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A conversation is the start

Conversations can lead to a “better understanding of privilege; how to check your assumptions,” says Political Counsellor Miriam van Nie of the High Commission of Canada in Barbados.

In Grenada this week to participate in a two-day Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality Inc (ECADE) workshop, as well as meet with government officials, members of community-based and non-governmental organisations, human rights advocates and other stakeholders, the Political Counsellor sat down with The Grenadian Voice for an exclusive interview on Wednesday.

The workshop, ‘Caribbean Police Training – Serving Vulnerable Populations in Community Policing: A Human Rights Approach’, “was a start,” she said; a learning opportunity for everyone to have a “frank and open discussion” about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LBGTQI) members of society.

With support from the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI), the European Union, the United Kingdom and other donors, ECADE organised the workshop in keeping with its objective to strengthen institutional capacity that works toward equality in the Eastern Caribbean.

Attended by police officers from Grenada, Barbados, Saint Lucia, St Kitts/Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines, the workshop also informed the start of drafting curriculum for police officers, public officers and others that ensures diversity, human rights and the rule of law for all. Investigating crimes involving intolerance against sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics were among the topics addressed.

Noting that “all citizens have a right to protection” and reflecting on “two days of structured discussions” with the opportunity to ask any questions, she said participants learned how behaviour is based on assumptions.

“How we create our society, how we create our gender discourse; these are not permanent,” she explained, adding “humans are good at adjusting. These are the things that can change.”

Building on the outcomes of the workshop, ECADE, which has 17 full and 14 associate member organisations in nine countries, including Grenchap in Grenada, will develop the draft curriculum over the next few weeks. This will be done in collaboration with the Toronto Police Service, which participated in the workshop and which, according to one of its stated values, endeavours to treat “all people with empathy, respect, equity and dignity.”

The drafting will also involve Egale Canada, an advocacy organisation dedicated to promoting human rights and inclusion through research, education and awareness.

In her first visit to Grenada, after taking up her post in Barbados four months ago, van Nie said the impact of CFLI projects, while directed at small populations, can have a big impact, adding that the Caribbean is the largest per capita recipient of Canadian development assistance. CFLI projects advance gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls, peace and security through conflict prevention and building peace.

The United Nations (UN) Women reports that one in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner, noting that “violence against women and girls is a human rights violation, and the immediate and long-term physical, sexual, and mental consequences for women and girls can be devastating, including death. In the Caribbean, she said the figure is more like 39 to 40%, and that is only of what is reported.

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