (613) 233-3037
B. The formal implementation of conflict resolution and consensus building techniques at all meetings (including city council itself) and other public forums hosted by the city.
How we make decisions can either empower or exclude participants and have the effect of maintaining a hierarchical power structure that shuts out healthy dissent and alternative visions for community growth.
Formally announce and end to the exclusive 'winners and losers' model of public business by including the third participation model, process (such as we see with this committees' process). This encourages all citizens to take an active role in the process of change when the possibility of success and not the inevitability of defeat is built into the process.
Intentionally replace 'politics' with conflict resolution and majority win over losers scenarios with consensus building, wherever possible.


C. Implement a campaign of 'zero tolerance' for all forms of violence in our community.
Announce that 1994 will be the year of zero tolerance towards violence and actively commit civic resources to bring violence out of the closet.
Promote the concepts that violence is not 'out there' but potentially in all relationships and if we all work together we can effect significant change.
Have a standing committee evaluating use of any city owned facility that promotes violence or sexist images of men or women. Examples would be to reject use of the Halifax Forum for events like wrestling or boxing or any other events that promote or allow violence to occur unchallenged (possibly hockey) under the guise of sports or entertainment.
Advertise the zero tolerance campaign on busses, public notices, etc...


3. Are there programs/solutions in our community that are working and that would work for others?
We have lobbied for funding and continue to strongly support the program for abusive men currently operating in the city at Veith House, called Project New Start. We believe that men must learn new skills to deal with anger and other violent attitudes and behaviours to prevent and end the cycle of violence against women. We encourage the legal process to include mandatory counselling for any one convicted of a violent crime.


4. Why are known solutions not being tried?
We know of no specific examples. The usual roadblock to social change is a combination between a denial that there is a problem and a false perception that those in power may have something to lose. Both attitudes restrict funding for initiatives that affect any significant or permanent shift in the status quo. There is probably also a sincere lack of understanding regarding the underpining causes of sexism and associated violence. We all know TV, other media violence and advertising images of women construct false images of what it means to be male or female. It is still relatively a recent phenomenon that men have come to realize that we suffer from the weight of the same social system that is set up to give us power. In fact, this system actually impairs our true humanity with performance expectations and the maintenance of the ethic of competition and aggression as central and necessary to our collective male identity. To replace that system and confront our own pain and lies we have told ourselves to keep hold of power in this patriarchy will be a daunting task indeed. So let us now begin to deal with each and every roadblock with sincere and united vision that humanity can do better, much better.


5. What can we do in co-operation with each other?
Community based organizations have a great deal to offer this process of design and implementation. If they sense that this consultation is powerful, committed with money and devoted to implementing the decisions that are best for everybody, then we will all feel empowered to do our best. There is, sadly, an attitude that when governments consult with the public the perceived motivation stems from the need to score political points and recommendations are frequently shelved. To see clear and substantial change for all participants would be most empowering. Standing committees or advisory and implementation boards would be helpful. A steering committee could be maintained to check in with success and frustrations. Each member would be accountable to report progress back to her or his department.


6. If education is one answer, what type of education programme do we need?
We believe that anti-sexism/anti-violence education in the school system is critical. Boys become men, and if they are not shown positive role models or skills for developing empathy, anger management and conflict resolution strategies they will participate in violence against themselves and in their relationships. The following objectives taken from the Canadian Teachers Federation program called Thumbs Down to Violence should guide the development and implementation of any anti-violence/anti- sexism curriculum.

a. To reinforce the value of non-violence in human relationships.

b. To teach that those who hit others or otherwise abuse them are responsible for their own actions, and to emphasize that the person hit is not responsible for the other's behaviour.

c. To reinforce non-violent and non abusive ways of dealing with conflict particularly within families.

d. To emphasize responsibility for one's own actions despite feelings of anger or sadness or regret.

e. To improve students emotional vocabulary, particularly the boys.

f. To introduce students to concepts of gender stereotyping and its influence on personal behaviour.

g. To link gender role to the incidence and tolerance of violence against women.

h. To examine media representations and influences on gender roles, both male and female.

i. To bridge the gap created by rigid gender roles.

j. To increase student knowledge and understanding of violence against women.

k. To reduce student tolerance for abusive behaviour.

A challenge to the Safe Cities Committee is to replace 'student' with 'staff' and initiate these objectives immediately in every department across the city. The Education Committee of Men For Change is completing a Junior High School anti-violence curriculum project in co-operation with the Halifax County and Bedford School Board and funded by a Provincial Department of Health grant. We are designing four one hour sessions dealing with the issues of aggression (Grade 7), gender stereotypes (Grade 8) and relationships (Grade 9). We would be pleased to make this resource available to the Halifax City School Board in support of anti violence/anti-sexism curriculum development.


7. A key factor in eliminating violence against women is attitudinal change. How do we do this?
We have already explored the underlying concept of sexism woven into several suggestions. It remains for the committee to constantly keep this broader analysis of the issue of violence against women in mind in all decisions. To reiterate, in our opinion, the issue must be dealt with as a model to others from within the organization of the city itself and not simply a response to issues on behalf of the citizens who live within our municipal borders. While there will no doubt be recommendations to increase lighting in dark and suspicious places this will only give limited confidence to sooth public insecurity. The fact remains that my mother, sisters and most women cannot walk or park their car after dark in this city. To change as a city, we have a tremendous potential to seriously and significantly unlock the root causes of violence and therefore begin to remake society, at a municipal level. Dialogue is the starting point to unfreeze the oppressive silence surrounding the issue of violence against women. We would recommend that the city support the provincial Purple Ribbon Campaign and/or the national White Ribbon Campaign. Both campaigns require the participant to wear a ribbon and be prepared to discuss the issues when asked about the ribbon. Money for the ribbons also goes to transition shelters for abused women.


8. How can unions, corporations, business associations and other such organizations in our city be part of the solution?
Work with community cable 10 channel to develop a series of programs on choices to replace violence and overall media literacy to help people, especially young people, become critically aware of the images in the media showing children 18,000 violent deaths by the time they graduate from High School Evaluate proposals such as from the Youth News Network for there redeeming social contribution not simply in the narrow prospect of whether proposals are a good or bad business deal. The public perceives support because their is no such thing as a deal without ethics or values. These criterion must be included. Encourage men's discussion groups to encourage change at a personal level so they can learn how to listen to other women and to give them tools to challenge other men when they encounter sexist or oppressive behaviour. Such discussion groups could be promoted through Halifax Continuing Education, church groups, community clubs, service organizations, businesses, etc..


9. What would be your wish list?
Recreation Department
Staff training in the skill of using non-competitive and cooperative games to be used in all activity programs.
Continued support and increase the promotion of earth education activities at the Dingle Park.
Full funding for all inner city children to attend summer camps.
Full funding for all season teen drop in centers like boys and girls clubs in every neighbourhood.


Carry out Safety Audits of all public spaces by groups of women who visit such spaces and make recommendations.
Formation of shelters for abusive men so women and children in abusive situations don't have to be uprooted.
Anti-sexism workshops mandatory for all current and newly hired city employees.
Eradicate poverty and the violence that low self esteem and hunger stimulate.
More drug programs to assist addicts to break their addictions and stop beating people for money.
Include the gay community in consultations as a victimized group in our city that suffer from violence.
Circulate brochures to all children and staff in the city and all households about anti-violence alternatives and initiatives that everyone can become involved with.