I’ve been a mediator for almost 30 years. I started by co-mediated with other volunteer mediators. We took on neighbour disputes (you know – barking dogs, overhanging trees, fence disputes). Two of us volunteer mediators would go out after someone had called the police or a bylaw officer, since most of our referrals came from those sources. Then I volunteered to mediate adult criminal court disputes – mischief charges, minor assault charges, eventually taking over the criminal court mediation program with a co-Director for a few more years.
Then I started mediating workplace disputes – which has become my focus and passion for a few decades. And, what I know to be true, is that conflict is everywhere!  In the workplace context, I’ve mediated employee to employee conflicts, boss to employee, union represented employee to management and so on. I’ve mediated conflicts in hospitals, university and colleges, and in all three levels of government. I’ve mediated conflicts in non-profits, for tech companies, between couples (just a few of those – too hard!).
I’ve mediated 100s of conflicts between people and many of them settle!
What’s my secret?
Well, near the beginning of my career, I gave a talk at a national conflict resolution conference for my peers called “Interaction ‘96” – held in Edmonton, Alberta in 1996.
The topic I chose to present on was “An Apple for the Mediator.” 
I still remember my basic premise: that when we mediate, we are also teaching. We are modeling behaviour by how we interact with disputants and how we coach them before mediation and during.

I’ve always held an educator’s lens to peacemaking. It’s in my bones. I’m an oldest sibling, so teaching my brother came naturally. Then I studied how to teach English as a second language, how to teach aerobics, how to teach the management of volunteers, how to teach conflict resolution.  I love to teach!

Then, I went back to school a few years ago, and got my Master in….
Educational Psychology! 
It was during that time that I was introduced to the power that is inherent in education.  I had already heard of rebel educator Paulo Freire and my Masters degree reinforced democratic ideas of his like:
“Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”

*Education is freedom.”

“The teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is him taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach.”

These kind of democratic ideas about education have been with me for many years, since I went to a college in my late teens that was non-hierarchical. We marked ourselves with our own grades and decided ourselves what we wanted to learn.

All these experiences have added up to my belief that education is the greatest tool of peace there is! I am proud to say I’ve been on faculty at the Justice Institute of BC’s Centre for Conflict Resolution for decades as well as their Centre for Leadership. I’ve also taught at the University of Victoria for many years and up at Royal Roads University. I’ve taught privately as well. 

It’s education that can set us free.

So that is my secret! I go into conflict believing that people, for the most part, want to be in love, people want to do the right thing. I believe we are inherently a peaceful species. What we don’t have is a way out. When I work with people and show them sometimes simple things they can do to shift the conflict to more stasis, harmony, peace, they do it!

Of course, there are exceptions, but with one sub-set of exception – the “High Conflict personality” – I have Bill Eddy and Michael Lomax to thank here from the High Conflict Institute. They have worked with many people who seem to enjoy conflict, who seek it out and who certainly seem to wreak havoc around them. Yet, even those who can struggle the most with conflict also, at the root of it all, want to feel respected in their communication.

How do you see human nature, fundamentally? Do you think we mostly want to do the right thing and would if we knew how?

That drives me and inspires me!

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” … Nelson Mandela.