Herstory of the NSWC
Part of the North Shore community for 50 years
From the beginning, the North Shore Women’s Centre (NSWC) has worked under the belief that women have a right to self-determination in all aspects of their lives, equal access to society’s resources, safety and security of their person, fairness in the administration of justice, and freedom from all forms of discrimination. This premise has inspired the NSWC to lobby tirelessly around such issues as: accessible and affordable childcare and housing, pensions and senior’s benefits, and pay equity.
Throughout the 50 years of our organization's history, we have documented our advocacy and activist efforts in regular newsletters, formerly titled North Shore Women, which can be accessed at the MONOVA Archives of North Vancouver. Some of these efforts included envelope stuffing, sending delegates to Ottawa for conferences on the status of women, local activism about reproductive rights and anti-violence, among others. (If you would like to learn more about the NSWC's work, email firstname.lastname@example.org)
The NSWC has also worked, from its inception, to ensure that women have access to violence prevention and support resources. In fact, one of the North Shore’s essential services for women and children escaping abuse was established through the work of the NSWC. In 1979, the NSWC was one of the founding members of the committee that formed to establish the Emily Murphy Transition House. Now called SAGE House, this shelter – run by the North Shore Crisis Services Society – continues to be a vital resource for women fleeing violence in relationships.
For its first two decades, the NSWC’s work was limited by a reliance on project-based grants, and relied on the generosity and dedication of our local members and volunteers to keep the Centre open. In 1991, the Provincial government dedicated core funding to all BC Women’s Centres. This much-needed support allowed the NSWC to expand its services and make concrete plans for the future. The Provincial government, however, turned the clock back on decades of progress. As of April 1, 2004, dedicated funding to all BC Women’s Centres has been eliminated, adding stress to efforts to provide resources and advocacy to thousands of women in need. In its 30th year, with the loss of Provincial support, the NSWC faced possible closure due to lack of funding.
In July of 2004, the
City of North Vancouver
stepped in to provide
the NSWC with a
rent-free facility, allowing
it to continue its work. The new location, a heritage house on Lower Lonsdale that once was home to the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, is ideal. It’s easily accessible, close to transit, and in an area where many women and single mothers live. The NSWC began operating from its new location in October 2004, marking its third location since its foundation (first in Edgemont Village, then to Delbrook, and now in Lower Lonsdale).
The new facility has been a massive help to the NSWC, but the Centre is not out of the woods yet. As a grassroots organization with less than 10 employees, we still struggle financially and have been negatively affected by Federal Government cuts and policy changes, including those to Status of Women Canada. The North Shore Women’s Centre has engaged in long-term fundraising campaigns in response to these funding cutbacks: “Crimson Cabaret: Celebrating Creative Women” (2007-2012) was one of many events the staff, Board, and volunteers have organized in the past to help keep the Centre’s doors open for years to come, along with our annual International Women's Day Celebration and Benefit (2016- Present).
In March of 2020, the COVID-19 Pandemic caused mass public health concern leading to the closure of many businesses and organizations in Canada and across the globe. The NSWC was forced to close for all but emergency support for 6 months before opening with reduced hours as an essential service. We transitioned as many programs as possible online, including our long-running Separation Support Group, Single Moms Group, Family Law Clinic, Health and Wellness Program, and offered services via phone and email.
During the series of pandemic lockdowns between 2020 and 2022, instances of violence and abuse for women in the community increased, and so too did the need for our services, programs, and drop-in resource centre. With the amazing strength and support from our community members, local businesses, and donors, we opened our doors again with our pre-COVID hours in January of 2022, and expanded the capacity of as many programs as possible, including our emergency food and toiletry program which has grown from distributing 200-300 bags to more than 1600 bags. We have also increased the frequency of our Separation Support Group, and the scope of our Teen Girls' Empowerment programming.
In the spring of 1973, a small group of women decided to create change, not only in their own lives, but also in the lives of women in their community. The spark was ignited in a Women’s Studies course at Capilano College (now Capilano University), but the classroom could not contain their energy. For this group, studying the issues was not enough. Women all around them needed more than ideas; they needed concrete resources and support. The founding members responded to this need, took their education to the streets and established the North Shore Women’s Centre.
But, the NSWC has felt the economic impacts of COVID-19, along with many other local organizations and businesses, and we continue to fundraise and fight to advocate for the safety, status, and wellbeing of the women and gender-diverse members of our community. We rely on the kindness of the community to help continue our work on the North Shore, through donations and in-kind contributions like groceries, toiletries, and more. Our story is far from over, so check back to this page or subscribe to our newsletter to stay up-to-date!