Monique Browne is a Toronto-based family mediator with a background in crisis counseling and psychotherapy. She emphasizes the importance of cultural sensitivity in mediation and prioritizes the safety and comfort of her clients. She has been involved in community mediation with the Afro-Caribbean community in Toronto and has worked on the Women in Mediation Action Group at MBBI.
Monique worked in crisis counseling for over ten years, where she practiced psychotherapy with women, children and youth who had experienced violence and abuse. Through this work, she noticed that many of the women who came to her were engaged with other systems, such as the child welfare system, the family law system, Criminal Justice system or the social assistance system. She also recognized that most women’s issues were far more complex than what was initially apparent. Often having to mediate conflict in her clinical role, Monique began to consider the possibility of attending law school. However, her long-standing interest in law was tempered as she remained attuned to the fact that the legal system had not been created fairly and was in need of significant change. Monique was prompted to explore mediation instead. Most recently she obtained her Master of Laws- Specializing in Dispute Resolution from Osgoode Hall Law School in December 2020. Monique works largely in family mediation and is also a Family Group Conference Coordinator.
Culture and Community
Since becoming a mediator, Monique has done community mediation in the Afro-Caribbean community and through her private practice Gateway To Change- Dispute Resolution Services. In these sessions, Monique creates culturally specific environments, including food and music which are meant to help the community feel safer and more at home. Monique has noticed an increase in discussions surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion within the field of mediation. She continues to emphasize the importance of cultural responsiveness and humility in mediators, as cultural factors can play a significant role in how people react to certain developments. This factor, she says, is something the legal system fails to acknowledge and address. Monique explains that law often overlooks factors like marginality or “other active components pertaining to that individual that could really impact how they’re showing up and how they’re displaying their emotions, thoughts, and fears.” Furthermore, the legal system is unable to account for changes in circumstances, something that Monique tries to be very adaptable to as a mediator. To this end, she ensures that she remains flexible to the needs of her clients, maintaining evening and weekend hours in order to accommodate their various schedules. She holds that mediators “have to be able to know that the situations can change, material circumstances can change, which will affect the way the parties appear, and as such, we and they must deal with the current situation at hand.” Though mediation is not perfect at addressing cultural nuances, the increase in discussion about diversity points to future improvement.
Monique learned about MBBI from a colleague, Mina Vaish in 2017 and was immediately interested in becoming involved with the organization. She joined MBBI soon after, and has been a part of the Women in Mediation Action Group throughout the past year. In this working group, she helped organize MBBI’s role at the Commission on the Status of Women, including organizing speakers. Monique says that the online format of the conference posed some issues, but she loved being part of the process from beginning to end.
Creating Space for Authenticity
Monique explains that her favorite part of the mediation process is the fact that mediation allows parties to make informed decisions that are specific to their situation. She further explains that mediation allows people to have autonomy over their conflict resolution process, which is too often stripped from them within the legal system. In this way, she explains, mediation is more of a process of “what works, what doesn’t work, why it doesn’t work, and how is it that a bridge can be built, if need be. It creates dialogue that fosters sustainable solutions and is able to address the dynamics of those who are using the service.” Monique strives to foster relationships of trust and support in the mediation environment. She wants to make sure her clients feel safe to show up in their authentic skin, and she works to make her space as safe as possible to this effect. She prioritizes cultural safety and being trauma-informed, and tailors her approach to a client’s specific situation. Monique believes that “there’s diversity in conflict, so therefore there should be diversity in the resolution process as well,” and strives in her practice to make that a reality.
Article by Tess Hargarten, MBBI Writer