The Use of Restorative Approaches in Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism Work

The IIRP’s continuing education learners do tremendous work incorporating restorative practices in their workplaces and communities and are an integral part of our graduate school community. Their experiences are valuable and offer insight into the reality and rewards of applying concepts and methods presented to them through our continuing education offerings. Learners advance their interpersonal skills and approaches, improving their effectiveness as they engage with others, collaborate constructively, and build community.

Gina Daus is Manager of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism at Edmonton Catholic Schools in Alberta, Canada. Gina and her team at Edmonton Catholic Schools participated in several IIRP trainings and events over the past two years. She shares how her school has moved forward with restorative practices and how it has transformed their Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism work and has also positively influenced their human resources process and employee relations.

Q: What interested you about the IIRP and restorative practices?

A: Edmonton Catholic Schools is in its second year of implementing our Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism Strategic (EDIAR) Plan. This plan was developed after a year-long multimodal research project that engaged the voices of students, staff, and families in the school division. Through those engagement opportunities, we heard repeatedly that there was a desire to approach conflict, racism, and discrimination through a restorative lens, wherever possible, rather than a solely punitive process. There was a need to ensure the opportunity to learn from mistakes and to have the chance to rebuild relationships and repair harm. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to hear Caroline Gosling, an instructor with the IIRP, speak to administrators about restorative practices. I reached out to see how Caroline and the IIRP might support us in actioning this part of the EDIAR Strategic Plan.

Q: Please tell us about your current professional work. What makes you passionate about it?

A: In May of 2022, we trained a team of 40 staff to be Restorative Conference Facilitators. This team includes family school liaison workers, administrators, teachers, and team members from our Indigenous Learning Services department. We were aware that restorative practices are rooted in restorative justice and have a foundation in many Indigenous communities from around the world. As such, it was important for us to walk with the Indigenous Learning Services team to ensure we were approaching this work in a culturally appropriate way. In February 2023, we had a team take the Restorative Practices for Educators training, rounding out our understanding of the continuum of restorative practices. Then, in the spring of 2023, we had a team of 10 complete the Training of Trainers for Restorative Conferencing event so that we could continue to build capacity with restorative practices division-wide in the future. Time and time again, we have experienced the “magic” in a restorative conference. That is, the moment where empathy develops, and you can feel that shift from conflict to relationship repair. In our elementary, junior high, and high schools, we have witnessed the power of a restorative approach to bring resolution to complex problems.

Q: How do you use restorative practices in your professional work?

A: Restorative practices is connected to all that we do in Edmonton Catholic Schools. As a faith-based division, the dignity of each person is of the outmost value. A restorative approach offers us the opportunity to address problems and conflict while protecting the dignity of the person and supporting all involved through community. Restorative practices is embedded in our approach to the EDIAR strategic plan’s call to address discrimination in a way that rebuilds good relations through accountability.

Several principals anecdotally report a reduction in suspensions as they begin to incorporate more restorative practices schoolwide. In collaboration with Indigenous Learning Services, we are providing workshops and training to administrators and staff to deepen understanding and build capacity. Next fall, a lead team of staff will complete the Training of Trainers for Fundamentals of Restorative Practices so that we can continue this vital work. We recognize the importance of solid implementation of proactive strategies as the foundation focused on relationships between students and between students and staff.

When we began training staff in restorative practices, we were focused primarily on conflict and repairing harm between students. Quickly, we could see the value of restorative practices for building relationships and conflict resolution between staff. The Employee Relations team of our Human Resources department has since begun exploring restorative practices for their work in supporting staff relations as well. We have committed as a division to use a restorative approach with adults and students, as the benefits for all are undeniable.


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