Truro’s Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald had the opportunity last month to address non-state torture at the W7 summit in France. From left, Brigitte Polonovski, Yves Charpenel, Frédéric Boisard, Sandra AYAD, Sarson, and MacDonald. Submitted photo

TRURO – Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald were among more than 400 women and a few men gathered in Paris last month for the W7 Summit.

The two Truro women founded Persons Against Non-State Torture (NST) and are trying to get non-state torture included into the Criminal Code of Canada. They were invited to the summit just a week before it began. They originally thought it was a joke, but quickly had a plan of action in place when they realized it was a legitimate invitation.

“Feminist research is so important,” said MacDonald. “That’s why the W7 was created. It was started with the Swedish, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took it on as an issue at the G7.”

Among the group at the W7 were three additional Canadians, while a few were from the United States. Most were from France, Africa, and Europe.

“The primary recommendations were already formulated, but Jeanne was able to get a question in on non-state torture,” said MacDonald. “The dilemma that’s going on now is on the pro-sex side of things and that any sort of law would be violating their rights. So we had to counter that before we even got to non-state torture.”

Before they made the decision to go to Paris, Sarson said the women looked at the agenda to see if there would be a place for them to speak.

“If there was no place to speak, we probably wouldn’t go,” she said. “We realized the recommendations were already formulated to pass onto the ministers of the G7, so we had to look to see if there was a place to get some questions in there.”

It was under the topic of fighting gender-based torture that the women were able to bring NST to the forefront.

Sarson said the challenge has been to find someone or an organization to take the data on NST. Those at the W7 were willing to, which Sarson said made the trip a success, as did having the opportunity to get a question out there.

“It’s important to have successes, so there’s a positive outcome of it,” she added.

MacDonald said they spoke to a lot of people who haven’t heard of NST – torture by the hands of someone, such as a family member, not in a state position. One was a 19-year-old woman from Guinea who mentioned torture. The Truro women gave the teenager an information sheet on NST.

“She said everything that happens to women in Guinea is torture,” said MacDonald.

One of the moving parts of the summit, said MacDonald, was when the representatives of the W7 read off the recommendations to the G7 ministers.

“Just the thought about how long it took feminists to get from the grassroots to that level,” she said.

“The female delegation was on one side and the ministers were on the other side, and the women were reading the recommendations to them,” added Sarson. “We have never seen that relational connection before with the everyday person of power.”

At the closing of the G7 in France, Sarson said the ministers made a pledge to make gender equality a global cause, and for those countries making changes to laws to make sure they were supportive of women and girls.

The two Truro women also met for the first time with those in a French group on exploitation they have partnered with.

“They got a better sense of our work and have also said they will include our data in their reports,” said MacDonald.

Meeting their French counterparts was another measure of success of their trip to France, and the women said they’re working on terminology that organization can use in French when discussing NST.

“We go with hope,” said Sarson, about all the times they travel to conferences and summits. “We never know how it’s going to go until we get there.”

To view a video of Sarson’s question opportunity at the W7, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiVv0Bx6dNg&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR2b_IiwB3EEV OFEALA837CP05eWm6KUVch8UObZA3ItjPcNkDYh_T10GHA.