“WE TEACH WHO WE ARE.”
… PARKER PALMER
I come by conflict naturally. I’m the daughter of an immigrant mother who was displaced by war, which I discuss in my TEDx talk. I grew up knowing that my mother lost her homeland, her family, her community and her identity because people couldn’t figure out how to get along and chose a violent, power-over solution. I knew that war was something that shouldn’t be entered into lightly, was very costly, and very, very painful.
Growing up in urban Montreal, I also remember the tanks rolling in during the FLQ crisis.
Conflict was scary!
At the same time I was willing to “take it on” if the cause was right. I was writing letters to the editor at 15, but afraid of the classroom bully. It wasn’t until my friend Marie-Josee told me in grade 10 that I didn’t need to run over every time the bully called my name, that I was finally free of her hold on me.
As you can see, I come by coaching naturally too – it worked for me!
Fast-forward a few years, and I moved out West and earned a Bacherlor’s Degree in English Literature and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Applied Linguistics (Teaching E.S.L.) from the University of Victoria in B.C. Within a month of graduating, I was on a plane bound for Japan to teach English for a year.
Living in an Asian culture which favoured communal values over individual ones was a great teacher for me. I saw how important community could be. Not having a strong community growing up, that lesson was all the more bitter-sweet for me. Belonging became intertwined with culture and identity.
I came back to Victoria and got my first “real job” after Japan. I helped start the first Fringe Festival in Victoria in 1987 – doing both the marketing and the coordinating of volunteers.
After the inaugural year, I moved to Edmonton to marry the man who started the Fringe!
In Edmonton, my career took another turn as I found a job matching newly-arrived refugees to Canadian volunteers and stayed in that job for the following 4 years.
That experience was another huge turning point in my life and introduced me to many things, including what it is to be Canadian – especially through the eyes of the multitude of cultures I came in contact with every day of my work life there. It was a tremendous privilege to interact with staff, volunteers and refugees who all came from such varied and rich backgrounds and cultures.
I left Catholic Social Services (Immigration and Settlement Division) to start to support managers of volunteers. I was the key trainer for the local Volunteer Centre, travelling to small centres in Alberta with my message of how to recruit volunteers (manage better!).
By this time, I had heard of mediation and was intrigued. Edmonton had a fabulous community mediation program which I joined in 1993.
As part of the offering, we got 70 hours of training in mediation – some of it from Gordon Sloan – one of Canada’s premier conflict resolution trainers at the time – and to today!
I was in heaven! I learned that conflict doesn’t always have to be combative, end in misery or be avoided (my top strategies to that point).
I was full of hope.
Then I mediated my first case! I still remember my first co-mediator, Susan Sharpe and I trudging out on a snowy January evening to Millwoods in Edmonton.
I apparently spent most of the session with my legs securely wrapped around each other like a pretzel! I was scared. Here were these two sets of neighbours, who’d lived beside each other for years and they hated each other. What was I supposed to do?
From that rocky start, I went on to co-mediate a variety of community, civil claim and victim-offender mediation cases over the following 5 years. This time period culminated in a job share position running the Victim Offender Mediation Project (which later merged with Edmonton Community Mediation).
It was here that my colleague Ashley Daniel and I helped shepherd through a book written by Susan on Restorative Justice.
Soon after, I had a baby and my family and I moved to Victoria. I joined the teaching team at the Centre for Conflict Resolution at the Justice Institute – where I’ve been a Conflict Coach in their Mediation and Negotiation Program since 1998.
After a three-year stint concurrently on the teaching team at Royal Roads University Masters in Conflict Management and Analysis, I caught the professional coaching bug.
I’d been coaching for years as part of my professional responsibilities at the Justice Institute, but now here was a whole profession springing up!
I got my Coaching Certificate in 2005 from the Graduate School of Coaching, taking tele-classes taught directly with the founder of the profession Thomas Leonard.
Most recently, I received my professional coaching designation from The International Coach Federation.
After concentrating on coaching for a few years, opportunity knocked. I became part of the leadership coaching company, The Leaders Edge, in 2005 and through that experience, starting mediating again.
Since then, I’ve been balancing workplace mediation with leadership coaching (mostly by phone) and training (face-to-face or tele-classes). Together with my monthly newsletter HEN – and the miracle of the internet – I’ve been privileged to touch the lives of countless people in conflict around the world.
Phone: 250–381–7522 • E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org