Arlene Haché, C.M.
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Member of the Order of Canada
Arlene Haché is the Executive Director of the Yellowknife Women’s Centre for Northern Families. She is well known for her women’s rights activism, especially with First Nations’s women and has spearheaded numerous programs that address issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, education, unemployment and child rearing. A tireless champion of social justice and human rights, she has also fought to raise awareness of the needs of the poor and disenfranchised. As well, she has lent her leadership skills to local, territorial and national associations, including the Society Against Family Abuse and the Canadian Mental Health Association. Very recently (November 5th, 2009) she received the Order of Canada for her activism!
1. What was it that inspired you to become a feminist?
I am a feminist in my view, but I wasn’t inspired by the concept of being or becoming a feminist. I just am. Inspiration for my work sprang from the myriad of women I encountered throughout my life that engaged in the fight for survival from a gendered war that attacked them from what should have been safe zones – their homes and communities. First Nation, Métis and Inuit women, who each approach the world from their own cultural perspective, are particularly inspirational for their courage, strength, humour, patience and generosity.
2. What kind of work do you do?
I am the Executive Director of the Centre for Northern Families, a resource centre that supports women and their families living in the North. The Centre has an emergency shelter for women and offers a broad range of programs that support families. Programs include: a drop-in medical clinic, a prenatal nutrition program for pregnant women and new moms, a Family Support Program that provides intensive support to families that are multi-stressed, a licensed daycare, youth-led programs etc.
3. What feminist issue is particularly important to you?
There are two issues of particular importance to me: The penchant for society in general to “mother blame”, and in particular how mother blaming, combined with racism plays out with respect to the continued state apprehension of First Nation, Metis and Inuit children from their communities and nations. Currently, 9% more First Nation, Inuit and Metis children are in care in Canada than there was during the residential school era – [just one example of] assimilation at work and a direct strike at the heart of First Nations, Inuit and Metis women.
The second issue is related to the demand of the “sisterhood” and of the public in general for women, and more particularly marginalized women, [asking them] to ignore their circumstances to achieve the “feminist” cause. “Feminists” who perpetuate the status quo ask marginalized women to recast their lived experiences through the lens of the mainstream and hide racism and classism in “cooperatives” and “collaborations” that are not equality producing because they secure resources and power within the dominant society, usually meaning “settler groups”.
4. What would you like the future of feminism to look like?
Feminism would seek to hear women’s voices, not silence them. It would be respectful of and work to support diversity by engaging women in ways they recognize and feel most comfortable. It would build connections around common goals rather than insisting on commonly used methods and ways of working. The future of feminism lies in our capacity to be courageously self-reflective.
5. How can people get involved with your work or in touch with you?
The Centre is most desperately in need of funds to continue its work. We are also in need of people with specialized training in community development, research and legal work. People can contact me at: The Centre for Northern Families, Box 2303, Yellowknife, NT, X1A 2P7; (867)873-2566 phone; firstname.lastname@example.org. Email is the quickest, most reliable way to reach me.
6. What is your Dream for Women?
I dream that each woman recognizes her divine right to determine her own destiny, that she searches for wisdom, discovers her innate strength, shares her insights and fulfills her mission.
7. What are the aspects of the feminist movement that you are most proud of or most ashamed of?
I am most proud of the multitudes of women in my own community and around the world who have not only supported me where I [have been], but asked me to go somewhere else with them. I am most ashamed of the feminist movement that didn’t recognize me and decided to leave me where I was at, but took credit for carrying me forward.
8. Which unknown or young feminist would you like the world to know about?
I would like the world to know about my daughter Mira Hall. She is an amazing young activist woman with an incredible capacity for analysis and clarity in communication. She has a sharp, dark sense of humour and I admire her tremendously.
PS: Check out our interview with the wonderful Mira Hall here!