A day of meeting with some "Abenaki sisters" in Odanak on October 15 was stimulating and instructive in many respects. Guided by Nicole O'Bomsawin, members of the Montreal section of the Association of Women Religious for Women’s Rights (ARDF) visited the Abenaki Museum which incidentally is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
The presentation made it possible to discover the customs and habits of this indigenous people who occupied vast areas in southern Quebec and in certain American States. The guide also specified the meaning of the name Abenakis which means "People of the Dawn". The latter currently has two communities: Odanak and Wôlinak.
Participants were also treated to sharing a typical Aboriginal meal and visiting the church, which has been rebuilt twice following a fire. The day ended with native songs to the sound of drums.
Since 2010, a day-long meeting with the Abenakis has been included as part of the annual program of ARDF as a means of deepening solidarity with indigenous women of Quebec. This implies going onto their land and working closely with them to denounce the different forms of violence with which they are particularly burdened.
To deepen your knowledge, consult the website of the Abenaki Museum: http://museedesabenakis.ca/data/
Recently, current developments have shed light on the existence of the Association of Women Religious for Women’s Rights (ARDF) with the dossier of imprisoned women. An influential body, it remains relatively little-known by the public and even by a number of women religious.
Here is a brief overview of the history of this organization with which the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) of Quebec have been associated since its beginning.
How many years has ARDF been in existence?
Who took the initiative of founding this Association?
International Union of Superiors General (UISG) created this organization on the occasion of International Women’s Year in 1975
Have there been any important changes since its creation?
Supported by the UISG until the end of the Decade for Women in 1985, the organization, under the impetus of its founding team, was formed. In 1986, they proceeded to define its mission and its legal standing. The organization was officially named “Association of Women Religious for the Promotion of Women”.
What were the goals of this new organization?
A) To continue the process of raising the awareness of women’s experiences of oppression
B) To participate in the transformation of inequitable relations between women and men
C) To contribute to building a society and a Church in which the dignity, equality and autonomy of women will be recognized and respected
As society evolved, it had become important to change the name of the association so that it would be more representative of women's issues. Having moved beyond the stage of promotion ... we adopted the following name: Association of Women Religious for Women's Rights (ARDF).
Does ARDF work in a vacuum?
No quite the contrary. ARDF works closely with several organizations such as the Federation of Quebec Women (FFQ), Consultation on Combating Sexual Exploitation (CLES), the Action Committee against Human Trafficking Internal and International (CATHII) and the Quebec Coordination Committee for the World March of Women (CQMMF).
How many Congregations are members of ARDF?
31 Congregations have joined the association and have delegated at least one person out of the 40 who are participating in the life of the organization.
Who assumes the role of official representative for the SNJM’s within ARDF?
Until last year, Sister Jeannine Cornellier was the SNJM’s official delegate to the Association of Women Religious for Women’s Rights. Since 2015, Sister Constance Létourneau has assumed this role. Sister Jeannine continues to advocate as a member.
What are the actions taken by this organization?
Not all ARDF actions are of a public nature and often go unnoticed, having been organized with several other partners, such as, for example, the awareness campaign against sexual exploitation at the Canadian Grand Prix, or the open letter on the situation of imprisoned women in Quebec. At the same time, some of the Congregations’ initiatives are seen as ways of supporting ARDF's approach.
We remember the activity organized by the SNJM’s within the framework of the World March of Women, which took place in 2015. We recall that the Congregation chartered a bus bringing together SNJM Sisters, associates and collaborators in order to participate in this new version of the March that was taking place in Trois-Rivières.