Root rot research and management options

Originally published in PulsePoint magazine, April 2019

Dry weather caused problems for many Saskatchewan farmers last growing season, but it also brought benefits, including a drop in the amount of root rot that had been observed in fields for the last five years. “We see some improvement in dry years,” says Dr. Syama Chatterton, who has been studying root rot for several years. “The dry cycles are helping.”

Chatterton, a Research Scientist for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), conducted field surveys across Western Canada between 2014 and 2017 and found that Fusarium root rot had been present in about 50 per cent of pea fields and 60 per cent of lentil fields, on average. Another 50 per cent of pea fields and 40 per cent of lentil fields tested positive for the presence of Aphanomyces (the most destructive form of root rot), on average, over the same amount of time. These percentages were closer to 60 to 80 per cent in wetter years.

Chatterton cautions however that dry weather alone does not completely alleviate the many concerns over this potentially devastating soil-borne disease. For one thing, dry weather seems to affect peas more than lentils.

Read entire article

Market access to India remains at pulse industry’s forefront

Originally published in PulsePoint magazine, April 2019

Saskatchewan pulse growers have had to deal with a lot of difficult news regarding tariffs and fumigation regulations affecting exports of Canadian pulses to India in the past year.

There is a silver lining, says Mac Ross, Pulse Canada’s Manager of Market Access and Trade Policy, as these issues have reinforced, and put into gear, priorities for expanding global markets for pulses.

“Our big focus moving forward is diversification,” he says.

For example, Pulse Canada has set the goal to have 25 per cent of Canadian pulse production going into new uses by 2025, and the organization is working hard with partners now to fulfill this mandate.

Read entire article

New pulse developments with India

Originally published in PulsePoint magazine, December 2018

As Saskatchewan growers contemplate their seeding options for another year, market access issues for pulses are surely top of mind.

In the past couple of years growers have faced severe export restrictions for pulses to India, Canada’s largest market. This includes tariffs on peas, chickpeas, and lentils, and ongoing regulations that require Canadian pulse exports to be fumigated with methyl-bromide.

Some progress has been made in addressing and mitigating these restrictions, says Mac Ross, Pulse Canada’s Manager, Market Access and Trade Policy.

Pulse Canada has long been working to alleviate these issues on behalf of Canadian growers, but recently they have seen several new developments.

Read the entire article

Market opportunities for pulses as food ingredients

Originally published in PulsePoint magazine, August 2018

When the Canadian pulse industry announced a goal to have new uses for 25 per cent of Canadian pulses by 2025, Pulse Canada and Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, along with other provincial pulse associations across Canada got to work developing and refining strategic plans designed to help meet this ambitious goal, says Julianne Curran, Pulse Canada’s Vice President of Food and Health.

“There has been a lot of thought put into how we can achieve this target,” she says.

Much of the industry’s prior work in the area was focused on marketing pulses more generally to all target audiences. The next phase of work will consider end-use applications that each pulse crop is best suited to, and the markets where the Canadian industry has advantages and volume opportunities, Curran says.

“We understand that two million tonnes is an ambitious target that will require multiple sectors and regions, but also unique strategies designed for each pulse type to be more effective.”

The strategy will focus on specific market opportunities and applications for each pulse type and will also identify specific companies or groups of companies the industry is looking to engage with, says Jackie Tenuta, Pulse Canada’s Director of Market Development.

Read entire article

Market opportunities for pulses in the food service industry

Originally published in PulsePoint magazine, August 2018

Building on the Canadian pulse industry’s goal to have new markets or uses for 25 per cent of Canadian pulses by 2025, Canadian pulse promoters are looking at ways to revise market development plans to hone in on achieving the desired end results.

One of the areas of that will see an expanded focus is the foodservice sector, where the industry has been working in for the past couple of years to promote the use of Canadian lentils amongst United States (U.S.) colleges and universities.

The knowledge the industry has gained so far will be crucial to informing the next phase of promotions, which will include a narrower focus, says Amber Johnson, SPG’s Manager of Market Promotion.

The emphasis in this area will be placed on the U.S. marketplace and will be targeting non-commercial foodservice companies such as Compass Group, Sodexo, and Aramark, which run food operations for large-scale organizations such as hospitals, corporations, and big businesses, in addition to a focus on colleges and universities.

Not only do these companies have significant influence over menu items, they also have important buying potential because they do centralized buying and supply management, while also running physical operations, Johnson says.

Read entire article

“Why can’t I do this like everyone else can?” Some notes on post-partum fatigue

The other day I started crying during dinner because I thought I was a bad mom.

I was exhausted after another day of trying to get my nap-hating child to take a nap.

Despite my frustration that she hates naps though (who hates naps!) I didn’t understand why I felt SO tired.

  • My little one is almost nine months old and mostly sleeps through the night.
  • I feel like my body and life have generally gone back to normal.
  • I’m not suffering from post-partum depression or mood disorder.
  • I have a very supportive husband and help.
  • My doctor has run blood tests on me and everything looks normal.

So why am I STILL exhausted some days, physically and mentally.

Why can’t I do this like everyone else can?

I asked Sara Beckel, my local certified labour and post-partum doula, for her input on the concept of post-partum fatigue (yes, another “post partum” thing!)

As the owner of Family First Doula Service, Sara has more than a decade of experience working with pre- and post-partum moms.

Sara B
Labour and post-partum doula Sara Beckel.

And she confirmed for me that PPF IS a thing.

“There are so many factors that are at play,” she says.

Perhaps the greatest of which is simply that your life has changed big time.

“What most women find most surprising is just the demand of being a new mom,” Sara says. “I don’t know how to prepare moms for it. There are no words.”

“Taking care of a baby seems simple. You change them, feed them, do a little play with them – but it’s the same thing every day. The monotony of caring for a child every single day is exhausting because it’s all-consuming and it’s twenty-four hours a day and you don’t get a coffee break.”

Sidenote: I think she diagnosed my problem in five sentences here haha.

Nine months can also be a noteworthy mark in the post-partum experience, Sara says.

“Women may be feeling thrown off that they’re still tired at nine months – they think, ‘I should have bounced back by now, my life should be normal, I should be able to go out all day with my baby and not need a nap.’

“But the post-partum body takes a full year to recover.”

Sidenote: I was mista

While the monotony of day-to-day child rearing may be the entire reason for your fatigue, there are also many other factors that can contribute, Sara says. The good news is that they are all treatable.

Factor: Not taking care of yourself

Sara says she sees many women who get so busy taking care of their new babies that they neglect their own health needs.

This can mean they don’t make time to plan healthy and consistent meals and can have nutritional deficiencies as a result (iron is a big one). They can also feel too tired to exercise post baby, even though this is a very important factor in post-partum recovery.

Your health and nutrition qualify as self-care and these are critical for new moms, Sara says.

“Getting a pedicure or massage once in awhile isn’t enough.”

Factor: Not getting enough sleep

Many new moms have problems sleeping and experience insomnia, even when their babies are sleeping well, she says.

“Not sleeping because your baby is awake is one thing but not sleeping because you’re not being able to fall asleep is a big red flag. That can lead to developing a post-partum mood disorder.”

Do whatever you can to make up for missed sleep, she says.

“Go to bed a 7PM if you have to.”

Also, an over-reliance on coffee when you’re sleep deprived may be problematic, she says.

“When you’re exhausted new mom and living on coffee this can work against you.”

Factor: Not asking for help

The majority of new moms are exhausted because they’re not getting and/or accepting help, Sara says.

“Not every new mom has family or friends they can call but many do and don’t use them because they think they shouldn’t need help.

“You do. You deserve it. Call that person in.”

Factor: Comparing yourself to other moms

This one gets me every time (I have a perfect older sister).

We see other women seemingly doing a better job than us.

But the reality is that everyone struggles, Sara says.

“All the other moms that we think are doing it perfectly are in the same grind you are.”

Social media is a big contributor to this line of thinking, Sara says.

“Feeding a baby all day, you have a phone in your hand and that’s all you’re looking at. But just remember – it’s not really real.”

Factor: Bigger issues at play

Post-partum fatigue can also be emblematic of a bigger problem, Sara says, so it’s important to watch for signs that that you could be having more serious issues, such as post-partum depression or mood disorder.

“Maybe it starts with fatigue and turns into irritability, fits of frustration or even rage. When it starts escalating, it might be time to check in with yourself.”

If your fatigue stops you from getting out of the house, enjoying life, and engaging with the world for longer periods of time, or just leaves you feeling overall unhappy for days on end, that could be a problem.

“You need to be able to ask yourself, ‘is this just a bad day?’ Bad days are expected but when it’s compounded over time and not getting better that is a warning sign.”

“Each mom knows what their normal so it’s important to check in.”


The whole purpose of this article is just to make all my fellow TIRED new moms (and dads) feel better. You’re all killing it ladies and gentlemen.



Five delightful facts about the Regina Food Bank

When you think of a food bank, you probably think of an agency that gives food to people who immediately need it.

Which the Regina Food Bank does.

But it also does so much more.

“We have 9,000 people come through our doors each month, so we have to be able to find out how we can help them in terms of food security,” says Todd Sandin, Director of Operations.

This means not only striving to eliminate hunger but also to solve the longer-term problems associated with food insecurity.

One component of this is educating people on food – where it comes from, and how they can grow and prepare local foods for their families.

Another component is growing sustainability within the organization’s own operations, a necessary requirement when you receive upwards of 3 million pounds each of food and non-food donations each year.

Because of these focuses, the Regina Food Bank is home to some super cool and innovative initiatives, some that are not yet being done at any other food bank in the world (just one more thing you can be proud of in this amazing city!)

Here are five delightful facts about the Regina Food Bank.

  1. It has a machine that turns waste into fuel!

Officially it’s called a “gasification unit” (I think that name needs some marketing input) and Regina is the only food bank in the world to have one, Sandin says!

Here’s how the machine works: You put in up to 500 pounds of waste/non-perishable items (except plastic, unfortunately) and the machine slowly breaks it down and “cooks” it, turning it into fuel. The Food Bank then uses this fuel to heat its greenhouse and warehouse and has enough left over to share with other partner agencies as well (for example, the YWCA has used it to heat its pool!).

Altogether the machine has helped the Food Bank save $30,000 a year on waste that has been reinvested back into programs.

They’ve only had the machine for six month, Sandin says, but future plans include sharing their knowledge and experience with it to other agencies across Saskatchewan that may also benefit from such technology.

The gasification unit turns waste and non-perishable items into … this!
  1. It has a Farming Robot!

Or FarmBot, if you will.

This is basically a machine that uses the same technology as 3-D printers, laser cutters and CNC routers to power a little farm that operates without any human interaction (the only thing it cannot do on its own is harvesting).

Why does a Food Bank need a farming robot? This is part of the educational component, Sandin says.

“When we sat down with our team to discuss what would be the best use of our assets, we found that the education program actually produced an amazing yield of engagement with students, what they learned about where their food comes from and how important local food is as well,” he says.

“It’s really important to show kids these days where their food comes from, how they can do it at home, how they can be more of a family unit when it comes to producing their own food.”

And of course, what better way to engage kids than ROBOTS.

Which leads me to ….

  1. It teaches people about food production and how they can produce their own food

The robot is just part of a greater educational program.

The Food Bank also has a year-round greenhouse which is home to 30 “ecotowers,” (little standup gardens that can grow a bunch of stuff in a small space). Schools and other community organizations can tour the greenhouse and learn about food production.

Partner schools in the city have been able to use the ecotowers to grow their own produce in the classroom. One classroom used their yields to have a potluck. Another class grew lettuce to feed their own gerbil. How sweet is that?!

The Food Bank also has a commercial kitchen that is used to teach people how to cook with certain food products. For example, lentils, which the Food Bank receives large donations of.

Some local classrooms have used these ecotowers to grow their own produce in the classroom.
  1. They don’t just deal with food.

This is another way the Regina Food Bank is unique – every year it “repurposes” 290,000 pounds of non-food donations to 120 partner agencies, that then distribute it to people most in need.

The Regina Food Bank is able to do this for a number of reasons, Sandin says.

First, they have a massive building (35,000 square feet of warehouse, which was donated to them). Second, they have amazing network of business partners, transporters and volunteers, which allow them to get the donated products from their warehouse to the places in need.

“We have a great alignment of stars right now,” Sandin says. “Not all food banks have that luxury.”

Are you wondering what 290,000 pounds of donated products looks like? They have had everything from shampoo, to bikes, to wine glasses, to BBQs, to branded office uniforms (which they were able to unbrand and donate to Comso Industries!).

“I’ve literally seen it all,” Sandin laughs.


My photo-taking skills suck because this doesn’t even begin to do justice to the size of the “donated goods” warehouse. Or the variety of donated items.
  1. They welcome everyone to get involved!

While there are the traditional ways to get involved – make a financial or food donation – Sandin says all community engagement is welcome.

“Get involved, volunteer some time, come see what we’re doing now. There’s a lot of great unique initiatives we have going on in our building, our greenhouse, our mobile pantry, our commercial kitchen – a lot of ways for people to get involved.”

Learn more at







I’ve made a huge discovery about our grocery shopping habits (which can save you lots of money)

Since becoming a part-time stay-at-home mom, I have begun to enjoy some things I used to find extremely inconvenient.

Such as grocery shopping.

Previously I would get in and out of there as quickly as possible, throwing my usual items into the cart and silently cursing at people in my way.

But nowadays I lull my child to sleep in the shopping cart, then leisurely drink a coffee while lingering in aisles, comparing products and pricing.

Which brings me to the huge discovery I have made regarding grocery shopping that I’m going to share with you.

Not only is the international aisle at Superstore a super fun wonderland, it’s also where you can get many of the same products that are sold in other aisles, just for way cheaper!

I will save the speculation on why North American consumers are prone to pay more for products with a non-foreign label on them, or that are easy to find, and just get right down to this:

We are paying a SIGNIFICANT premium for products in the regular aisle compared to the international aisle, and not because of a difference in quality.

To demonstrate my point here are the specs on five items that I buy regularly. (In cases with multiple examples from the regular aisles, the premiums are calculated according to the highest priced product versus the one from the international aisle.)

Canned black beans
Premium: 157%

Regular aisle:

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 9.36.34 AM

International aisle:





All the products are canned and packed in Canada (and are likely grown here) and all these companies are Canadian (including ARZ). So you are supporting Canadian business and likely farmers no matter which of these brands you buy (but saving a lot of money when you buy the one that looks foreign). Hahaha #irony.

Premium: 63%

Regular aisle:

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 9.16.00 AM

International aisle:


Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 9.15.14 AM

Despite the fact that we grow flax right here in Saskatchewan, neither of these is labelled a product of Canada and likely come from the U.S. According to industry insiders, there may be slight variation in the oil content of different flax crops which could affect the quality of the product, but the difference would be too minor for the consumer to tell. I’ve tried both these products and cannot tell a difference.

International aisle for the win!

Premium: 578%

Regular aisle:

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 9.18.23 AMScreen Shot 2018-06-01 at 9.18.38 AM

International aisle:

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 9.19.16 AM

This is one my absolute favourite because not only are you paying a HUGE premium for the regular aisle brands, I think the ARZ brand is the most delicious oregano I have ever tasted. It tastes like it just came from the garden (it actually comes from Lebanon). Since buying this brand I put oregano on pretty much everything!

Basmati rice
Premium: 36%

Regular aisle:

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 9.22.46 AM

International aisle:


OK to be fair on this one, I haven’t tried both brands. I just don’t need that much basmati rice. I doubt anyone needs 18kg of basmati rice – but maybe at a 36% premium you DO?

Canned green lentils
Premium: 157%

Regular aisle:

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 9.25.05 AM

International aisle:

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 9.25.17 AM

Same deal as with the beans, these lentils are both canned and packed in Canada, by Canadian companies (and are likely Canadian lentils) so you are buying local whichever one you buy — you’re just paying more for one!


Please note: these are just five random products I chose to illustrate my point. If you looked at dry beans and lentils, and probably many other products, I am sure the savings would be even greater.

AND I distinctly left one off because I want you to look at the comparison yourself and then experience the extreme high of International Aisle Savings. (Please note: this is reserved only for people who don’t get out much, like me haha.)

It’s quinoa!

Happy grocery shopping my friends and see you in the international aisle!





Making maternity leave work for you

I had a baby six months ago and began working again (reduced hours) after about two months.

Cue the gasp from many people I tell this to.

“That’s so early!”

Comparatively speaking, it’s not.

Canada offers one of the longest government-subsidized maternity leaves in the world (up to 61 weeks as of last year!).

We often celebrate this and we should. We are so fortunate to live in a country that values the very important role of parents.

But this option isn’t for everyone.

Many people who are self-employed like me (one study thinks it will be almost half of us in coming years) are not eligible for government-subsidized maternity leave.

Other women simply choose not to take a full year.

And, based on my own experience, I think this is a good thing.

Because – when I push my guilt aside – I must say that I enjoyed the balance of being able to take a couple hours away from the very intense world of caring for an infant to exercise my mind muscles and remaining engaged with the world I previously occupied.

The more I spoke with other women about my arrangement, the more I found women who had done similar things and had positive experiences.

And so I have come to believe that doing so (remaining engaged in the work world, even at a reduced rate, after having a baby) might help your mental state at a time that is proven to be extremely vulnerable – the new mom stage.

But of course, what the H do I know. So I talked to some experts to explore my theory.

Here’s some interesting things I learned.


Having a baby is a tremendously life changing experience.

As soon as that baby is born, the life you lead up to that point abruptly ends and all of a sudden your job, all day (and ALL NIGHT), is to care for this tiny human.

This change can complicate our sense of self, says Sara Beckel, a certified labour and post-partum doula with more than a decade of experience.

(Sara is also the owner of Family First Doula Service, a very cool business in Regina that supports mom pre- and post-partum. Her website is full of great information.)

“Nobody tells you that there’s a loss of identity,” she says.

“We’re told that you’re going to have this baby and you’re going to love this baby and your life is going to be complete.

But no one is talking about the fact that it’s normal for women to grieve the loss of their old lives, Sara says.

“We’re only allowed to talk about the joys of having a baby, not the parts where you kinda want to quit today or send this baby back for a couple days. Because every single new mom has those thoughts. We’re just not posting them on social media.”

Sara B
Sara Beckel is a certified labour and post-partum doula with more than a decade experience.

There’s even a name for this period: “matrescence,” which refers to the identity shift that happens in women when they become mothers.

(Canadian writer Leah McLaren wrote a beautiful and impactful article about matrescence, which was published last month by Today’s Parent.)

Matrescence is common but problematic, says Kayla Huszar, a Regina-based social worker who deals primarily with women in pre- and post-partum phases of life.

(Kayla’s practice focuses on using creative outlets for therapy and she offers many cool services for new moms. Learn more.)

“What I hear from moms is that they just lose themselves,” she says.

There are a couple reasons for this, in her opinion. First, she believes that new moms often put the needs of their child before their own and have anxiety around making time for themselves.

“They express to me that they want to take care of themselves but something stops them and it’s often anxiety related,” she says.

She says women are also conflicted about what they should be doing versus what they want to be doing.

“We get mixed messages, like ‘it’s OK to go back to work, but you really should take 18 months.’ Or, ‘we support you either way, but why wouldn’t you take 18 months?’”

“Navigating that can be very difficult.”

Kayla Huszar is a Regina-based social worker who deals primarily with women in pre- and post-partum phases of life and who uses expressive art therapy as a therapeutic tool.


Another very common theme for new moms is that of isolation, which goes hand in hand with matrescence.

Today’s new moms just do not have the same levels of support as they did in previous generations, Kayla says.

“We live in a world where the village doesn’t exist anymore. We don’t always live close to parents or friends and family and we haven’t always created close knit communities for ourselves as adults.”

And even if you have supports available to you, many women feel uncomfortable asking for and/or accepting help, she says.

“You might have support available to you but you’re not accepting it because it’s seen as weakness for us to accept help. We wonder, ‘why can’t I do this on my own?’ ”

Further complicating the isolation is the fact that we feel we can’t complain, Kayla says.

“Loneliness also comes from society not being OK with women complaining or having negative emotions. We are told to ‘cherish’ this time.”

“The truth is that it’s hard and it’s hard to do by yourself, if your partner is working or you don’t have support close by.”

This feeling of isolation can lead to further complications, such as post-partum anxiety and depression, Sara says.

“I think isolation is a huge factor. Maybe some women wouldn’t  feel as stir crazy if they felt they were involved in a strong community where they could meet their social needs. Loneliness and isolation just adds to the underlying feeling of loss of self or temporary loss of career.”

How to prevent these problems?

In theory, it’s really quite simple, Kayla says.

“Keep doing the things you love. That’s the message across the board for anyone experiencing anxiety or depression.”

For me, that meant continuing to work (I am lucky to have a job I love). But for others, that could mean joining a support group, hanging out with other moms, playing team sports, or continuing to do the same social activities you did before your baby was born.

“Just get out and find your people,” Kayla says.

In practice though, she admits it can be harder to manage logistically.

“I’ve been telling myself to go to aquasize for three years now,” she laughs. “So I understand there’s all kinds of limitations.”

“But you just need to start somewhere. Moms don’t love to hear this part but there are likely pockets of time in the day to do the things you love.”

In other words, make time for self-care and make time for you.


The idea of continuing to do the things you love, or that make you feel normal and productive, seems intuitive.

So why don’t more women just do it?

I think a big part of it is guilt. Most days when I’m typing away on my laptop, I ask myself one or all of these questions: Should I be with my baby now instead of working? Am I a bad mom? Is she missing me? Am I affecting our bond by not being with her right now? Am I selfish?

And the questions continue hahahaha.

These feelings are normal, Sara says, but here are a few things to remind yourself when these feelings start arising.

We know that having a primary child care provider at home during the early years is very important for childhood development, but we also know that doesn’t always have to be a full-time mom.

“Ideally it’s a parent but at the end of the day if the mom isn’t happy and healthy we don’t have healthy children,” she says. “If you’re miserable and inattentive and angry about being there, those things really do affect baby development.

“So it’s really important for moms to make decisions to make sure they’re feeling healthy, over and above what they think they’re supposed to do.”

In her own experience returning to work after her son was born, Kayla says one of the valuable things she learned was making a distinction between quality versus quantity when it came to time spent at home.

“You can still work and be a part of your child’s life – it’s how present are you when you’re with them. Quality time for a child is twenty minutes, not three hours. By all means do the three hours if you can but for a busy working mom they just need twenty minutes when you walk through the door.”

Some other considerations: 

So many people told me that continuing to work after having a baby was a terrible idea because my brain wouldn’t work the same as it once did so I was kinda expecting this to happen.

But my experience was quite the opposite.

First, I think that exercising my mental muscles keeps them sharp. You have probably heard of “mom brain” – the concept that moms are forgetful/absentminded after having babies.

(There are many conflicting views on whether or not this is a real concept. Here’s an interesting article about this.)

What I think is indisputable is that being overwhelmed and sleep deprived (which is almost certain to happen after having a baby) does impact your brain function. But in my case that’s why it was even more important to keep working. Working for me is exercise for my brain (and I love exercise in all its forms). I truly believe this helped me better deal with “mom brain.”

But here’s what really surprised me. Having a baby motivated and energized my work!

I think there are two reasons for this.

First, increased levels of serotonin support creativity. Because my work is creative (as all work can/should be) I felt like I was able to approach it from new perspectives.

Second, I think probably more specifically because I had a daughter, I now feel more inclined than ever before to set a good example for future generations of women, to show them that we can do work we’re proud of and be examples of the forces we want to be in the world.



I realize that my situation is unique. The type of work I do allows me to work from home and set my own schedule (to some degree). I am also incredibly lucky to be able to hire help to come into my home to allow me time each day to focus on my work.

Finally, I realize many women WANT to take time off work to have a full maternity leave experience. That is wonderful and I fully support and admire those women.

My intent with this article is just to tell women to consider exploring or creating new options for themselves. And you might be surprised how open others are to helping you make these options work. My current employers have been incredibly accommodating and flexible with my situation.

Most importantly, I encourage you to do what feels right for you and your family and not feel guilty about it (or at least try not to hahahaha).


We have a domestic abuse problem. But here are five ways you can help.


I was chatting with a friend the other day and we were struck by the fact that we both know women, in our close circles, who have been or are currently in abusive relationships.

This shouldn’t have surprised us as much as it did.

Although some groups of people are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, it affects all segments of society.

And it’s especially prevalent in Saskatchewan.

According to a government report released last year, Saskatchewan has the highest rate of police-reported interpersonal and domestic violence in Canada. And according to Statistics Canada, the rate of police-reported family violence in our province is approximately double the Canadian average.

Given these stats, and the current climate of heightened attention to harassment and abuse primarily targeting women, I wanted to understand how we might all be more cognizant of this problem and constructive in our response to it.

So I decided to chat with Gwyn Tremblay, the Executive Director of SOFIA House, a Regina-based organization that provides comprehensive services to families who have experienced domestic abuse.

(“Comprehensive services” means they take a long-term, sustainable approach to helping victims break the cycles of abuse and re-integrate back into society, through programs that include counselling, education, jobs and more. The organization also aims to help children break out of the cycles of abuse and stay in school.)

About Gwyn

Most people in the type of role Gwyn’s in have a social work or counselling background but Gwyn has an MBA, a business background, and a history of high-powered, corporate jobs.

Her motivation for making this vast career change not long ago?

Her experience trying to help a friend escape an abusive relationship.

She recalls, several years ago, getting a panicked phone call from her friend in the middle of the night. The friend was fleeing her home with her kids after a charged fight with her husband, who Gwyn knew to have a history of anger and violence.

“The wind was blowing, I could barely understand her – she was screaming,” she says.

Eventually Gwyn was able to track her friend down using an iPhone app and after realizing she was returning home, decided to meet her there.

“As I started walking up the driveway, she came running out of her house,” she recalls. “The door had been knocked down, the frame was gone and her husband came after her with a gun.”

Gwyn says that within seconds, the gun was pointed at her.

“I just kept walking. He chose to back down, thank God.”

After the incident she tried unsuccessfully to get her friend to leave her husband.

“That was my biggest mistake,” Gwyn says. “I didn’t know what being trauma-informed was back them. I tried to force her.”

The experience changed her, she says, which is why she jumped on this current opportunity, to try and make a difference for other people in her friend’s situation.

Gwyn helped me come up with a few ways we can all try to help.

1. Understand what domestic violence is

Many people assume that domestic violence refers to recurring physical abuse.

But that’s only one part of it. The term and concept of domestic violence covers a wide range of behaviours including physical, emotional and psychological abuse, as well as criminal harassment (such as stalking) and threats of harm. The term also refers to threats of physical violence.

Some people downplay the severity of verbal abuse but it’s just as significant as physical abuse, Gwyn says.

“Verbal abuse is where it starts. That’s usually the precursor to domestic abuse. That’s how they wear you down.”

2. Don’t stigmatize it

Like I mentioned above, domestic abuse doesn’t affect just one segment of the population.

It affects people of all education and income levels, all cultures and communities and both men and women.

However, some groups are more at risk than others.

According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, women aged 15-24 are at a much higher risk than women in higher age categories. Aboriginal women are much more likely to be victims of violent and fatal crimes than non-Aboriginal women. And while men can also be victims of domestic abuse, rates of reported abuse are significantly higher amongst women.

See more related stats.

3. Understand how it impacts our communities

Even if you don’t know anyone personally affected by domestic violence, it still impacts you.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation estimates that Canadians spend about $7.4 million a year to deal with spousal violence.

But beyond financial impact, Gwyn says domestic abuse affects our communities in more qualitative ways.

“You’re only as good as your weakest member as a commnity,” she says. “At SOFIA House we often see people affected by domestic violence that could be contributing to our society and have lots of give.”

Gwyn gives one example to illustrate this. One of the current tenants of the house is an immigrant who was a doctor in her home country. Bolstered by the support she’s receiving from SOFIA House, she has been able to get her driver’s license, get her daughter into English classes, and has begun the process of obtaining her Canadian medical license.

“When we run these programs, it’s not just removing victims from violent situation,” Gwyn says. “It’s empowering them to be contributing members of society, be self-sustainable, and create bonds and relationships in the community.”

4. Support victims you know

When I was having the conversation that inspired this article, I was bemoaning the fact that I don’t know what to do for my friend in question.

So I asked Gwyn for guidance. She says it’s common that people don’t know what to do in these situations and so often choose to avoid it.

“When you have a friend who is being verbally abused, especially in public, people just don’t want to get involved – they feel like it’s none of their business,” she says.

But it’s important to show that you support them, she says.

“Sometimes that just means putting your hand on their leg or calling them the next day and asking if they want to talk. Just being their friend is probably the number one thing you can do for them, so that they know they have support.”

She also says it’s important to not get frustrated when you feel that victims aren’t making the right decisions.

“You have to look at situation,” Gwyn says. “When someone’s in trauma they don’t make the best decisions for themselves because cognizant thinking just does out the window. They’re in fight or flight mode and usually it’s fight mode so the best thing you can do is just be there with a level head.”

There are two situations where you need to take more action, Gwyn says.

First, if there is physical abuse, she recommends you call the police.

Second, if you feel you are helping enable the abuse and/or it’s impacting your wellbeing you have to consider your own health.

“Being there as a friend is one thing but if it gets to a point where if there’s no action, there’s not much you can do. If it’s hurting your psyche or self-esteem or the way you think about things that when you have to walk away.”

5. Help support SOFIA House!

Due to significant constraints on corporate sponsorship in recent years, SOFIA House is facing an approximate $70,000 deficit this year. And when deficits happen, the first thing to get cut is programs for women and children – which are critical to the success of the organization.

Gwyn is currently trying to use her business mind to come up with new and innovative ways to raise funds and there are some new and exciting projects on the go.

But in the meantime, she reminds people that every single dollar that comes in gets put to good use.

“People sometimes have the mindset that financial donations goes to administration or frivolous things. But they don’t – we still have to pay bills and fund our day-to-day operations.

She also likes to remind people that even small donations are hugely appreciated and go a long way.

“Let’s say you have a Tupperware party and put 5% towards a local charity – it doesn’t necessarily need to be us even – you may think it’s only $20 but that money is so important to our organization.”

Learn more about the different ways to donate to SOFIA House.

Note: You are all invited to SOFIA House’s 30th anniversary April 28! They are planning a super cool party at the Italian Club in Regina, featuring magic, mystery and mind blowing fun! Learn more.


Learn more about SOFIA House at