Montreal Gazette

Conference to address abuse affecting ethnic communitie­s

- KATHRYN GREENAWAY kgreenaway@montrealga­

Police stations serving the West Island and community and service organizati­ons are holding a morning conference on the subject of domestic and inter-family abuse affecting ethnic communitie­s in the region. It takes place at the Pierrefond­s Cultural Centre, April 18 at 8:45 a.m.

“For some women, their only experience with the police is what they have experience­d in (their country of origin) and they are not aware of their rights,” Station 3 Commander Michel Wilson said. “This conference is like an informatio­n session. It is a first step. We will inform them, but we will listen to what they have to say. It’s a symbiotic process, not a one-way street.”

Women new to the country who are being abused in the home may not want to come to a public meeting because they are afraid of the police or afraid their spouse might find out.

“That’s why we have approached the (grassroots) organizati­ons that are in close contact with their particular communitie­s,” community outreach agent and member of the conference organizing committee Dominique Grenier said. “The goal is to tell them that there is an excellent support system for them to use.”

Grenier said 50 people have already registered for the conference, including individual women from various ethnic communitie­s.

The conference, organized by Stations 5, 4, 3 and 1 and their community partners is divided into three parts with a question period following each segment. Sgt.-Det. François Charron, who will soon be promoted to commander, will lead the conference.

A representa­tive from the Immigratio­n Ministry will talk about the legal rights of the victim.

“Women are often frightened to file a complaint because they are sponsored by their husbands and worry that a complaint would get them expelled from the country,” Station 3 community relations adviser Kathy Van Bronswyk said. “That’s not true. We want them to know they will be helped.”

Police officers will be on hand to explain what happens, step by step, from the moment they receive a 911 call about an escalating domestic dispute.

“We want the women to understand that they may have lived another reality in another country, but here we have zero tolerance for family violence,” Wilson said. “There are places they can go for immediate assistance. One thing that always happens is that the couple is automatica­lly separated for 24 hours. It can be the wife who leaves the house or the husband, but they are separated to allow the emotions to subside.”

Children, who often witness the violence, can be traumatize­d by what they see, so it is protocol for an officer responding to a call to take along a small teddy bear.

“The officer gives the child the teddy bear and kneels down for a chat,” Van Bronswyk said. “Children are most open to talking to the officers in the heat of the moment. When they’ve had time to absorb what has happened, they often clam up. It’s awful for them. They are stuck in the middle and often have to choose between their parents.”

The conference is the first step in a five-year strategic plan designed by the Montreal police and their partners to make inroads in connecting with and helping women suffering from domestic violence.

The third segment of the conference focuses on representa­tives from the Crime Victims Assistance Centre and the West Island Women’s Shelter who will talk about how they can help women move beyond the abuse. The Conference on Conjugal Violence Against Women from Ethno-cultural Communitie­s is at the Pierrefond­s Cultural Centre, 13,850 Gouin Blvd. from 8:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Thursday. Free admission. Registrati­on is required. Call 514-280-0402 or email

 ?? JOHN MAHONEY/ THE GAZETTE ?? Officers respond to suspected domestic violence calls by giving children a teddy bear.
JOHN MAHONEY/ THE GAZETTE Officers respond to suspected domestic violence calls by giving children a teddy bear.

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