In Memoriam: Lucya SpencerFebruary 15, 2017
It is with profound sadness that we at OLIP learned today of the passing of Lucya Spencer. Lucya was a great friend, colleague, and leader who worked tirelessly on behalf of some of the most vulnerable people in our community. We wish to express our deepest condolences to Lucya’s family and friends.
Lucya provided incredible leadership as the co-chair of our language sector table since OLIP’s inception in 2009. Throughout her career, she always combined strong sense of social justice with extraordinary compassion and courage.
Through her work, Lucya was a strong voice for vulnerable immigrant women. Shortly after immigrating from Antigua, she became involved with the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISCO). OCISCO hired her as a coordinator of a centre where women could acquire information, engage in workshops on different themes and learn more about the integration process.
In 1988, Lucya co-founded Immigrant Women Services Ottawa (IWSO), becoming its executive director in 1993. At IWSO, Lucya worked tirelessly to help immigrant women settle and integrate and personally assisted them to overcome a myriad of challenges. IWSO provides culturally appropriate services to immigrant women and their children who are victims or survivors of violence, along with many other services and programs.
In addition to her full-time job, Lucya was actively involved in many advocacy groups at the national and provincial levels. She served as president of several organizations, including the Immigrant and Visible Minority Women’s organization, and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, the Children’s Aid Society, and the Pinecrest and Queensway Community Health Centre. She was the first woman of colour to hold the position of President of the Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa.
Throughout her long career she won many awards for her activism and long-standing service to the community. In some ways it’s her impact on individual women that best reflected the essence of Lucya. A woman who became a volunteer at IWSO tells this story after she experienced abuse:
That night, Lucya hugged me and enveloped me with kindness. She arranged to have me attend school and then work, and then she helped me find a transition home and then a permanent home. Lucya gave my life meaning and dignity.
Ottawa has lost a cherished leader today, who will be remembered for her strength, courage and empathy for others. Lucya and her legacy will continue to inspire many in our community for generations to come.