Current Focus

Mindfulness and Meditation

  • Mindfulness has experienced a tremendous surge in popularity over the last few decades. Despite its recent emergence within the scientific community, mindfulness is most significantly associated with Buddhist traditions. Mindfulness has been the primary teaching amongst Buddhist meditative practices for the past 2,500 years. The word mindfulness originated from the Pali word “sati”, which refers to remembering (Davis & Hayes, 2011). Although mindfulness is rooted in the Buddhist tradition, it is still an effective practice without any religious context. Learning about the underlying religious contexts can help deepen understanding, but it is not essential to reap its benefits. Mindfulness is the cognitive process of refocusing one’s attention to their moment to moment experiences and perceiving one’s experiences non-judgmentally. Mindfulness consists of fundamental characteristics that enable people to draw novel distinctions from their environments and simultaneously reconstruct their cognitive processing.

    Mindfulness-Based Intervention (MBI) within the context of mental health has gained scientific interest due to its clinical application. Previous studies have shown that mindfulness can help improve individuals’ well-being and quality of life. In a study conducted by Mandal et al. (2012), found that mindfulness not only helped reduce symptoms of mental illness and distress but also helped reduce the negative effects one experiences and enhance their positive affect. Mindfulness encourages people to perceive their experiences non-judgmentally so that they can take on different approaches to adverse experiences without ruminating or acting out their habitual impulses. Mindfulness helps give individuals insight into their emotions and focus their attention on regulating these emotions to adapt to skills that will help them better cope with their mental health.

    The main objectives of this pillar are to:

    • promote mindfulness as a way of living to reduce the impact of psychological stress and social strain.
    • educate students and community-based workers about the fundamental characteristics of the mindfulness process and provide them with essential skills that will enable them to adopt the practice into their own lives.
    • develop workshops and academic educational materials related to mindfulness and mental health.
    • develop methodological tools to measure the impact of mindfulness on social and psychological well-being.
    • develop a new generation of qualified facilitators of mindfulness workshops from university and college students and community-based workers.

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    Restorative Justice

  • Restorative justice is an ancient practice rooted in Indigenous informal social control. It is an alternative justice model where the victims are expected to be involved in all decision-making processes. It brings together victims, offenders, and communities to internally handle dispute resolution rather than through the penal court system (Johnstone, 2011). This approach to justice can be traced back to Canadian experiments in 1974 when a probation officer suggested that two young offenders meet their victims to understand the harm that they had caused (Johnstone, 2011). The first official sentencing circle happened in 1992 in the Canadian territory, the Yukon, which was in response to a high profile case where the offender’s community did not want him to go to jail and suggested a rehabilitation in the community (Johnstone, 2011). This event’s success led researchers to experiment with restorative justice as an alternative to the contemporary punitive criminal justice system (Johnstone, 2011). While retribution is based on punishment of those who violate laws, restorative justice aims to facilitate resolution among all parties involved and rehabilitate the perpetrator so that their likelihood of reoffending is reduced (Hermann, 2017).When looking at the efficacy of restorative justice, it is essential to look at examples such as the context of transition in Northern Ireland. Ireland faced approximately thirty years of conflict, with 3524 people killed and 35000 injured (McEvoy & Mika, 2002). The nation suffered a divide between police and communities, leading to ongoing social control and criminal justice issues. Informal justice was often practiced to deal with crime, as contemporary criminal justice was simply ineffective during the divide (McEvoy & Mika, 2002). Especially in Republican areas, vigilante justice took form as the nation lacked regular police practices. This resulted in a paramilitary response, which was quite brutal in nature (McEvoy & Mika, 2002). Shooting, beating, and banishment of offenders and criminals was a common practice. Human rights activists started discussing alternatives to break the cycle of a vigilante and paramilitary response (McEvoy & Mika, 2002). From this, the idea of creating a non-violent and community-based program for justice emerged. They believed that focusing on restorative justice would allow them to move away from the violent paramilitary tactics and move toward a peaceful way of dealing with crime (McEvoy & Mika, 2002).

    Our goal in the CRCT is to promote restorative justice as an alternative module healing practice in the Canadian justice system and raise awareness in the community, educational settings, and justice agencies regarding the effectiveness of restorative justice as an alternative form of justice. The CRCT is willing to achieve the mentioned goals by conducting workshops, training sessions, and hosting conferences regarding restorative justice.
    The CRCT believes that if the crime is harm, then justice should be healing.

    For further information about restorative justice, look at the following sources.

    References
    Hermann, D. (2017) “Restorative Justice and Retributive Justice: An Opportunity for Cooperation or an Occasion for Conflict in the Search for Justice,” Seattle Journal for Social Justice, 16(1), pp. 71-103.

    Johnstone, G. (2011) Restorative Justice: Ideas, Values, Debates London: Routledge – ebook

    McEvoy, K., and Mika, H. (2002) Restorative Justice and the Critique for Informalism in Northern Ireland. British Journal of Criminology.
    https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Kieran_Mcevoy/publication/31211153_Restorative_Justice_and_the_Critique_of_Informalism_in_Northern_Ireland/links/02e7e526e56b2e50f9000000.pdf

    McLaughlin, E., Fergusson, R., Hughes, G., and Westmarland, L. (2004). Restorative Justice Critical Issues: Crime, Order and Social Control.

    Ministry of Justice (2014). Restorative Justice Action Plan for the Criminal Justice System for the Period to March 2018.
    https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/375581/restorative-justice-action-plan-2014.pdf

    War-Related Trauma

    According to Statistics Canada (2019), Canada admitted 313,580 immigrants in 2019 in which 29,950 were refugees, and 64,050 were asylum claimants. The Canadian Council for Refugees (2010) defines a refugee as an individual who has been forced to flee persecution and is unable to return to their home country. An asylum seeker is defined as an individual who has fled their home country and is asking a host country for protection, but their refugee status is ambiguous until their case has been decided. Unlike immigrants who made a voluntary decision to leave their home country, refugees and asylum claimants are forced to leave their homes due to politically oppressive or war-torn environments. For many, the experience to flee one’s home country is abrupt and involves little to no planning. These pre-migratory experiences lead to a large number of refugees and asylum seekers to develop war-related traumas. In addition to escaping violent environments, refugees are also likely to be fleeing precarious economic situations, coping with grief, and even develop trauma-related disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or substance abuse. According to a study by Anderson et al (2015), they found that refugees had a higher risk of having a psychotic disorder than both non-refugee migrants and the general population. Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that can develop in people who have indirectly or directly experienced/witnessed an event that resulted in harm to oneself or others or it was threatened (APA, 2020). Common symptoms associated with PTSD are re-experiencing the event through flashbacks or nightmares, intense feelings of sadness, anger or fear, and feeling detached from other people. Family members who are exposed to trauma can exhibit symptoms of their trauma in different ways. Parents/caregivers may become more preoccupied, depressed, or anxious to a point at which it interferes with their ability to properly care for their families. The psychological well-being of parents/caregivers is a primary determinant factor for the mental health of adolescent refugees (Thomas & Lau, 2002). Research suggests that adolescent refugees are at greater risk for PTSD if they are living with traumatized parents/caregivers. War-related trauma can have everlasting consequences on family dynamics, which can carry on from generation to generation. CTSC seeks to educate students and community-based workers on the effects of war-related trauma and how to equip professionals with the resources to prevent future retraumatization of refugees and asylum seekers. 

    References

    American Psychiatric Association. (2020, January). What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder? Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd

    Anderson, K. K., Cheng, J., Susser, E., McKenzie, K. J., & Kurdyak, P. (2015). Incidence of psychotic disorders among first-generation immigrants and refugees in Ontario. Cmaj187(9), E279-E286.

    The Canadian Council for Refugees. (2010, September). Refugees and Immigrants: A glossary. Retrieved from https://ccrweb.ca/en/glossary

    Thomas, T., & Lau, W. 2002. Psychological Well Being of Child and Adolescent Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Overview of Major Research

    Government of Canada, S. C. (2019, September 30). Canada’s population estimates: Age and sex, July 1, 2019. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/190930/dq190930a-eng.htm

    Religion and Rehabilitation

    Micro Aggression

    Scientific Research