The crime fighter’s revolution — police in Canadian town use trauma-informed approach

This is brilliant work happening in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. It is an approach to community violence that works across boundaries (police, social workers, etc.)– called “trauma-informed” or “Community Mobilization”.

ACEs Too High

crime….but they don’t call it trauma-informed. They call it Community Mobilization.

This is a must-read about a police department in the small Canadian town of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, pop. 35,000, that was dealing with 35,000 calls a year, which was double the number in 2001. The calls were on track to double again in eight years, until the department instituted what they call Community Mobilization, a concept they borrowed from police in Glasgow, Scotland.

Here’s an excerpt from the excellent story by Winnipeg Free Press reporter Randy Turner.

Seated around the table are representatives from every policing and social-services agency in the city: addictions, municipal police and RCMP, mental health, child services, probation, education. The works.

The analyst cites the first “case” — a 13-year-old girl recently reported missing by a guardian and found intoxicated by patrol officers. The girl was returned to her home. She had been truant…

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Models of Nonviolence

I find this list of “models of nonviolence” to be a helpful introduction to some ways that people can think about and practice nonviolence. Oddly, it is missing two key figure: Gandhi and MLK Jr (although they are represented in the “Links” section). However, there are some stellar examples of lived ethics in each person they identify– and I salute them for including three women!

See the “Models of N-V” tab at their website: http://www.nonviolencefestival.com/

The Nonviolence Festival itself is based in Waterloo, and is a group of volunteers that work together to plan and promote events that “raise awareness about the importance of nonviolence.” To see their activities, go to the link above.

Nonviolence Canada: grassroots activism in Ottawa

I just came across this organization, Nonviolence Canada. They provide nonviolence training workshops based on the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (i.e. Kingian Nonviolence). As their blog explains, they are an Ottawa-based grassroots organization with the following intentions:

  1. Introducing Kingian Nonviolence to Canadians through two-day interactive workshops.  This provides a common understanding of  concepts, terminology and a concise framework (embodied in 6 principles and 6 steps).
  2. Helping people to think about what nonviolence means to them and what it means to apply it in their lives.
  3. Evolving the concepts, terminology and  framework espoused by Martin Luther King, Jr. to encompass Canadian perspectives on nonviolence.

Their website can be found here: http://amydillonnv.wordpress.com/about/

The Non Violence International Film Festival

This is an amazing event that takes place from 1 p.m. – 11 p.m., on Saturday, October 19, 2013 at the Galt Little Theatre, in Cambridge, Ontario. Tickets are already on sale for the NVIFF here: http://nviff2013.eventbrite.ca/#

You can check out the schedule of films here: http://www.nviff.com/films.cfm?sched

Steve Cross, the Festival’s founder and director, has this to say about his endeavor:

The NVIFF (Non Violence International Film Festival) is a celebration of cinema where the subject matter and or themes are encouraged to celebrate and explore the human condition as well as ideas and concepts of Non Violence in all forms.

The Festivals mandate is to screen films that educate, challenge, inspire and entertain us through documentaries, animated and live action films without promoting violence or discrimination of any kind.

“We love the cinematic experience and storytelling. We have learned that when you focus a film festival in the unique way that we have, you open the tap to receive films that are typically flying under the radar. Films that are produced with such integrity, passion and skill that it’s a wonder how they haven’t penetrated the main stream. It has been a real pleasure and an incredible honor to have been able to bring so many of these films to our community over the years. Telling stories is unique to the human condition and we hope to continue celebrating films that speak to the heart and inspire the mind.”

All I can say is “Go Ontario!!!!” (and Steve Cross) for such an inspiring, ambitious project!

Teaching children empathy

One of the most fundamental ways to create nonviolent communities is to start early– that is, with early childhood education. Based in Toronto, Seeds of Empathy (http://www.seedsofempathy.org/) is an organization that does exactly that. Their mission, in the words of Founder/President Mary Gordon, is as follows:

Empathy is the ultimate human trait. It is the connective tissue that allows us to realize our shared humanity – our emotions. One of the milestones of the last century was Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon. He said “that’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.” It is our hope that in this century we will learn to walk in one another’s shoes– empathy.

Working with early childhood educators, Seeds of Empathy uses literacy training as a means of teaching children ages 3-5 to identify feelings in others. They describe their program in this way:

We teach a series of themes, each on a three-week cycle. During the first and second weeks of each cycle, Literacy Coaches (specially-trained staff members from the [Early Childhood Education] Centre) read and discuss books with small groups of children. In the third week, a Family Guide (another specially-trained staff member) hosts a Family Visit, where a baby (two to four months old at the beginning of the course) and his/her parent(s) visit the children in the Centre for half an hour. The Family Guide encourages the children to observe the baby’s development, to label the baby’s feelings, and to talk about their own feelings and those of others.

Seeds of Empathy is an off-shoot of a larger international organization (also based in Toronto) called Roots of Empathy (http://www.rootsofempathy.org/), one that attempts to reduce levels of aggression (eg. bullying) among schoolchildren by increasing empathy and “raising social/emotional competence”. Their experiential approach to education is fascinating, and the following discussion of emotional literacy (found on their website) does a good job at explaining how real-life interaction leads to mental and social growth in children:

At the heart of the program are a neighbourhood infant and parent who visit the classroom every three weeks over the school year. A trained Roots of Empathy Instructor coaches students to observe the baby’s development and to label the baby’s feelings. In this experiential learning, the baby is the “Teacher” and a lever, which the instructor uses to help children identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others. This “emotional literacy” taught in the program lays the foundation for more safe and caring classrooms, where children are the “Changers”. They are more competent in understanding their own feelings and the feelings of others (empathy) and are therefore less likely to physically, psychologically and emotionally hurt each other through bullying and other cruelties. In the Roots of Empathy program children learn how to challenge cruelty and injustice. Messages of social inclusion and activities that are consensus building contribute to a culture of caring that changes the tone of the classroom. The Instructor also visits before and after each family visit to prepare and reinforce teachings using a specialized lesson plan for each visit. Research results from national and international evaluations of Roots of Empathy indicate significant reductions in aggression and increases in pro-social behaviour.

A fascinating organization, and a very worthwhile endeavour.