Conflict Resolution Training Opportunities in Canada

If you are an educator wanting to teach conflict resolution to young people, or if conflict resolution is part of your job strategy, you have quite a choice among training opportunities

By David Last

So you want to learn something about conflict resolution, or perhaps you want to incorporate some new ideas into teaching. There is no shortage of university courses, training programs, certificates and diplomas to help you out. In fact, the marketplace is crowded enough to warrant some careful choices to ensure you get the most appropriate program.

I'll begin with the obvious questions. First, what do you want to learn? Then: where, when, how long, and how much can you pay? It also helps to know what sort of people typically take the courses, what they have done before and tend to do after the training, and whether the program has connections to real-world problem solving or outreach programs. These questions are especially important if conflict resolution training is part of your job-hunting or employability strategy. This article is too short to provide all the answers. With some net surfing, though, you will have a much better idea of just what is out there.

There are conflict resolution training opportunities in Canada at every level from primary school to post-graduate degrees. There are numerous professional diplomas and certificates available, and there are courses that are designed to prepare people for real-world situations. There is no "best" conflict resolution training-it all depends on what you need.

Schools

If you are a public school teacher or student looking for conflict resolution material for the classroom, you may want to contact the League of Peaceful Schools. The League provides support and recognition to schools that have declared a commitment to creating a peaceful environment. It also gives access to professional development, an annual conference, and a handbook of best practices in peaceful schools. Professional development sessions are usually tailored to the specific needs of the schools. Some popular topics include "lessons in living," dealing with serious misbehavior (effective alternative forms of punishment) and mediation. The League has hosted several "Training for Trainers" sessions in peer mediation for teachers throughout Nova Scotia at both elementary and secondary school levels (www.leagueofpeacefulschools. ns.ca).

Another approach is the curriculum developed by Saskatchewan's Department of Education. In Grade 8 social studies, students learn about individuals in society, responsibilities and rights, conflict resolution, decision making, and how humans living in social groups come to agree and resolve disagreements (www.sasked.gov.sk.ca/docs/midlsoc/g85strt.html). This certainly looks like a good foundation, and is only one of many resources for teachers who want to introduce conflict resolution to impressionable youngsters.

Universities and Colleges

If you are beyond grade school, there are university courses. Many universities and colleges have some courses with conflict resolution content at the undergraduate level. Many calendars refer to conflict resolution as a theme or speciality within new or traditional disciplines. For example, York University's calendar lists "Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies" as a topic within the theme of "Global Development and Peace Studies." This should be approached with some caution, because many courses listed do not appear to have much conflict resolution content.

Typically, a conflict resolution stream at the undergraduate level will consist of some courses bolted onto a standard program. There are some exceptions. Menno Simons College, affiliated with the University of Winnipeg, offers a BA in Conflict Resolution. It includes courses on conflict in faith communities, conflict and development in indigenous communities, humanitarian aid, peace theory and action, program planning and evaluation, and action research methods (http://www.uwinnipeg.ca/~msc/course.htm).

The Peace and Conflict Studies program at Conrad Grebel College in Waterloo is also very focused, and offers a minor, an option, and a one-year diploma. Program areas are war and peace, community conflict resolution, and justice and development in the Third World (http://watserv1.uwaterloo.ca/~congreb/academics/pacs/index.html).

Conflict studies can also be found at the community college level. Langara College in Vancouver offers a non-credit, non-fee public lecture series in Peace and Conflict Studies, and a Diploma in Peace and Conflict Studies. The diploma includes courses on peace and conflict in the modern world, and conflict resolution (http://www.langara.bc.ca/progcours/courses/AS_PceCnft.html).

Many professional programs have their own approach to conflict. Trinity Western University, a member of Associated Canadian Theological Schools (ACTS), has a course on power, change and conflict (http://www.acts.twu.ca/ldr.html).

The University of Lethbridge's Therapeutic Recreation and Gerontology Program offers a course on interpersonal relationships and communication that addresses conflict in a specific setting. An online distance education course is part of the program (http://www.lethbridgec.ab.ca/dept/therapeutic/de_course.htm).

One step below a conflict resolution stream or theme, you find many courses with conflict resolution content, specific to a course or discipline. At least 55 of Canada's 88 universities offer some undergraduate courses on peace, conflict, conflict resolution, or related subjects, in departments of legal studies, sociology, psychology, political science, religious studies, and others.

To get a better idea of the depth behind these courses, look for dedicated publications, centres, or institutes, which indicate a concentration of faculty with an interest in the subject. The University of New Brunswick, for example, has the Centre for Conflict Studies. Brandon University is the seat of the journal Peace Research. These centres and publications often accompany graduate programs, and have useful links to the community or to field projects, which can stimulate research or which might help you find useful work.

Graduate Degrees and Related Programs

If you are a university graduate looking for a program in conflict resolution, you have quite a choice without leaving Canada. For a Master's degree, you might try Carleton University's Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) for its conflict studies stream (http://www.carleton.ca). Many NPSIA graduates go on to work in the federal civil service or with international agencies. Many of the students have practical work experience before they start-a common phenomenon with all these programs.

The Department of Law at Carleton University offers a graduate program in conflict resolution from an interdisciplinary perspective, for people whose work involves negotiation or coping with conflict. This will not give you a master's degree, but a graduate certificate, with a practical focus. It is designed to appeal particularly to people in the fields of law, human resources, health care, social work, education, management and business. Its focus on developing and assessing skills is distinctive (http://www.carleton.ca/law/conflict.htm).

For a more strategic or historical perspective on conflict analysis and resolution, most of the well-established universities offer programs. York University's MA program in International Relations is well regarded (http://www.yorku.ca).

Also at York University, the LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution was established in 1980 to carry out research relevant to social concerns. It is particularly strong on issues relating to violence in the family and has produced some excellent research (http://www.yorku.ca/research/lamarsh/).

The University of New Brunswick's Centre for Conflict Studies was established to study low-intensity conflict which falls between criminal and inter-state violence. This includes terrorism, insurgency, civil wars, ethnic conflicts, peacekeeping, and conflict resolution. Like the Lamarsh Centre, it does not offer courses, but complements teaching programs in other departments (http://www.unb.ca/web/gradschl/calendar/conflict.html).

Royal Roads University offers the newest Master's program in conflict resolution. The Conflict Analysis and Management Program is offered as part of the new university's Executive Development Series, aimed at mid-career professionals and senior managers. Because mid-career professionals can seldom afford a year off, this MA program is designed with state-of-the art distance learning technology, combined with an intensive five-week session at the beautiful Royal Roads campus itself (http://www.royalroads. ca/ed/cam/). The participants learn about relationship management, consensus building and conflict resolution, with a particular emphasis on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques (designed to avoid the costs of litigation). Royal Roads also offers short courses on ADR through the Vancouver-based CSE group (http://www.royalroads.ca/mcpa/newsreleases/conflict.htm).

Certificates and Short Courses

If you don't have time to take a year or two off to get a degree, you might find a short course useful, particularly one which awards a certificate or diploma to dazzle prospective employers with your hard-won skills. These programs vary from seminars a few days long-like "Strategic Dynamics of Negotiations", recently offered by the University of British Columbia's Faculty of Commerce and Administration (http://www.executive.programmes.commerce.ubc.ca/Seminars/CourseDescr/StratDyn.html)-to sustained professional programs like those offered by the British Columbia Justice Institute and the Canadian International Institute of Applied Negotiation. Short (two-week) courses like those offered by the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre (PPC) for university credit fall somewhere in between.

The PPC offers certificates for its courses, as well as university credit from the University of Manitoba, Dalhousie, George Mason University, and others. It is supported financially by the Departments of National Defence and Foreign Affairs and International Trade to enhance Canada's contribution to international peace and security. Since it opened in 1995, more than 1,300 people from more than 90 countries have participated in courses, seminars, and proximity problem-solving talks there. Canadian Forces and foreign officers on scholarships study peacekeeping, mediation and negotiation, civil-military co-operation, humanitarian assistance, human rights, legal aspects of international missions, maritime peacekeeping, disarmament, and other aspects of international support for peace and stability.

The Centre is not just for soldiers, however. It is a civilian centre, and every effort is made to attract qualified civilian participants. Generous scholarships are awarded to individuals who qualify through background or experience. Courses typically span two weeks, with room and board provided. The PPC also offers internships, and the flow of participants with experience in international missions makes it a good place to make connections for international employment (http://www.cdnpeacekeeping.ns.ca/).

The Canadian International Institute of Applied Negotiation (CIIAN) offers a variety of courses in mediation and negotiation, including alternative dispute resolution and the Harvard approach to principled negotiation. It is one of the organizations that have pioneered the qualification of Registered Practitioner of Dispute Resolution. Courses include negotiation skills and theory, mediation and advanced mediation, conflict analysis and systems, building consensus, and working in conflict. For a certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution, you need to complete five courses within 12 months. Like the Peacekeeping Centre, CIIAN is an organization engaged in practical dispute resolution both in Canada and abroad, and its courses tend to be good for networking (http://www.canadr.com/).

The British Columbia Justice Institute offers instruction in interest-based dispute resolution. The Conflict Resolution Certificate Program gives participants skills in collaborative conflict resolution for home, work and community. Taken over 12 to 36 months, the program is similar to CIIAN's, consisting of 119 hours (17 days) of required courses and 91 hours (13 days) of electives. Courses include: dealing with interpersonal conflict, resolving conflict in the workplace, negotiating skills, dealing with anger, mediation, and multi-party disputes. The Institute also offers a First Nations Negotiation Skills Certificate Program, which includes collaboration with Family Justice Services of BC (http://www.jibc.bc.ca/ccr/f-ccr.html).

Alternative Dispute Resolution training is also offered at the University of Western Ontario, with courses on intermediate and advanced negotiations (http://www.cstudies. uwo.ca/cepd/adr.html). With an eye to the business community, Humber College in Toronto offers the Business Management Skills Certificate and the Leadership Skills Certificate for the Ontario Management Development Program (OMDP). These are taken through a series of courses, workshops and seminars, which include conflict resolution and negotiation, effective labor relations, human relations, teambuilding and leadership.

Where to Start

This is not the whole picture. The web sites listed will give you a lot more information about the programs that I have mentioned here. Some creative searches will find a lot more programs, both in Canada and abroad. If you are going to spend money on conflict resolution training, ask the program co-ordinators or registrars for some references from recent graduates. Ask the graduates what they thought of the course, and whether it opened any doors for them. Look for the real-world work that is being done by many institutes and centres. Conflict resolution training in Canada is varied and extensive. Decide what you are looking for and weigh the options carefully to get the best value.

David Last is an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces. He recently left the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre, where he conducted research and developed courses.

Peace Magazine Jan-Feb 1999

Peace Magazine Jan-Feb 1999, page 16. Some rights reserved.

Search for other articles by David Last here

Peace Magazine homepage