Self-defence class offered to Calgary newcomer organizations in response to hate-based violence

Self-defence techniques were taught to newcomer organizations Friday as a way to address hate-based violence in Calgary.

The event was part of the Empowering Communities Together program, which is a collaboration between the Centre for Newcomers, Immigrant Services Calgary and the Immigrant Education Society.

Anila Lee Yuen, president of Centre for Newcomers, says growing concerns of hate crimes and a rise in mental health issues means employees need to be prepared for the worst.

“Especially after COVID and during COVID where there’s been a rise in violent crimes against the BIPOC community, against women, against LGBTQ communities and other marginalized groups.”

She says the conversations and martial arts training have provided benefits to the service providers should they be in a situation where a client becomes violent.

“Being able to know how to defend yourself and then also being able to get your clients help and support in a compassionate manner is so important,” she said.

Amanda Coates, CEO of Mosaic Primary Care Network, echoes this and says the event gives workers the power to fight back.

“Today was amazing in terms of personal safety ideas for myself and giving me the opportunity to support our teams and our clients in the community,” she said.

“We are working with clients on their health needs across northeast and southeast Calgary and we want to make sure that everyone is feeling safe in their communities on a day-to-day basis.”

Leading the event was Alvin Catacutan, a martial artist, actor and fight choreographer who has devoted his life to teaching children and adults self-defence. 

“Most people don’t know these things. I’m hopefully opening their eyes to the possibility that they can protect themselves if anything happens to them,” he said.

“The skills portion of the self-defence is only one day … but it opens their eyes to things that they’re not aware of and now they know they can go and seek the resources.”

The organizers also want to hear from people in the community about what they’d need to feel safer, which can be relayed to the police and government.

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