Meet the Squamish women dedicated to ending violence along the Sea to Sky Corridor

Ashley Oakes is passionate about issues affecting equality, and with living life to its fullest. As well as being the Executive Director for the Howe Sound Women's Centre, she is a mom to an eight-year-old son, a mountain biker, an avid snowboarder, she sits on a national board of directors for rare blood disorders and is a member of the Canadian Blood Services National Liaison Committee (a group made up of patient and medical advocates affected by transfusion medicine).

Another aspect of Oakes’ life is that she has always been a fierce lover of travel. She has travelled all over Canada, Europe, and Australia. She and her partner even went backpacking around Central America when their son was small, “sleeping in our tent near the beach,” she says, chuckling.

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Oakes’ devotion to her work at the Howe Sound Women's Centre is aided by her eye on international politics. She says that recent movements worldwide around sexual assault and the abuse of women, like Time's Up and #MeToo, have emphasized a global interest in women's rights.

“The dialogue around equality is getting louder... We need to use the momentum from these global movements to start talking about equality in small communities” – says Ashley.

With this passion, Ashley is a natural fit in her newly acquired position as Executive Director at the Howe Sound Women's Centre (HSWC). She has been with the centre since 2016 and stepped into the new role this past winter. Before that, Oakes worked in the non-profit sector for 15 years. Proudly speaking of the organization she oversees she advises that Howe Sound Women’s Centre offers a variety of services for women, children and youth in the Sea to Sky Corridor. These services include, drop-in centres in Whistler and Squamish, a transition house, Pearls Value & Vintage, multicultural outreach services, counselling for children who have witnessed violence, and a safe home for women in Pemberton. As well, HSWC provides educational programs for school-aged children and youth (grades 6-10) about healthy relationships, consent, how they can prevent violence, and cyber safety (including sexting).

Another part of the HSWC’s mission is increasing affordable housing options for women and their children. Currently, they operate two units in Squamish, and two in Pemberton. Over the next five years, HSWC hopes to significantly increase the number of units available along the Sea to Sky Corridor. For many women and their children hoping to escape abusive situations, a lack of affordable housing can quite literally become a dangerous situation. She explains that she feels that it is the community's responsibility to help promote equality: “Not just in wages, but in families, politics, in industry.”

If you would like to find out more about the work done at the Howe Sound Women's Centre, check out their website.

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