Welcome to Part 2 of our October 2023 Inspirational Interview with Pamela Cross, Advocacy Director at Luke’s Place in Canada.
Pamela Cross is a feminist lawyer and expert on violence against women and the law known for her award-winning work as a researcher, writer, educator and trainer. She works with women’s organisations across Canada, including Luke’s Place Support and Resource Centre in Durham Region, Ontario, where she is the Advocacy Director. She is a frequent speaker at provincial, national and international conferences and is a regular commentator on violence against women and the law for print media, radio and television across Canada. For more information see her CV and list of publications.
In this part of the interview, Pamela talks about the impact of her advocacy work and shares her advice for lawyers seeking to initiate legal reforms to better serve victims of VAW.
Part one of Pamela’s interview was published on 1 October 2023.
All photos are courtesy of Pamela Cross.
6. Aside from your work at Luke’s Place and as a trainer, your VAW advocacy work since 2008 includes publishing research papers on VAW, lecturing and giving presentations about VAW, and being an expert witness for VAW cases. Overall, what sort of impact has your activism and legal work had in the communities and institutions that you have worked with in terms of their attitudes and approach towards VAW?
My work is always collaborative, so when I think about impact, I think about it collectively in terms of work I have done with others. A good example is the 2022 inquest into a triple femicide in a rural Ontario community. While I testified as an “expert,” my work was rooted in what I have learned over many of doing this work and, in particular, consultations I held prior to the inquest in the community where the femicides took place. As well, I worked closely with a coalition of women’s anti-violence organisations to respond to media during and after the inquest and to advocate provincially for the recommendations to be implemented. While our success with the provincial government has been limited, we have seen a phenomenal level of interest in and concern about VAW in communities – especially small and rural communities – as a result of our work. This feels like a very big win.
7. What would be your advice to lawyers in other countries who wish to use their legal expertise to assist survivors of VAW and push for law reform within patriarchal legal systems that have upheld everything from marital rape to female genital mutilation?
It’s not easy work! I have four suggestions:
- First, never limit yourself to thinking about law reform. Consider other ways for women to be supported and kept safe that sidestep the formal legal systems, some of which may be too broken to fix. By this I mean, think about transformative or restorative justice models and about how women, through increased access to knowledge, can be empowered to find their own justice.
- Second, when doing law reform work, make sure you understand the law better than those who oppose you. Be better at their game than they are.
- Third, work collaboratively and ensure you include the voices of survivors.
- Fourth, in the words of Winona LaDuke: “Do your best, then do a bit better and then don’t beat yourself up.”
8. Tell us about your plans for the future. What campaigns, programmes, or projects do you and Luke’s Place have coming up in the next 5 years?
We’d like to continue supporting organisations across the country to develop service delivery models similar to ours while also learning from their experiences to deepen our understanding. We’ll continue to challenge systems like legal aid and to call for meaningful education for all professionals in the family court system. We will be actively involved in advocacy related to such upcoming legal issues as criminalisation of coercive control, changes to family laws to make them more consistent across the country, review of mandatory charging, implementation of recommendations from domestic violence death review committees, the Calls to Justice from the MMIWG final report, inquests and the Mass Casualty Commission final report. And, of course, we will continue our direct service work, because it is from the experiences of individual women that we draw inspiration and knowledge to support our systemic work.
9.How can The Pixel Project’s supporters engage with and support your efforts and the efforts of Luke’s Place to stop VAW?
We are only going to be successful in ending VAW – and, in the meantime, in ensuring systemic responses are helpful – by working from the ground up.
The Pixel Project’s supporters can be the most useful by engaging with their communities to find out what survivors need and then participating in the work to provide that. This could mean: doing volunteer work with an organisation supporting women; joining advocacy efforts at the community, regional or national level; writing letters to the editor; or raising money or sitting on the Board of Directors for a not-for-profit organisation doing VAW work. It could also mean talking about VAW informally with neighbours, friends and family members because, ultimately, we all need to be well informed if we are to stop VAW.
10.In your considered opinion, how can we end VAW for good?
We need to raise children who will not engage in this behaviour. Both boys and girls need to be taught from a very young age about misogyny and sexism, women’s ongoing inequality, non-violent conflict resolution, and constructive communication. Boys need to learn it is okay to be vulnerable and girls need to learn it is not their job to fix everything for everyone. All our voices are needed: all genders, all ages, survivors, those who have caused harm and those who are in positions of power in the systems that need improving. All of us need to call out sexism and misogyny every time we see or hear it. We need to support prevention work as well as services to support survivors and perpetrators, until we eradicate VAW for good.