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Tranformational conflict: a new approach at UFV in discussing intimate-partner violence

UFV forum to use resolution strategy used in ethnic conflicts to open dialogue on domestic abuse
Shaheen Shivji and Alfred Okot Ochen, co-ordinators of the Peace and Reconciliation Centre at UFV. Photo courtesy of UFV.

A University of the Fraser Valley forum will approach the difficult conversation around domestic violence by framing it around transformational conflict.

The event, which runs from 2:30 to 4:15 p.m. on Feb. 13, was organized by the Peace and Reconciliation Centre (PARC) at UFV’s Abbotsford campus. It’s called When Your Partner Abuses You: Practice, Prevention and Public Health Crisis of Intimate Partner Violence.

Transformational conflict is a peace-building strategy previously used in finding resolutions to ethnic conflicts around the world. The strategy attempts to address the root causes of the conditions that lead to conflict in the first place by reshaping social structures of the institutions or groups involved, as defined by the Berghof Research Centre.

“Conflict transformation is… a process of engaging with and transforming the relationships, interests, discourses and, if necessary, the very constitution of society that supports the continuation of violent conflict,” said Hugh Miall, a professor of international relations at Kent University, in a 2004 paper on the subject. “The very structure of parties and relationships may be embedded in a pattern of conflictual relationships.”

The forum will feature speakers from all sides of the conversations around domestic abuse. Grand Chief Clarence Pennier of the Sto:lo community; UFV’s director of criminology and criminal justice, Amanda McCormick; Abbotsford Crown counsel Indrani Mathure; Michele Giordano, the Abbotsford-Mission chair of Violence Against Women In Relationships; and UFV nursing faculty member Catherine Smith will all give a presentation at the event.

“The mandate for us is to engage in the transformation of conflict. We move away from conflict analysis and management… into a more cohesive and friendly environment,” said Alfred Okot Ochen, a co-ordinator of PARC. “From a historical point of view, if there were open conflicts, you would go out there and find the different interest groups who have incompatible interests. It’s more about reconciliation.”

In this respect, the panel of speakers was specifically chosen because of the different, and often competing, ways they approach the issue in a professional capacity.

“It’s all about diversity of having various ideologies. Having divergent opinions doesn’t mean you are enemies,” Ochen said. “You can… respect each other and be more prolific and productive as a community.”

PARC organized the event to coincide with the Missing Women’s Memorial March, which takes place every year on Feb. 14 in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside – an aspect of the conversation that will be delved into by Grand Chief Pennier.

Each speaker will focus on their areas of expertise: McCormick will speak about the evolution of the criminal justice system’s response to intimate partner violence; Mathure will talk about the approach of Abbotsford’s Crown counsel, strangulation crimes, stalking and technology; Giordano will focus on Abbotsford’s third-party reporting services for domestic violence; and Smith will speak on the World Health Organization’s recognition of the issue as a major public health concern and how it violates human rights.

“[The goal is to have] all the stakeholders or conflicting parties come to a point where they co-exist and understand the difference and live with those differences,” said Shaheen Shivji, another co-ordinator of PARC. “Our vision is to be inclusive, supportive and offer a peaceful place for people to approach differences.”

The speakers’ presentations will be followed by a 45-minute open dialogue with the audience. Counsellors will be present to help anyone who might suffer from emotional trauma.

This is the first of three similar transformational-conflict forums to be organized by PARC before the end of 2020.

RELATED: Intimate partner violence to be focus of forum at UFV


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