Does My Voice Really Matter?

Nadine Chslifoux 2017.jpg

Continuing our series of blogs written by folks in Edmonton with lived experience, meet, Nadine Chalifoux. Nadine is an independent advocate for housing, homelessness, health, Indigenous affairs, human rights, social injustice and women’s rights.

Sometimes people in marginalized or impoverished situations get invited to participate in surveys, group sessions and focus groups. What I wonder is, who are these data collection gatherings actually for? In theory, the basis is to help the marginalized and/or impoverished to receive better access to the necessary services. Of course, these services are in fact defined by social and government designs. What does this mean? Well for me - being considered "marginalized" or “living in poverty,” I get to participate in the process that will inevitably help me maneuver through the system. A system designed with bias. 

In my opinion, the system is designed so that major stakeholders and financial institutions can sustain their hold on these populations. Politically, it stands to reason that a society with several tiers of social standings is rather profitable. So why is it necessary for me and others in social predicaments to take part in these data gatherings? What I am told is that the data becomes more effective and accurate if we are part of the process and our role will play into diminishing marginalization. 

The real question I constantly ask when approached to participate is, "How effective will the outcomes be for me?" In order to lower poverty, heal addicts, house the homeless, and make equality a reality - those same people need to be a part of the process from start to finish and not token for inclusion or grandeur. It’s paramount that we be recognized and respected as equals during the process. Another data report can feel useless in nature and like a waste of our time unless we are able to contribute appropriately. 

I would love to see these organizations be more proactive to create change for the benefit of all people. This is what will make positive change happen. Afterall, how can marginalized and impoverished people trust in the process and want to participate, if we are not seen as equals. It takes us all to make a better world. I want to know I matter. The next survey or focus group inviting me to participate, please take the time to think on what you really want from me.