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News from Saint John, New Brunswick
By Sue Davis, Local Coordinator

What is a Local Safety and Inclusion Solidarity Network (LSISN)?

Why would I want to join such a network?

These topics were explored in Saint John on June 1st at an information meeting hosted by the Human Development Council and IRIS – Institute for Research and Development on Inclusion and Society. Thirty-three people took part in the meeting which brought together Indigenous, Black, and other racialized groups, refugees and/or people with intellectual, mental health and cognitive disabilities to work together to improve their lives and the lives of others like them.

The focus was on people with lived experience. Front line workers from grassroots organizations also participated and brought their knowledge and expertise from their day-to-day interactions with community members.

Doris Rajan from IRIS gave an overview of the purpose of the network. By working together, the LSISN will identify issues and then develop a community action that will address common problems. Rather than working in silos, network members in Saint John will amplify their voices through working together on a common goal.

I, Sue Davis, the Local Coordinator, facilitated a lively discussion where participants identified some of the issues that need to be dealt with in Saint John. Next steps will be to agree on common issues and then to work on developing a solid action plan. At the end of the meeting thirty people stated that they wished to continue participating in this initiative. They are off to a great start!

I am honored to have the opportunity to be involved with setting up the Local Safety and Inclusion Solidarity Network here in Saint John. My job is to organize and facilitate, however, my privilege is to listen and learn. I wish that more people had this privilege as it opens the heart and mind to the lived experience of my neighbours whose lives are impacted by discrimination, violence, homelessness, poverty, and lack of empathy. The women in this group are activists, helpers, leaders in their communities, who want to make this a better place to live and grow for all of us.

Two of the participants have kindly offered their thoughts on the meeting:

Having a diverse culture and an appreciation is really the heart of growing and evolving. I value all voices many voices are better than one. I am A voice for my Indigenous communities but not THE voice. It’s time to respect, educate and accept all.”

Nikki Dedam

I had an incredible experience at the Information Meeting last week, and I’d like to share. My attendance was a complete fluke as we had an open invitation left at our organization.  When I overheard the title, I asked to attend, intrigued by the title, but not really knowing what to expect. When I arrived, I was nicely greeted and could see I was among a very diverse group of women. As we began to introduce ourselves one by one, I could feel a supportive and attentive energy building. When asked to share my ideas about barriers and obstacles I perceive in Saint John I did so shyly, but proudly because I knew I was in good company, that cared. 

Later, a short and spontaneous discussion erupted, and I was kindly given the microphone to add several ideas. To my surprise as I lifted my head, I saw people nodding in agreement, jotting down notes, making eye contact, and giving positive feedback such as ‘very good point.’ It was the single most empowering experience of my life. My concerns for the wellbeing of those most at risk, my compassion, my gender, my lived experience, and all of the things I’ve been told are my weaknesses were all being validated as strengths by this incredible group of human beings!  I left with new perspectives of myself, the struggles of others, some solutions, some new friends and most importantly a newfound confidence. I know how important my little voice is now.”

Molly Macnaughton