INSIDE THIS ISSUE:
Noam Chomsky articulated and popularized the concept "manufacturing consent", that is, the deliberate orchestration by the powers that be of artificially created mass consent for State policies and actions which may go against the very interests, human security needs, and aspirations of a nation's citizens. Including offering up their sons' and now daughters' lives, limbs and psychological wholeness to an unjustifiable, immoral and, some say, criminal war.
In his article in this issue of CIIAN's newsletter, Dr. Benjamin Hoffman makes the case that the ADR community must address the issue of reducing "political violence" as a necessary pre-condition to fostering effective conflict resolution. In his review of Roméo Dallaire's recent treatise on Rwanda, likewise in this issue, Calvin McKnight demonstrates how the UN's and the world community's inaction exacerbated the extent of the murder and devastation in 1994. And sadly, we haven't learned, as we stand by and idly watch history repeat itself in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Chechnya.
At the June 2004 G-8 meeting, Paul Martin gave Canada's approval, on our behalf and without our consent, to George Bush's so-called larger Middle East democracy plan. The US approach to this region's conflicts is anchored in the imbalance of power and State political violence, thus contributing extensively to the rise of that complementary political violence, international terror. In early 2004, Canada stood idly on the Haiti sidelines and thereby tacitly approved Jean-Bertrand Aristide's unlawful overthrow by a bunch of thugs trained by American special operatives in the Dominican Republic. Granted, Aristide had resorted to some dastardly acts in the wake of conflict-generating conditions manufactured from outside his realm (IMF-imposed restructuring), which had deprived his government of the appropriate economic and political means to address his citizens' most basic needs. But did this justify the illegal overthrow via bloodbath (extra-judicial executions are ongoing in many regions of the country) of a lawfully elected government!
Thanks to his choices on the international scene, Mr. Martin is making all of us, including the ADR community, party to the ill-advised manufacturing of political violence and conflict. And relegating to the trash bin Canada's standing as an honest broker and inter-nations mediator. Lester B. Pearson and Paul Martin Senior must be turning over in their graves. For his part, Stephen Harper would have had us send our sons and daughters to Iraq and is just aching to please the War President. Meanwhile, Paul Martin has told President Bush he might be open to sending troops. And both are committed to committing us, again without our consent, to the wildly delirious but oh so dangerous conflict-manufacturing anti-missile shield.
Violence in all of these lands and many others is not accidental and not only, and often not primarily, a function of their citizens' collective weaknesses, as we often like to pretend. It is largely due to geo-political maneuvering by the larger powers and to the imposition by the unmitigated, greedy transnational profiteers and by the IMF and the World Bank of socially debilitating economic structures and policies. Indeed, as I am writing this, the G-8 countries have refused to cancel Africa's debt, a debt largely artificially created by the world's banking conglomerates, who are raking in huge unearned profits by it, in lockstep with the IMF and the World Bank. This fabricated debt has debilitated Africa's ability to address HIV-AIDS, starvation, deprivation and social structure breakdown, issues that in turn are driving many of the continent's wars and conflicts. And the American and Canadian war industries are wolfing in the profits of this crafted political violence. The means and the willingness to manufacture conflict, and the conflict manufacturers' ability to make others bare the brunt of, as well as pay for, this political violence, appear to know no bounds.
This phenomenon is by no means limited to the international front. The current election could spawn a new cycle of prejudice and intolerance in Canada due to the political construct of the possible Conservative government that features economic degradation, social exclusion and demonization of the other. This righteous politic of division and hate lands on the fertile soil cultivated by Paul Martin and his own ingenuous politic of inequity as evidenced by his gutting of the social safety net and his regressive taxation policies.
The question that must concern ADR practitioners: Will the results of the federal election help alleviate or foster the conditions for conflict and political violence on both the domestic and international stages? And what will be the most useful role of practitioners and peacebuilders in that new reality?
What can we mediators, prosaic and pedestrian as some of us may be, learn from the great literary artists and their classic works? Shakespeare, Dickens, Conrad and many others were, and still are, circuits to the soul. Their greatness was their ability to know and portray in their fiction the essential reality and complexity of human experience. All art does that - that's what it is. However, I choose to explore the classics because they, by definition, have captured the imagination, heart and spirit of millions of people for many years. Not only does that indicate the power and value of what they say about humanity and human interaction; but as well, we must presume that they have had a significant influence on Western culture.
As Benjamin (1995), LeBaron (2002) and others have said that in order to understand and deal with human conflict, people need to go beyond rational, scientific analysis. Our brains are not enough. As LeBaron (2002) says, we need to cultivate other ways of "knowing" - using our emotions, our bodies, our imaginations and intuitions and our souls (what LeBaron refers to as "connected ways of knowing"). Mediators and people in conflict generally need to cultivate and use these other capacities to manage conflict and to transform it. As Benjamin (1995:134) said: "In contrast to the linear thinking frame of traditional professionals, mediators, of necessity, must operate from a systemic or holistic thinking frame." Using these other ways of knowing - heart, mind, body and spirit - are essential to a holistic approach.
For me, exploring classics is one way to cultivate some of these creative and intuitive capacities, and to connect with the otherwise inaccessible power that lies within each of us. For the purposes of this article, I have chosen Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. As I go through this exercise of exploration, I will be using some of my scientific tools of analysis and deduction. As well, I will be trying to open my heart, my mind, my body and my spirit to whatever gems might be there. I would ask you, as reader, to do the same. To the extent that we are successful, the gems you find will be yours, and may be quite different than mine. Feel free to be an active reader, unconstrained by whatever logic or structure I may seem to apply.
In Chapter One of
A Christmas Carol, we meet Scrooge, "a squeezing, wrenching, grasping,
scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner." He is in conflict with
everyone, his nephew (to whom he says his famous "Bah! Humbug!"),
two gentlemen seeking a "slight provision for the Poor and destitute"
and, of course, his humble clerk Bob Cratchit. Scrooge takes refuge in
the law and established social structures - prisons, Union workhouses,
the "Treadmill and the Poor Law". The presenting conflict between
Scrooge and Cratchit is about Cratchit being off work, with pay, on Christmas
The rest of the story is a mediation process between Scrooge and humanity, that is between the epitome of the difficult, cynical, selfish, dysfunctional SOB and all that is good in the human heart and spirit. In Chapter Two, the ghost of Scrooge's dead partner Jacob Marley appears before Scrooge to convene the mediation. Weighed down by a chain "made of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel", Marley's tormented Ghost fills Scrooge with fear. He was straight from Hell. He uses strong or even coercive measures to "persuade" Scrooge to participate in the "mediation" to be conducted by the Three Spirits, as co-mediators. However, we have a clue that something inside Scrooge is ready for, or even seeking, the transformation that he is about to experience. Marley's Ghost says: "How is it that I appear before you in a shape that you can see, I may not tell. I have sat invisible beside you many and many a day."
The Ghost of Christmas Past is the first mediator. When Scrooge asks what business brought him there, the Ghost replies "Your reclamation". A prominent feature of this Ghost is that "from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light", by which all was made visible. When Scrooge begged the Ghost to put his cap on his head, the Ghost replied: "What, would you so soon put out, with worldly hands, the light I give? Is it not enough that you are one of those whose passions made this cap, and force me through the whole train of years to wear it low upon my brow!" Overcoming whatever resistance Scrooge felt, the spirit proceeded to take Scrooge into his past, to see himself as a child, as a brother, a student, a young apprentice accountant in Fezziwig's firm and as a young fiancé with his beloved. The Ghost actively takes Scrooge to confront these memories, over his pleas to the contrary. "Spirit!" said Scrooge, "show me no more! Conduct me home. Why do you delight to torture me?" But the Ghost took Scrooge to one more scene, the home of his former fiancée, now married to another man. After this, Scrooge, beside himself with pain and unable to bear it any longer, grabbed the Ghost's "extinguisher-cap" and tried to force it onto the Spirit's head. "The Spirit dropped beneath it, so that the extinguisher covered its whole form; but though Scrooge pressed it down with all his force, he could not hide the light, which streamed from under it, in an unbroken flood upon the ground." The Ghost's active efforts at de-constructing Scrooge's conflict saturated narrative and the oppressive discourses that support it were opposed by powerful forces indeed. Whether those destructive forces could be externalized or exorcised was yet to be seen.
Next comes the Ghost of Christmas Present. In taking Scrooge to various places, including Bob Cratchit's and, later, to his nephew Fred's place, one of this Spirit's principal "strategies" is to allow Scrooge to see himself through others' eyes - to hold up the mirror. Even though each of their wives is of a mind to write off Scrooge for good, both Cratchit and Fred speak respectfully of Scrooge and, during their Christmas festivities, toast his health. In allowing Scrooge to see and connect with the goodness of his "adversaries", the bridge is laid. Scrooge and the second spirit went many places in a few short hours. "Much they saw, and far they went, and many homes they visited, but always with a happy end. The Spirit stood beside sick beds, and they were cheerful; on foreign lands, and they were close at home; by struggling men, and they were patient in their greater hope; by poverty, and it was rich. In almshouse, hospital, and jail, in misery's every refuge, where vain man in his little brief authority had not made fast the door and barred the Spirit out, he left his blessing, and taught Scrooge his precepts."
The final phase of this mediation was conducted by the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. They attend a funeral, a den of robbers with items they stole from the dead man, the deceased's death room, the home of debtors given temporary reprieve by the man's death and finally the graveyard where Scrooge finally sees his own gravestone. Woven into this are scenes of the goodness of Bob Cratchit and Scrooge's nephew Fred and the Spirit of Tiny Tim, whose "childish essence was from God." I find this final phase more difficult to understand than the first two, although it seems that it was necessary to finish off the "old Scrooge" once and for all and to bring Scrooge's transformation to completion. So, as Dickens calls his final chapter, that is "The End of it".
This analysis illustrates the power of the Classics as inspiration for allowing the practitioner's senses and intuition to do some of the walking in mediation interventions. And the need to not overly constrict the art of mediation by excessively regimenting the intervention.
Benjamin, Robert. "The Mediator as Trickster: The Folkloric Figure as Professional Role Model", Mediation Quarterly 13(2) Winter 1995:131-149.
Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol and Other Stories. New York: Modern Library, 2001.
LeBaron, Michelle. Bridging Troubled Waters: Conflict Resolution from the Heart. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002.
by Rena Ramkay, Director, Special Programs
The Public Service Modernization Act (PSMA) received royal assent in November 2003. The Act is intended to update the previous human resources management framework of the federal government. Facing a shrinking and competitive labour market, changing demographics, both in terms of age and representativeness, the need to ensure ability and capacity, and the need to improve its image, the government has begun to take measures to reform the public service. Among its primary objectives are the preservation of a merit-based, non partisan workforce, a more flexible and modern staffing regime to help departments compete more effectively for skilled employees, a more cooperative working relationship between management, staff and their respective representatives, a healthy and productive workplace, and an integrated framework for public service learning to enhance staff development and retention.
With a view to improving the labour-management relationship in the public sector, the PSMA seeks to address key irritants in the present regime, improve collective bargaining through enhanced mediation and conciliation, and enable effective conflict management. A number of these objectives are to be implemented under the Public Service Labour Relations Board (PSLRB). An Informal Conflict Management System (ICMS) is seen as an essential component of public service revitalization, and all deputy departmental heads are required to establish, in consultation with employee unions and professional associations, a framework to handle staff conflicts and grievances which are more appropriately dealt with in an informal way.
Peter Sterne, who established the Conflict Management System at the Department of National Defence, has been closely involved in the development of ICMS for public service renewal. He is now the Executive Director of the Centre for Conflict Education and Research at Carleton University, as well as President of Stratum Associates Ltd. I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter about the new PSMA, and here is what he had to say.
"How have you been involved in the PSMA?"
I have been involved from a very early stage. I guess I have been there from even the conceptual phase several years ago when senior officials recognized that the time had come to review the terms, conditions, policies and procedures associated with employment and labour relations in the Public Service. A Task Force was established under the direction of R. Quail, and I was asked to provide advice relating to the potential applications of ADR and broader conflict management initiatives. I am told that the success of the Conflict Management System that I established at the Department of National Defence was, in part, a catalyst for the new, emerging interest in ADR by the public service as a whole.
Bill C-25 was promulgated in November 2003. The Public Service Modernization Act was established to modernize staffing, labour relations, learning and human resources in the public service by enacting a new Public Service Employment Act and Public Service Labour Relations Act, and by amending the Canadian Centre for Management Development Act and the Financial Administration Act - a massive, highly complicated undertaking.
With assent to the Act, a number of committees were established and chaired by Deputy Ministers. One of these was the DM Sub-Committee on Labour Relations and Dispute Resolution. A working group was formed on Informal Conflict Management Systems. I co-chaired this Committee. Its role was to develop guiding principles and success factors for Deputy Heads; develop options for service delivery models for small, medium, large departments; identify cost implications associated with various models; develop an inventory of practices; identify policy, guidelines, directives required from Treasury Board; identify evaluation and reporting requirements; identify learning requirements for managers, Unions, employees; and provide recommendations on communications strategies.
"How does the PSMA promote ADR in the workplace?"
The Public Service Labour Relations Act (s207- Conflict Management) states that "subject to any policies established by the employer or any directives issued by it, every Deputy Head in the core public administration, must, in consultation with the bargaining agents representing employees in the core public administration for which he or she is deputy head, establish an informal conflict management system and inform the employees in that portion of its availability." This is a major initiative and a positive sign for the application of ADR.
An informal conflict management system (ICMS) can be defined as a systematic approach to the prevention, management and resolution of conflict through the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and other interest-based, collaborative processes (which complement existing rights-based processes). It is directly related to what we often call an integrated conflict management system.
"What goals will be achieved by s207 - ICMS?"
The Informal Conflict Management System (ICMS) should encourage early action for the resolution of workplace disputes at the lowest possible level; encourage a collaborative, problem-solving culture; be comprehensive - covering all types of problems for all people; and be more flexible and have a lesser degree of formality than some of the more confrontational, rights-based approaches. It should be simple to use and resolve disputes early in the process. I refer to some of the advantages as the 4 F's- Flexible, Fast, Friendly (user) and Fair.
likely to facilitate its success?"
"What will be the main challenges in implementation?"
The main challenge will be to ensure that all stakeholders are involved in the design of the system. Neutrality and impartiality will be key. Capacity, both human and financial, will be an issue. On a previous occasion I presented a spectrum of options to the working group consisting of five models ranging from lower-impact, lower-cost to higher-impact, higher-cost models. I understand that these have been presented to the Deputy Ministers' Committee for consideration.
These capacity challenges are one of the reasons that I recently accepted the position of Executive Director of the newly formed Centre for Conflict Education and Research (CCER) at Carleton University. CCER's mandate is to provide conflict management system design services, training services, interventions and research in conflict resolution. It will provide a number of Graduate and Professional Certificate programs as well as Mediator Certification programs.
As chronicled in Shake Hands With The Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, Romeo Dallaire's experiences in Central Africa during the genocide of 1994 give testimony to the immense challenges faced by any humanitarian response to conflict at the end of the twentieth century. These challenges, complicated by geopolitics and the limited self-interest of nations like Canada, call into question the international community's ongoing commitment to intervention in situations of civil war and genocide.
More than anything else, Dallaire's book is a firsthand account of his time in Kigali leading United Nations efforts to implement the Arusha Peace Agreement, signed by the RPF (Rwanda Patriotic Front) and the Government of Rwanda in August 1993. Prior to Rwanda's descent into chaos in April of 1994, Dallaire's efforts at moving forward with the peace process are met with a combination of scepticism, mutual mistrust and duplicity by the various Hutu and Tutsi factions. In addition, the presence of a 'shadow force' that seemed to be pulling Rwanda inexorably towards extremism and ethnic cleansing (foreshadowing the genocide that was to come) is a force that Dallaire struggles to confront, and is ultimately unsuccessful in dealing with effectively.
Once the genocide begins, Shake Hands With The Devil acts as an almost daily diary of how the situation deteriorated and how little opportunity there was for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) to positively influence the events that transpired. The death of ten Belgian peacekeepers shortly after the start of the genocide, the severe lack of resources (in terms of peacekeeping staff and materiel), the murder of prominent moderate Hutus in Kigali, the systematic cleansing of Tutsis across those regions of Rwanda not under RPF control - it is a story almost too painful to tell. In the end, Dallaire's voice as an eyewitness allows us to put in perspective events that have largely disappeared from our collective memory over the intervening years.
For those interested in peacebuilding, peacekeeping and conflict intervention efforts around the globe, Dallaire's account is instructive as an indictment of a United Nations and an international community characterized throughout the crisis by indecision and inaction. There is anger that not enough was done and frustration that he personally could not have done more to save many of those around him from what was in many cases, certain death at the hands of the interahamwe (the young Hutu militants who incited the violence and were responsible for much of the genocide). This frustration and despair have stayed with Dallaire, as recent interviews with him after the publication of the book and at the time of his testimony to the Rwandan war crimes trials currently underway in Tanzania have illustrated. The book closes with Romeo Dallaire's departure from Rwanda, shortly after the installation of a new civilian government led by Pasteur Bizimungu, from the RPF - a guilt-ridden and emotional farewell to what had once been "a tiny paradise on earth".
Since his account is so focused on his experience of the genocide, very little time is spent on providing any analysis of the background to the conflict (in terms of the history of Rwanda and the history of relations between Hutus and Tutsis in Central Africa) or on the experience of Rwanda since 1994, as it tries to reconcile itself to its recent past. Since this is clearly not the purpose of this kind of biographical work, those interested in understanding the deep-rooted causes of the genocide will need to look elsewhere. To that end, Dallaire provides a recommended reading list to close the book. For further (and recent) reading on the Rwandan genocide from a Canadian perspective, Gil Courtemanche's novel Sunday At The Pool In Kigali provides an account of the genocide from the perspective of a French-Canadian journalist staying at the Hotel Milles Collines in Kigali at that time. For an analysis of the historical precedents of the genocide and Rwanda's efforts at reconciliation since 1994, Mahmood Mamdani's When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda is a very useful academic account. We have much still to learn from the Rwandan genocide, and Romeo Dallaire's pained and personal account of what it was like to be a nearly helpless bystander to that kind of history helps us question what it is like to be human, and what we can do to make sure that this doesn't happen again.
What would happen if the focus of the conflict resolution and peacebuilding field centred explicitly on the goal of ending violence? Why would we do this? And how could this be accomplished on a worldwide basis?
Making our goal the prevention and elimination of political violence would re-direct valuable and limited resources to the true obstacle of creating peace. Conflict is not the enemy of peace; violence is. A focus on preventing and reducing violence is neither a knee-jerk reaction to the current ascendancy of neo-con thinking nor a direct response only to the real and perceived threat of terrorism. The key impetus is that, as peace workers know, both direct and structural violence must be removed for justice to be possible, for peace to grow.
At first glance, however, embracing the prevention and elimination of political violence seems a daunting task. The term "political violence" is itself controversial, especially where states are concerned. "Conflict" prevention and "post-conflict" peacebuilding are more comfortable euphemisms when one is really talking about violence. So there is the issue of optics. And there is a real concern that focusing on violence does not produce a reactionary backlash, a retrenchment to a law and order paradigm, let alone a "shock and awe" mentality.
But conflict resolution is under some duress. Funds are declining, well-documented stories of success have hardly seen the light of day as "homeland security" and reconstructing countries invaded by the USA and coalitions of the "willing" take precedence. Some genuine concerns mixed with fear and what often seems to be an unstable world have produced hard-nosed, narrow, and likely inadequate responses. People and organizations committed to peace through the use of a variety of tools and techniques applied under the rubric of conflict resolution and peacebuilding need to confront cynicism, hold fast, be real, and be relevant.
One step forward has been put in motion in an initiative to create an International Academy for the Reduction of Political Violence (International Academy).
The International Academy is envisaged as a global network of key research and training centres and scholar-practitioners collaborating intensively over a five-year period to move the practice of violence prevention, peacemaking, and peacebuilding a leap forward so as to generate a direct downward impact on the levels of violence in the world and to help restore humanity's sense of confidence in the future.
The International Academy is a concept arising from a year-long research fellowship conducted by Dr. Benjamin Hoffman (President and CEO of Concorde Inc. and co-founder of CIIAN) at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. Dr. Hoffman left his post as the Director, Conflict Resolution, at The Carter Centre to conduct this meta level study on violence prevention, mediation and post-violence peacebuilding.
After an extensive literature review and interviews with over 20 authorities in the field of conflict resolution and peacebuilding, Hoffman has identified a Knowledge-Action gap. Technical knowledge and good intentions are insufficient. Action to prevent political violence, to stop the killing when it has broken out, and to re-build war torn societies is not taken often enough, or for long enough to achieve the changes being sought. Political actors responsible for authorizing these activities are not sufficiently seized of the need to act. This gap between knowledge and action must be bridged.
The International Academy seeks, in part, to address this gap by activating and professionalizing the practice of violence reduction and peacebuilding. The International Academy's mission is to contribute directly to the reduction of political violence in the world by systematizing the generation of knowledge in violence reduction and peacebuilding, by supporting the education and training of practitioners on the basis of empirically tested "best practices", by setting standards of practice and instilling a culture of continuous learning, and by identifying and rewarding individual and institutional innovation.
A Committee to Found the International Academy has been established to assist with its formation and launch; the Committee welcomes comments and engagement.
The International Academy for the Reduction of Political Violence is one step on the road of transformation and growth for the field, a road that will lead to more effective actions in ending political violencei.
i To read more about the International Academy for the Reduction of Political Violence or the research report that spawned the concept, please see www.newmathforhumanity.com
For four days this June, downtown Kitchener, Ontario was crawling with the country's most experienced conflict resolution practitioners as well as with many enthusiastic newcomers to the field. What was the reason for this peaceful takeover? The Conflict Resolution Network of Canada was back at it with its 8th biennial conference: Interaction 2004! Between June 2nd and 5th, the Network invited its members to "Come Back to the Core." The theme inspired practitioners to reflect on the emergence of their field over the last thirty years and the core principles behind their work.
The conference, organized in partnership with Community Justice Initiatives of Kitchener, kicked off on Wednesday with full-day institutes on a variety of topics. The institutes gave participants an opportunity to work in depth within groups, building skills and sharing experiences on a specific area of interest in the field of conflict resolution. The topics varied from restorative justice to workplace conflict to city planning and beyond. Thursday and Friday were packed with half-day presentations. With more than ten workshops to choose from in each time slot, participants were sure to find a session that met their interests. Workshops ranged from the very theoretical to the very practical, exploring training, mediation, education, restorative justice, coaching, facilitation and much more. The Chair of CIIAN's Executive Committee, David Daubney, gave a presentation on the growth of restorative justice in Canada, a movement in which he has had a seminal influence.
The highlight of the conference was the opening banquet held at the Four Points Sheraton on the Wednesday night. Participants greeted old friends and made new ones while enjoying the meal. The program for the evening, "Celebrating the Beginnings," included a panel discussion and storytelling from Dave Worth and Mark Yantzi, the initiators of the Elmira case - a pioneering victim offender reconciliation process. Among others joining Yantzi and Worth on stage were the judge, an offender, and a victim from the original vandalism case in Elmira, Ontario that set off the international movement of restorative justice. Thirty years later, less than fifteen miles to the south, we had come back to the core.
In 1974 Yantzi, a probation officer, recommended to a judge that two teenagers who had gone on a drunken rampage of vandalism in the small town of Elmira be required to meet their victims and pay back their out-of-pocket losses as part of their sentences. The panel related the details of the story to a riveted audience. One of the offenders from the Elmira case, Russ Kelly, inspired all present with the story of how two years ago, he had unwittingly come across the organization that sprang from that first case, Community Justice Initiatives, and now volunteers with them, visiting schools and doing victim offender mediations. He received a standing ovation from the crowd after expressing his gratitude to all those involved in his case, affirming that his life would have turned out much differently had he been jailed for his wrongdoing.
The banquet was also the occasion for the presentation of a new award being sponsored by the Network. Dean Peachy received the first Conflict Resolution Network Canada National Award of Excellence for his dedication to the field. Mr. Peachy is the founder of the Network, was integral to the establishment of Community Justice Initiatives in Kitchener, and currently works with Menno Simons College in Winnipeg. Next year the Network will also honour a newcomer to the field with an Innovator's Award.
Aside from the numerous sessions over the three days, participants also enjoyed plenary sessions during lunches. Wednesday's lunch gave participants a chance to learn more about participatory justice as Law Commission of Canada President Nathalie Des Rosiers spoke to the group about this synthesis of consensus-based and restorative justice. Thursday Mary Gordon from Roots of Empathy spoke about her school program, which seeks to develop emotional skills in elementary-age schoolchildren.
The Network never rests, hence there were plenty of activities planned during the downtime of the conference. On Thursday night, participants celebrated Oktoberfest in June with beer and song at an authentic German club. Friday, an outdoor concert called Peacefest rocked the Kitchener city hall. The concert featured drumming, singing and dancing for all to enjoy. Saturday night, many headed to Shakespeare, Ontario for a performance of Barn Talk, a play about all the things you're not supposed to talk about!
This year was my first Interaction conference but I can emphatically say it will not be my last. The Network hosted a great conference: great atmosphere, great people. The conference is also a great place to build conflict resolution resources, both through the excellent selection of conflict resolution books for sale and the depth of experience and insight available from the hundreds of participants and presenters. It is striking that the conference brings together such an incredible variety of interests and an overwhelming amount of commitment to the work. All the people I spoke to and heard from left me feeling my enthusiasm for conflict resolution reenergized.
Those faithful souls who stayed for the entire conference enjoyed a great Saturday morning shopping in the marketplace of ideas. Throughout the morning, participants chose from several fifty-minute sessions. To close off the event, the Inter-Mennonite Children's choir sang songs of peace and hope and Gordon Sloan summed up the four days with his great storytelling talents. By the time he was done, he even had us all snapping our fingers and rhyming along! It was a great conclusion to a fabulous conference.
The next conference, Interaction 2006, will be held in Winnipeg. For more information about the Network, visit http://www.crnetwork.ca.
1. Peter Bishop (613)
The above named practitioners are registered with the Canadian International Institute of Applied Negotiation (CIIAN). Registration attests to the fact that they have successfully completed the Institute's 120 hour program and submitted a Practitioner's Portfolio which includes subscription to a code of practice. The Institute, however, is not a governing body and is not responsible for the practice of those listed. We do, however, provide these names to potential clients.
Richard Moore (613)