Barb McInerney came up to the Yukon in the 1970s to work in a camp kitchen. Though she worked in mining before starting at Kaushee’s Place in 2000, she says that no matter what job she had, she was always trying to advance the most vulnerable of her communities.
“I feel like I’ve been doing this work my whole life,” she says, “I just now do it as a profession.”
Kaushee’s Place, the women’s transition home where McInerney is the executive director, deals with the issues facing women every day, many of which are being widely discussed during the current 12 Days to End Violence Against Women.
Looking back on these issues during the 15 years she’s been working for Kaushee’s Place, McInerney says that the social roots of violence against women are “still alive and well.”
Despite these challenges, McInerney says that the best part of her job is working with the women and children themselves.
“It’s really amazing to me to watch women who have been oppressed and abused and are still displaying ways of preserving (their own and) others’ dignity,” she says. “The resilience of women is quite amazing to watch.”
The image McInerney draws when talking about the organisations working to end violence against women in Whitehorse is one of overwhelming support. The Women’s Coalition, a group made up of 14 women’s organisations from across the Yukon collaborating to both sustain current women’s resources and create new ones, is a space to try and “be the water that floats each other’s boats,” she says.
“It has helped us sharpen our analysis of violence against women.”
This sense of partnership also extends to their work with the RCMP on programs such as Together for Safety, a safety protocol signed by Whitehorse women’s groups and the Whitehorse RCMP that works to increase women’s safety and access to justice in the community. It was inspired by the original Together for Justice protocol signed in Watson Lake between their police and the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society.
Another collaboration between Kaushee’s Place and the Whitehorse police is their Third Party Reporting program, which allows women to report acts of sexualised violence through the transition home while remaining anonymous.
McInerney lists some of her own role models as Audrey McLaughlin, Millie Pauls, and Gloria Steinem. She has a quote of Steinem’s in her office that reads “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off,” which reminds her of the work that a lot of young feminists are doing now.
One of these inspiring young feminists is her 11-year-old granddaughter, who was not only interested in the actions of the politicians in the recent election, but who had her own sign and actively participated in the Idle No More campaign.
In reflecting on the support from the community, she says it is “absolutely amazing” and, despite the many challenges she faces in her work, she remains positive.
“There’s a lot that I see around me that brings me a lot of optimism,” McInerney says.