Herstory of North Shore Women's Centre
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, but the classroom could not contain the 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, took their education to the streets and established the North Shore Women’s Centre.
From the beginning, the North Shore Women’s Centre (NSWC) has worked with 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. 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. Over 20 years ago, a committee 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. 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, it eliminated funding to all BC women’s centres and denied 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, saving the Centre about $25,000 per year, and 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.
The new facility has been a huge boon to the NSWC, but the Centre is not out of the woods yet. It still struggles financially and has also 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 a long-term fundraising campaign in response to these funding cutbacks. “Crimson Cabaret: Celebrating Creative Women” is just one of many events the staff, Board, and volunteers have planned to help keep the Centre’s doors open for years to come.