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Empowering Through Collective Support:

Bridging Gaps for Victims and Survivors

May 16   |   12:00 – 4:00 pm   | The Annex at the Meeting House, Oakville

This Victims Week, advocate for, support and empower our community. Join us in our commitment to make a meaningful impact in the lives of victims and survivors, raising awareness and championing the cause of justice and recovery.

3 Reasons to Attend

Join us for a pivotal gathering aimed at strengthening community ties and enhancing support systems for victims of crime. This event serves as a platform to raise vital awareness about the protective laws, essential services, and comprehensive assistance available, while also addressing the challenges that survivors face daily.

📚 Educate:

Gain a deeper understanding of the laws and wide-ranging services available to protect and assist victims of crime. This knowledge is essential for anyone looking to help make a difference in the lives of those affected.

👁️ See:

Experience first-hand how various organizations and community advocates unite to support victims. Learn about ongoing collaborative efforts and how you can be a part of these initiatives.

👂 Hear:

Listen to the personal stories and challenges faced by survivors, providing insight into their journeys of resilience and recovery. These powerful accounts not only raise awareness but also inspire collective action and support.

Panelists

We are privileged to have two survivors who will be sharing their stories at our event, offering powerful insights and inspiring others with their resilience and courage.

Emma Maltais<br />

Gillian Hnatiw

Founder and Principal at Gillian Hnatiw & Co.

Gillian Hnatiw is the founder and principal of Gillian Hnatiw & Co., a feminist litigation firm in Toronto, specializing in sexual, physical, and psychological abuse, harassment, and assault cases. She represents clients nationwide, including appearances before the Supreme Court of Canada and various administrative tribunals. Notably, she served as Senior Commission Counsel for Nova Scotia’s Mass Casualty Commission (2021-2023), focusing on gender-based violence.

Hnatiw is a prominent speaker and media commentator on sexual violence, workplace misconduct, professional regulation, diversity, and gender equality. She is the past Chair of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) and a recipient of the Honsberger Award from the Toronto Lawyers Association. Hnatiw has been recognized as a “Rising Star: Leading Lawyer under 40” (2015) and a “Top 100 Women Litigator in Canada” (2022 and 2023) by Benchmark Legal. Her expertise spans personal injury, employment law, corporate commercial litigation, and health care law.

Nneka MacGregor

Co-founder and Executive Director at WomenatthecentrE

Nneka MacGregor, LL.B. is co-founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Centre for Social Justice, better known as WomenatthecentrE, a unique non-profit organisation created by/for women, trans, and gender-diverse survivors of gender-based violence. A Black Intersectional abolitionist feminist, international speaker, and Transformative Accountability/Justice practitioner, Nneka is an expert advisory panel member of the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability and sits on several Boards and committees, including the Federal Advisory Council on the Federal Strategy Against GBV. She co-founded the Black Femicide Canada Council, and her research focuses on sexual violence, and the intersection of strangulation, Traumatic Brain Injury and GBV. She received the 2019 PINK Concussions Award and the 2020 YWCA Women of Distinction Social Justice Award. She was recently appointed one of two 2024 Activists-in-Residence (AiR) at the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada.

Fiorella Kuczma

Board Vice Chair of Restorations

Fiorella is an outstanding survivor leader and advocate for victims of trafficking and exploitation, and has openly shared her own story of internet child exploitation in order to help raise awareness surrounding the issues as well as to provide and increase support for victims and survivors. She immigrated from Peru to Canada as a young child with her family and uses her lived experience, as well as the lived experiences of others, to develop programming to meet the needs of victims and survivors of crime. Fiorella volunteers as the Board Vice Chair, and was previously the Executive Director of Restorations. Restorations exists to support survivors of sexual exploitation and trafficking by providing long-term residential housing, and survivor-led peer programming.

She also established Restorations’ Program Advisory Committee, which gathered local agencies supporting vulnerable people and developed best practices and policies as Restorations prepared to open their first residential home for survivors. During COVID-19, Fiorella advanced the Peer Support Program through her online platforms, reaching and helping many victims and survivors. Her advocacy, community collaboration and her cultivation and stewardship of donors was outstanding and contributed to the improvement of many lives.

Erin Stewart

Sexual Violence Coordinator at Halton Victim Services Unit

Erin has worked in various roles in Halton Police’s Victim Services Unit since 2015, both as staff and as a volunteer. Erin worked as a Volunteer Crisis Responder supporting victims of crime and tragic circumstance for five years before being hired as a staff member with Victim Services Unit. For the past four years, Erin has predominantly supported survivors of intimate partner violence but recently began a newly created position as the Sexual Violence Coordinator. In this role, Erin ensures survivors receives referrals to resources for support as well as facilitating review and understanding of the Sexual Assault Information Guide program. She is the point of contact for survivors of sexual violence, including sexual assault, sexual abuse, sextortion and internet child exploitation. Erin has also run many training initiatives in the community to ensure survivors are getting consistent information regardless of where they first disclose an assault and continues to cultivate strong community partnerships to best serve and support survivors of sexual violence.

Linda Rhodes

Charge Nurse of Nina’s Place

Linda Rhodes is a dedicated professional with a vital role in her community as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) and the Charge Nurse of Nina’s Place, situated within Joseph Brant Hospital. With specialized training and expertise, she offers comprehensive care to survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence.

In her capacity as a SANE, Linda conducts forensic medical examinations, administers medical treatment, collects evidence, and provides essential emotional support to survivors. Her extensive training equips her to navigate these sensitive situations with empathy and professionalism, ensuring survivors receive the care and support they need during such difficult times.

As the Charge Nurse of Nina’s Place, Linda takes on additional responsibilities, including overseeing the nursing staff, coordinating patient care, and ensuring the smooth operation of the unit. Her leadership ensures that the team can effectively deliver high-quality care to survivors while maintaining the integrity and efficiency of the unit.

Overall, Linda Rhodes plays a crucial role in the healthcare system, advocating for survivors and providing essential support and care to those who have experienced trauma. Her dedication and compassion make her an invaluable asset to both her patients and her colleagues.

Vathsala Illesinghe

Toronto Metropolitan University

Vathsala Illesinghe, MD, is a Policy Studies Ph.D. Candidate at the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) and an experienced violence against women researcher. Her Ph.D. research, focussing on the complex intersections of gender, violence, and South Asian women’s migration experiences was awarded Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Joseph-Armand Bombardier scholarships. She received a Sexual Violence Research Institute (SVRI) grant to continue her research work on violence against women in Sri Lanka and serves on the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (CFOJA) expert panel on femicide.

Pam Douglas

Halton Regional Police Service

Pam began her career with Halton Regional Police in 2010 as a uniform patrol officer.  She spent eight years on the road working in Burlington and obtained the designations of breath-technician for impaired driving occurrences, Coach Officer for new constables and a First Responder.  First Responder receive additional training in trauma and sexual violence and are often the first point of contact for victims reporting sexual assault to the police. In 2018, Pam started a position in the Criminal Investigations Bureau being assigned to the Break and Enter property crime team in Burlington. Although there were cases that involved victim-based offences the unit was predominantly property crime-based investigations.  After almost 5 years in that unit Pam applied for a position within the Intimate Partner Violence Unit within the Regional Investigative Services Unit. For the past 15 months, Pam has been working as a Detective Constable in the Intimate Partner Violence Unit within Halton Police’s Regional Investigative Services. 

Kirsten Mercer

Intersectional Feminist Lawyer

Kirsten is a highly experienced intersectional feminist lawyer and advocate who has worked extensively in the non-profit sector, as a litigator, in government roles, and in the advancement of women’s equality and human rights. She played a key role in the development of the 2015 Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan and has worked on addressing gender-based violence at both the provincial and federal levels, including advocating for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Kirsten has represented clients in the gender-based violence sector before the courts and has provided strategic advice on legislative and policy changes to end gender-based violence in Canada. Additionally, she has an active legal practice representing clients in human rights, pay equity, civil claims, employment matters, and other workplace complaints. Kirsten has been involved in high-profile cases such as representing Ending Violence Against Women (EVA) Renfrew County at the Coroner’s Inquest into femicides and advising clients on using legal precedents to advance their civil claims.

Vasu

Survivor

Vasu is a survivor of intimate partner violence with a strong background in Corporate PR, Sales, and Marketing. She is dedicated to advocating for social justice and supporting domestic violence survivors, particularly children. Vasu’s Montessori training in early childhood education has deepened her understanding of the critical developmental stages of young children. She actively engages in public speaking and shares her experiences at various workshops and events to raise awareness about domestic abuse and gender-based violence.

Driven by her passion for change, Vasu has received training in domestic abuse, GBV, and trauma, and is a committee member of SAFE, collaborating to combat gender-based violence. She is proactive in challenging systemic barriers in legal, judicial, government, and community services. Vasu envisions a world free from violence for women and girls and emphasizes the importance of male allyship in this journey.

In her personal life, Vasu resides in Oakville with her daughters, enjoying nature and creative activities when she is not advocating for social change.

Kai Ruhl

Survivor

Kai Ruhl is a survivor who began volunteering with SAFE in August 2023 and became an honored member in December 2023. Advocating for and supporting survivors of gender-based violence has been a passion for Kai for the past few years. As a survivor, Kai finds empowerment in helping others feel heard and less alone. By continuing to provide support and empowerment through SAFE, Kai hopes to make a difference in the lives of fellow survivors. Grateful for the opportunity to be a part of SAFE, Kai looks forward to participating in the organization’s various initiatives for survivors.

Lorraine Rollo

Survivor

Lorraine is a survivor of domestic abuse who got involved with SAFE in 2014 after completing Speaker’s Bureau training. She has a passion for supporting others who have experienced gender-based violence and has completed certifications in mental health first aid, trauma informed practices, and other areas to better prepare herself for her role as a support person. Lorraine finds it an honor and privilege to help people find the resources they need to move towards a life free of violence and abuse.

Jody Harbour

Grandmother’s Voice

Jody is one of five siblings from Windsor, Ontario. Her father, a Native man, instilled in her a strong sense of Indigenous identity from a young age. Despite the challenges of growing up with a father who struggled with alcoholism and intergenerational trauma, Jody embraced his teachings about identity, religion, and authenticity. After her father’s death, Jody embarked on a journey of self-discovery, tracing her family history and connecting deeply with her Indigenous roots. This journey led her to Six Nations, where she found family and a sense of belonging. Now, Jody actively engages in community work, advocating for Indigenous rights and sharing her cultural heritage. She believes in the power of truth, resilience, and cultural connection to navigate life’s challenges and serve the community.

Sherri Thomson

Co-Founder of The Restitution Project

Sherri Thomson – Co-Founder of The Restitution Project, is a passionate advocate for social justice, particularly in the realm of childhood trauma and sexual abuse. As a survivor of childhood abuse herself, she is dedicated to raising awareness and fighting for the rights of survivors. In October 2016, Sherri made headlines by publicly breaking a non-disclosure agreement related to her childhood sexual abuse, sparking a national conversation about the use of NDAs in such cases. A wife of 37 years, mother, and grandmother, Sherri’s experiences as a teenage runaway have fueled her determination to create a safer world for all children.

Event Schedule

12:00 PM: Doors Open
12:30 PM: Opening Remarks
12:45 PM: Survivor Stories Session
1:30 PM: Break and Networking
2:00 PM: Panel Discussion: “Insights and Experiences on Support and Advocacy”
3:15 PM: Q&A Session
3:45 PM: Closing Remarks
4:00 PM: Event Concludes

Special thanks

This event was made possible through the financial support of the Department of Justice Canada

As a nonprofit volunteer organization we are always looking for community support.

Financial donations help us continue our valuable programs and workshops.