Combining awareness-raising with skill-building to reduce conflict and stereotypes in Canada 

By having a conversation with MBB Canada leading members, the Chair of the Group Suzanne Sherkin and the co-Chair Kelly Rico, it stands out immediately that the Group relies on an effervescent and dynamic community of bright minds, eager to commit energies and skills to advance MBBI mission and vision in Canada. 

MBB Canada champions the building of a more peace “able” world, and does so through working with national and local issues. “A focus for MBB Canada is to develop projects that address Canadian-specific issues — specifically LGBTQ and Indigenous communities with communications and conflict resolution skills.” 

The Past: A Regional Group to connect like-minded individuals

The history of MBB Canada is quite recent. The Group was formed by Alicia Kuin, an ambitious, experienced conflict analyst and mediator in early 2015. The purpose was to develop a Canadian community in which topics at the heart of MBBI worldwide action could be discussed by like-minded people dedicated to peace-building from either inside or outside the mediation field. What is remarkable about MBB Canada is the nearly spontaneous way in which the Group emerged from the desire to be “impactful in the lives of others. Each and every member of our small but growing membership has a common passion: to help create a positive change in our country as well as contribute to positive change globally,” says Suzanne. 

In addition to spreading the overall values of MBBI, the Canadian group has focused its initiatives, meetings and discussions around three key areas:

  • Enhancing networking and partnerships
  • Continued learning and collaboration
  • Supporting Canadian-specific issues

The Present: A Growing Presence

In the last few years, “the Canadian group has grown a lot – not only in terms of projects and initiatives but also in terms of communication among members and interchange of information and knowledge,” says Kelly. Kelly is very satisfied with the development of the Group and particularly with its capacity to provide various platforms. She notes that a strength of the Group allows practitioners and activists from across the country to bring forward issues from their local contexts, while others provide help through expertise and resound initiatives promoted as well as resource materials. Only in its fourth year, the Group is already planning their first project — related to teaching youth in schools about mediation — and facilitating discussions on the topics of restorative justice, circle processes, environmental disputes, and immigration and newcomer support.

For their first project of MBB Canada, Suzanne explains that “we’ve just started developing a program for youth. Our goal is to create a program, likely around concepts of mediation, that would help young people learn the tools to deal with daily problems such as bullying and harassment in schools. We have a long road ahead to develop this but we’re lucky to have a lot of passionate, smart people who want to dedicate time to providing this to youth around Canada. We have an amazing membership of decidated professionals. I feel lucky to be part of this work!” 

The Future: A vision for MBB Canada

There is no question that MBB Canada’s growth is a reflection of the energy and vision of its leader, Suzanne. She’s quick to point out that none of this would be happening if not for the original vision and drive of the creator of the Canadian group — Alicia Kuin. Alicia created it from ground zero and built a small but mighty group of Canadian members. When she passed the torch onto Suzanne, there was already a core of dedicated people willing to create Canadian-focused projects. Suzanne has brought her own brand of passion to the leadership role, such as introducing a more formal structure to how and when they meet.

They’re at a particularly exciting time as they move closer to becoming their own entity within MBBI. “Thanks to the dedication and time from Archana Medhekar, we’re on our way to becoming a not-for-profit group with charitable status.” Suzanne is very excited about reporting this. “These are exciting times for us,” she says. What started as an informal community of like-minded and passionate practitioners in Canada will soon become a formalized branch under the MBBI umbrella with enhanced capacities for developing and implementing projects in Canada and elsewhere.

In the vision of Suzanne, MBB Canada will undertake “a Canadian-based approach.” This means that the Group will appeal to the commitment of Canadians towards solving Canadian issues. In the near future, the Group is likely to give attention to a topic that is particularly keen to Suzanne: LGBTQ education. Speaking as a mother of a transgender son, “I want to help people better understand gender diversity so that there’s less stigma and more acceptance of this kind of diversity — in workplaces, in schools, in homes, and in communities. She notes that they have not yet formally discussed a project for the LGBTQ communities but Suzanne is hoping to put it on the agenda in the coming year. I want to help create emotionally safe spaces for Canadian people and communities.”  

When asked who should join MBB Canada, she responded that anyone interested in helping the Canadian group build communication and conflict resolution skills is completely welcome to join. The minimum requirement is a common purpose and heart to build a more peace “able” world. What you can give is far more important than what you are.

Written by Matteo Piovacari: MBBI Writer