The Elizabeth Fry Society of Northwestern Ontario is a non-profit organization that works with and advocates for women and women who are, have been or may be criminalized. The Society is one of 24 member societies in the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS), and is also a member in the Council of Elizabeth Fry Societies of Ontario (CEFSO).
To reduce the criminalization of women by advocating on behalf of, and providing direct services to women who are, have been or may be criminalized
To ensure all women who are, have been or may be criminalized have adequate supports by responding to individual and systemic issues.
In 1998, the Northwestern Ontario Women’s Decade Council, under the leadership of Lennie Untinen, identified the need to provide advocacy and services for criminalized women in Northwestern Ontario.
A steering committee, working with a 4th year social work student from Lakehead University, conducted interviews and hosted a public meeting to further investigate the gaps and the range of services that were needed. The resulting report, “Women in Conflict with the Law (Thunder Bay and Area) Elizabeth Fry Society” was released in March, 1999. The report concluded that there was a need to provide support to women serving sentences, being discharged from jails and other institutions and those at risk of being in conflict with the law.
Over the next three years, the steering committee developed the organization and expanded its membership, leading to the incorporation of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Northwestern Ontario as a not-for–profit corporation in 2003.
Throughout its history Elizabeth Fry has benefited from strong ties to a number of agencies who have provided staff time, meeting spaces and other in kind and financial donations. These agencies include: Catholic Family Development Centre, Centre des Femmes Francophones du Nord Ouest de l’Ontario, Confederation College, Kinna-Aweya Legal Clinic, Lakehead Regional Family Centre, Lakehead University, Multi-Faith Council, Northwestern Ontario Decade Council, Ontario Native Women’s Association, Salvation Army, Status of Women (Canada), Stone Angels (survivors of sexual abuse), St Joseph’s Care Group, and Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre.
The local Elizabeth Fry Society has struggled to secure long term funding. The Society has been variously funded by the Federal government Status of Women program as well as by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and in more recent years, the United Way of Thunder Bay.
The first volunteer coordinator was hired in 2005 and developed a number of volunteer-supported programs including public education, jail visitation, provision of clothing upon discharge, court support and preparing pre-sentencing reports.
Today, we have an office on Miles Street with two full time employees. A Program Coordinator who oversees the volunteer recruitment, operations and delivery of programs as well as provides court support and discharge planning for women at the Correctional Centre; and a Development and Communication Coordinator who oversees all revenue generating activities and facilitates the education and messaging of the organization.
The Elizabeth Fry Society is governed by a 10 member volunteer board. The current board comprises:
- Caycie Soke (President)
- Mary Veltri (Vice President)
- Tara Hum (Secretary)
- Lori Gilbert (Treasurer)
- Cheyanne DeGagne
- Erin Bellevance
- Kate Brindley
- Jamie McGinnis
- Bev Picard