Tuesday, November 30, 2004

In Solidarity With Mirlande Demers...

Story by Onyango Oloo, Kenya Democracy Project & Host, DUNIA Show, CKUT 90.3 FM, Montreal

Mirlande Demers
is 23 years old. She also has 8 years of international development work experience having been on placements and assignments in such diverse places like Indonesia, Brazil, Haiti and Senegal. From her early trips when she was still a teenager in high school to her last foray in West Africa as an independent and very organized youth coordinator of interns, Mirlande has always kept her eyes on the social justice prize of making a difference as a person acutely aware of Northern privileges and Southern marginalization that has been exacerbated by some of side- effects of globalization.

A woman of African descent, Mirlande was born in Haiti and later adopted by a white francophone couple in Quebec.

Ms.Demers is currently confined to a wheel chair. She suffers from chronic pain, anxiety attacks, insomnia and terrible flashbacks.

Her malaise arises out of a horrific ordeal when she was brutally gang raped in the Senegalese capital Dakar, as she was about to walk into her apartment following a full busy meeting filled day at her NGO office. She has been struggling not just physically and psychologically, but financially and materially as well.

At the time of her rape nightmare, she was the Youth Coordinator of a group of seven interns working under the auspices of an NGO based in Victoriaville, Quebec called Solidarité Nord-Sud des Bois-Francs. Shockingly, that organization offered very little support to Mirlande after the incident. She also hit a lot of brick walls weaving through the CSST bureaucracy (this is the Quebec agency that regulates occupational health and safety) finding herself having to convince officials that she could not have been raped if she was not WORKING for the NGO in question.

Some of the frustrations she has undergone have made her question to what extent are these hurdles linked to the colour of her skin.

The publicity click here and here as well as here surrounding her case has led to petitions currently underway by the National Anti-Racism Youth Network of Canada and
this letter of solidarity
signed by high profile Quebec and Canadian civil society figures such as these.

Michèle Asselin, présidente
Fédération des femmes du Québec

Nicole Filion, présidente
Ligue des droits et des libertés du Québec

Michel Frenette, directeur général
Amnistie internationale, section canadienne francophone

Amir Khadir, porte-parole
Coalition des médecins pour la justice sociale

Gervais Lheureux, directeur général

Monique Simard, présidente

Carole Tremblay, coordonnatrice
Regroupement québécois des centres d’aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel (CALACS)

On Sunday, November 28, 2004, Onyango Oloo, the producer and host of the weekly DUNIA show which airs Wednesday mornings on Montreal's CKUT 90.3 FM hooked up with Mirlande Demers for an interview.

Here is a link to that conversation .

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