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MAKING PEACE AND STAYING DIFFERENT:
THE DISPUTE RESOLUTION CENTRE
by Eleanor Powell
"If you see somebody will you know him?" - Igala-Nigerian Saying
Not long ago, a young Central American, who had left his country when family members were taken by military police, came to use because he couldn't understand why his neighbour was always checking license plates outside the apartment. It turned out that the neighbour was a member of an eastern European minority, and well used to police secretly checking on citizens. He had a compulsion to identify visitors to assure himself that he was in no danger.
It took some time for our mediator to sort out the reasons for the strange activities, and to discover the similarities in the two mens' backgrounds: both needed a place to be safe and have reliable, trusted neighbours.
It is surprising that Canadians of European background have taken so long to recognize that cooperative and respectful ways of resolving differences work better than adversarial processes to build stable societies. Many immigrants will be familiar with Dispute Resolution Centre methods, with mediation as a core service.
Mediation, as practiced in Canada, involves an impartial third person to assist people in resolving disputes. The mediator is neither and advocate from either party, but is there to guide the process so all sides get a chance to talk about what concerns them most. Mediation provides a safe environment where people can discuss their disputes and work out their own mutually satisfactory solutions.
Sometimes no resolution results, but with greater mutual understanding, the problem disappears.
In one case, a Japanese homeowner came to us for help in working out a fairer arrangement with his caucasian gardener. The gardener appeared to be charging too much, and working too little. He was willing to come and discuss what was fair. The two parted with considerably more mutual respect.
Each culture views conflict through its own special perspective. Within any particular group, people may want to deal with disputes within that group. But there are many instances where mediation by a trained, impartial mediator from the Centre may be more effective in bringing parties together - even within families.
Sometimes, a son or daughter who had adopted popular practices and speaks English may be at odds with elders who keep to more traditional ways. Wives may wish to work outside the home. Husbands, too, will find their roles changing in the new country. These differences may be better addressed with the help of someone who is familiar with popular Canadian values. Our mediators can't pretend to have special knowledge or experience of other cultural traditions, but we are committed to approaching clients' differing values and beliefs with respect and sensitivity.
As well as mediation services, the Centre has recently started training programmes in conflict management for those who have limited financial resources. Named the Compass Programmer, we hope to attract people from the north, east, west and south.
Eleanor Powell, trainer / mediator and past president with the Dispute Resolution Centre, is a retired physician and is associated with "Physicians for Global Survival".
The Youth of Indian Origin Collective was established with the help of the Inter-Cultural Association in 199? for self-identified youth of Indian origins, to establish place for them to discuss issues that affect them. If you want to join the collective, call Randip Prihar at 216-697? or Meharoona Ghani at 721-2207.
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