International Women’s Day plans for Powell River involves a documentary about Yazidi women and girls who were brought to Canada as refugees.
Completed in July 2020, the film created by Moira Simpson and Chris McDowell is called The Least We Can Do.
Peg Campbell, who met Simpson in the 1970s when they were part of a small community of women in film, is promoting the film screening locally.
“People often sit around and ask ‘what can we do?’” said Campbell. “It’s an empowering film for anyone who wants to make a difference. It shows how a small group of women can lobby for change.”
The documentary follows a small group of women in BC who are relieved when the Canadian government votes to bring Yazidi women and girls to Canada and provide them with comprehensive trauma care for their unimaginable suffering. At that time, the government promised the Yazidi refugee program would include social and psychological supports, such as trauma counselling, for the trauma the women and girls had suffered. By March 2018 it became obvious that promise had not been kept.
Featuring Yazidi survivor Adiba and Rev. Majed El Shafie, founder of One Free World International, senator Mobina Jaffer, and MP Jenny Kwan, the documentary action takes place in Vancouver and Ottawa. It is illuminated through text and photographs from the war in Northern Iraq and news stories in Canada, USA, Germany and the Middle East.
Campbell is passionate about the ability of this documentary to tell a story of atrocities perpetrated on the Yazidi women and girls before they arrived in Canada and what has happened since. Now a resident of this community, she first visited Powell River for a wedding anniversary at Laughing Oyster restaurant with her partner Gary Shilling. They bought land in the Okeover area and began building a home in 2013. Shilling moved here permanently first and is currently executive director of the Powell River Film Society that began in 2002.
Campbell was teaching at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver and started to live here permanently after her retirement. She had attended Powell River Film Festival (PRFF) for several years, coming first in 2009 to show her film Your Mother Should Know, and became acquainted with the first executive director Jan Padgett. She is now a director on the society board.
When it was determined the documentary could not fit into the 2021 film festival program, the decision was made to feature it for this year’s International Women’s Day recognition.
With the film festival going virtual this year, the PRFF Eventive site had been licensed for a year.
“Showing this additional film is a chance to keep using it,” explained Campbell.
The free screening of the 52-minute documentary is available anytime from 12:01 am on March 6 to 11:59 pm on March 9. It will be available anywhere in the world and Campbell encourages people to let their friends and family know about it.
On March 8, International Women’s Day, there will be a discussion of the film at 1 pm with the filmmakers and Jaffer, who has been a champion of women in war-torn countries. The link is http://watch.eventive.org/iwd2021.
“Our federal government brought the Yazidi refugees to Canada to escape trauma; we can’t just leave them to live their lives here,” said Campbell. “They have to be able to sort through their trauma to do that. And that needs support.”
People are encouraged to write letters to parliament urging help for the Yazidi refugees living in Canada. Also, for the government to take action in Sinjar, where over 100,000 Yazidis have returned after leaving refugee camps. There are no utilities or clean water there as ISIS bombed all the buildings and planted hundreds of thousands of landmines. Aveen, another Yazidi survivor, said there are no governments, no NGOs to help, adding that “they are in despair.”
That despair is causing hundreds to take their own lives.
More information about the documentary can be found at womenrefugeesadvocacyproject.ca.
Pushing for help for Yazidi refugees, the Women Refugee Advocacy Project (WRAP) invites human rights, refugee, arts and women’s organizations to co-sign an open letter to the Canadian Parliament. Support for Yazidi women and girls continues to grow, albeit slowly given communication challenges during the pandemic.
WRAP can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.