Regina Thompson is an established and experienced mediator who specializes in intercultural mediation and cultural competency, with a particular focus on mediation and conflict resolution in the practice areas of human rights, workplace, family, child protection and community. Over decades of practice as a conflict resolution professional, Regina has worked with and provides services to public and private sector institutions and organizations including the Ontario Human Rights Commission where her focus was on the grounds of the Human Rights Code that includes race, color, ancestry, ethnic origin, place of origin, citizenship, creed, age, disability, gender expression, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, indigenous issues, intersectionality, mental health, and, poverty. All these grounds of the Human Rights Code apply in the Social Areas of employment, contracts, accommodation (housing) goods, services and facilities, and, membership in vocational associations.
Inclusion of Women as Mediators
Knowledge from her human rights practice migrates into Regina’s other practice areas to inform her interpretations and understandings. She has presented and taught mediation and alternative dispute resolution in different regions of the world. Regina served as a Consultant for the Uganda Human Rights Commission to develop a culturally appropriate mediation process. She developed a procedures manual and trained staff on mediation and, use of the manual. Regina has also worked with a team of elite trainers from Riverdale Mediation Inc., Toronto, Canada to train police officers and social workers in CARICOM member states of the Caribbean region. She has trained mediators in her native Ghana and, recently was part of the MBBI – IPTI trainer group that trained Peacebuilders in Abuja, Nigeria.
Regina has been an MBBI member for three years and is especially interested in the work MBBI does because it is international, focuses on actual peacebuilding work, and supports the participation and inclusion of women peacebuilders and mediators – something that is still rare in international practice. For Regina, “having an open mind and flexibility in mediation and conflict resolution are not just buzzwords and phrases to throw around. They are elements that I actively engage with and practice in my mediation work and coaching.” Her work is deeply integrated with belief in the importance of disrupting the current world order, especially, in the rigid design of conflict resolution systems that inform predetermined and superimposed peacebuilding work. In line with her “Design-to-Fit” mantra, she advocates for specialized approaches that are inclusive of the impacts of deep-seated cultural beliefs and prescriptions as she sees these as contributory factors to clarity in communication, meaning-making, and understanding – all necessary tools in achieving enduring resolution objectives. In all of that, the realization that the disputant is the “Center of Cultural Excellence”.
Overcoming Intersectional Discrimination
Born and raised in Ghana, Regina emigrated to Canada fairly early in her life after working with the Canadian High Commission in Accra, the capital of Ghana. She notes that this workplace exposed her to a formal racially diverse work environment. She observed “a kind of systemic supremacy built into relationship dynamics in the workplace.” Though this was normalized in the daily interactions between locally-engaged and foreign staff, it caught her attention through small but significant events. She shared an anecdote about a staff manager who deviated from the usual protocol of sharing fruit harvested from the compound. He directed the groundskeepers to bring the mangoes to his office which was separated from the local staff with a keyless entry code. The locally-engaged staff observed this gentleman on his daily forays out to wash and eat mangoes at lunchtime. All they could do was whisper about the event because of the fear that imbalances in power imposed on relationships. Regina took the initiative to reinstate the practice of the distribution of the next fruit harvest. She notes this as an example of a cultural difference between Western individualist approaches and the Ghanaian collectivist approach to meaning-making and expression. Similar incidents started Regina on a quest to better understand racialized hierarchy. Her move to multi-cultural Canada cemented her interest in the observation and study of systemic supremacy and hierarchies as they present in all aspects of everyday life.
Regina believes that discrimination in all its chameleon-like presentations warrants attention as a major factor in unearthing sources of conflict beyond conflicts in contexts of race. Differences are our humanity. It manifests in all aspects of life. Discriminatory acts stem from perceptions of difference (visible and imagined) as bad and engender disputes that lead to the more powerful using its power to oppress and/or to suppress in order to impose its selfish interest. Intersectionality as a factor in engendering conflict means a lot to Regina; “being black, being a woman, and, being disabled” has helped her to develop insights and understandings into “perceptions of disparity based on how people view themselves against others to foment conflict.” Alongside this recognition and comprehension, Regina worked to develop an interest in intercultural mediation. Within this study and practice, she expounds on the importance of several concepts. First of all, she is passionate about the recognition of history, historical discrimination, memory, continuing negative relationship dynamics and their impact on relationships and enduring conflicts. And deeply connected to the recognition of history is the understanding of “Othering” and the role that definitions of self and others (rooted in historical discriminatory practices) play in furthering and accentuating different aspects of modern conflict. History, colonialism, and different cultural values that she has observed and participated in, instilled in her an awareness of her own environment at all times.
Being hyperaware of the systems and practices of discrimination as they impact peacebuilding and mediation have allowed Regina to expand her practice to genuine open-mindedness; she notes that open-mindedness (in part) “means that in spite of ourselves, and our beliefs and values, we can work with anybody”. In addition to the necessity of flexibility in intercultural mediation, Regina stresses the importance of flexibility when it comes to systems of conflict resolution. “Conflict is disequilibrium, so if we as peacebuilders impose our ways of being on the process, it creates another level of disequilibrium. In addition, it is not only the issues in dispute, but the design of systems, processes, and procedures. They all have a way of imposing rigidity.” This is especially true when singular-sourced Western-European methods are imposed on non-Western cultures and cause parties in dispute to distrust the proceedings before it starts.
Article by Lizzy Nestor, MBBI Writer