Academic journal article British Journal of Community Justice

Reflections on Community Justice in Montreal

Academic journal article British Journal of Community Justice

Reflections on Community Justice in Montreal

Article excerpt

By David Ward in conversation with Jean Hine

Jean Shall we start with where you went to, why you went and what you were doing while you were there, to give a context?

Dave I went to Canada on the invitation from a former PhD student, Dr Annie Pullen Sansfacon, who is a member of staff at the University of Montreal. We both share an interest in the theory and practice of empowerment through group work and so my main purpose for being there was to link into work that she was doing and to evaluate and engage with community based projects in Montreal that were taking a user community member centred approach. I was interested in addressing structural issues around whatever was the focus of the project. In addition, I agreed to run seminars, mainly for postgraduate students, around self-directed group work, social action participatory methods of research, which is a distinctive approach to user involvement in research. The seminars became very open with a mixed membership including people who were based in academic institutions and people who were members of projects working in the community and interested in the methodology. I ran seminars in three universities in Montreal and also in Quebec City and in another University in the Province of Quebec.

Jean Did they come up after you arrived--word got round that you were there?

Dave There had been a little bit of preparatory work before I got there but mostly it was sending emails around when I got there saying I was there and then people came back and made arrangements for me to go and lead workshops, rather than actively deliver seminars. The first part of the visit was fairly relaxed, getting to know the environment, getting to know people, getting to find one's way around. As I got to know people and got involved in things it became busier and busier and it was very hectic towards the end. In particular this was true of my contact in the University of Montreal, which has a partnership with academic staff from two other universities, and a grant from the Canadian Research Council, (which is the equivalent of the ESRC), to do some action research with parents of children who are gender variant or gender non-conforming. This is very much an area which, if this is the right word, is being 'discovered' in the sense that as soon as one gets involved in the subject area you find that it is an issue. The experience of gender non-conforming children is not an uncommon thing and both the children and their parents have to struggle to manage their development and to access support services. There is also work with established services to help them provide appropriate and sensitive services to gender variant young people. One of the main things that I did, as part of the project, concerned the explicitly stated proposal that the methodology was going to be social action research. When I was in Canada I was to train the Research Assistants involved in the project in social action research methodology. While I was there I ran six half-day training workshops for three Research Assistants involved in this project on social action participatory research methods.

Jean So this project is the social action of the parents trying to bring about change within organisations?

Dave Yes--you've got it--the parents group is a group which was established on the basis that it was an opportunity for parents who had something in common, to get together. But then the facilitation of the group enabled the parents to have the option, which they took up, of becoming a change orientated group rather than a self-help group.

Jean I see.

Dave This is part of social action; self-help is embedded in the process of working together to change external circumstances. So I worked with the Research Assistants who were action research workers and I will come back to explain that in a second. They were action research workers in terms of social action group work methodology: preparing the group and working with the setting up of the group. …

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