On March 27 and 28, 2019 in Ottawa, Ontario, the Vanier Institute of the Family hosted the Families in Canada Conference 2019 - a national, pan-Canadian conference with simultaneous satellite events co-hosted by university partners across the country. Memorial University of Newfoundland hosted a satellite event here in St. John's, which explored themes and topics related to families and mobility.
"Geographical mobility and immobility are integral parts of daily life that affect us all. One of the key challenges for families is managing the diverse and divergent responsibilities of individual family members related to work, school, community involvement, recreation and other activities.
This can be particularly complex for some families, such as those who need to travel far from home for often prolonged periods in order to access education, work or health care (such as with many Indigenous people living in Newfoundland and Labrador); people who need to move frequently as part of their job and career (e.g. military, police); families living with disability; families new to Canada; families experiencing violence; and more.
Memorial University’s Families in Canada Conference 2019 satellite event will focus on Families on the Move, where catalytic conversations will be fostered and facilitated among diverse delegates, including mobile workers, immigrants, First Nations, Inuit, military personnel, veterans, public safety personnel, survivors of domestic violence and people with disabilities, as well as those who study mobility and families among these groups, and those who serve and support them."
I was honoured to be invited to speak on a panel entitled: Lived Experience of Mobility and Families. We are the experts of our own lives and yet so often those with lived experience are missing from the conversation. This panel gave voice to those who are most affected by mobility to help others understand how it impacts them and their families.
It was my pleasure to share some of my own family's lived experiences with mobility challenges, and while there was a lot of diversity around the table, it was interesting to note that many common issues came up across the panel. Feelings of isolation, a desire for connectedness and a sense of belonging, and the importance of family were shared by both myself and many others who have experienced mobility in different ways.
A huge take-away for me was the importance of not only sharing our stories and our lived experiences, but the importance of listening to each other. We can learn so much from each other if we take the time to truly listen and to absorb what we are hearing. There was much discussion over the past couple of days about the benefit of positive collaborations among organizations and community groups, and my hope is that going forward we can work together to create a community that cares well for its most vulnerable populations. All people are worthy, regardless of our backgrounds or our abilities and we are all interconnected. As this conference showed, our understanding of the world is perhaps best informed by learning the experiences of others.
Thanks to Bojan Fürst for these wonderful photos!
Thank you to Memorial University of Newfoundland for hosting this satellite event, and to The Vanier Institute of the Family - a national, independent, charitable organization dedicated to understanding the diversity and complexity of families and the reality of family life in Canada.