Promoting Healthy Relationships for Youth: Creating Spaces that Support Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Promoting Healthy Relationships for Youth: Creating Spaces that Support Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

As part of the conference proceedings on Wednesday, May 15th, you will have the opportunity to register for 2 workshops (one morning, one afternoon) led by the top experts in their field.

Workshops at a Glance

Presenters Session
Supporting Newcomer Youth: the Strengthening Transition Resilience of Newcomer Groups (STRONG)
Sharon Hoover
Alberta’s approach to homophobic and transphobic bullying: Building welcoming, respectful schools Kristopher Wells
Caring & Safe Schools: Principals fostering inclusivity for students with special education needs Steve Sider & Jhonel Morvan
Working with Youth to Promote Social Norms that Protect Against Teen Dating Violence Lianne Lee & Lana Wells
Partnering with Indigenous Communities to Address Interpersonal Violence Rebecca Ulrich & Sarah Burke AM
Exploring and Experiencing a Positive Mental Health Promotion Program for LGBT2Q+ Youth Alicia Lapointe
Bullying Prevention and Intervention for Students with Special Needs Joanne Cummings
Safe Schools for All Youth: Considering Identity-Based Victimization
 Deinera Exner-Cortens
Creating Hope, Belonging, Meaning and Purpose in the Lives of Indigenous Children and Youth Brenda Restoule PM
Immigrant, Refugee, Ethnocultural and Racialized Populations and Bullying

Katholiki Georgiades,
Irene Vitoroulis & Steven Ma


Full Workshop Descriptions


#1 Supporting Newcomer Youth: the Strengthening Transition Resilience of Newcomer Groups (STRONG)
Dr. Sharon Hoover

In recent years, immigrant and refugee youth are entering new communities across the world in record numbers. In addition to those migrating with their families, many youth are unaccompanied along their journey. During their many transitions, these youth have often experienced significant adversities and many have been exposed to stressful and traumatic experiences. As such, immigrant and refugee children and adolescents often struggle as they adapt to their new environments and frequently experience psychological distress throughout and sometimes long after their journey. In this presentation, we describe the Strengthening Transition Resilience of Newcomer Groups (STRONG) program, an evidence-informed, school-based intervention for newcomer children and youth. STRONG was co-developed and reviewed by several experts in the fields of education and mental health, with specific expertise in school mental health, adversity and trauma, refugee mental health, and resilience. Funding support and content guidance for the development of STRONG was provided by School Mental Health ASSIST, a provincial implementation support team designed to help Ontario school boards promote student mental health and well-being. The STRONG intervention is a manualized approach that includes 10 weekly sessions, and aims to strengthen newcomer groups’ transition resilience, promote individual strengths and skills to make positive choices, and provide a positive sense of self and belonging. The sessions draw on cognitive-behavioural therapy approaches. Core components of STRONG include resilience-building skills, understanding and normalizing distress, cognitive behavioural skills (relaxation, cognitive coping, exposure, goal setting, problem solving), and peer, parent and educator support. In addition to the group sessions, clinicians facilitate an individual session with each participant to help them process their journey narrative. Participants subsequently share parts of their journey narrative with the larger group. Clinicians are also encouraged to facilitate a parent meeting as part of the intervention. We will describe the development of the program, the implementation system and logistics involved with delivery, and the findings from two trials of STRONG. Workshop participants will have the opportunity to try some of the activities from the program.


#2 Alberta’s approach to homophobic and transphobic bullying: Building welcoming, respectful schools
Dr. Kristopher Wells
Did you know that Alberta was the first government in the world to name and create resources to address transphobic bullying? Contemporary research indicates that homophobic and transphobic bullying are “pervasive, insidious, and start early” and are a significant factor in school violence, high school completion rates, lower grades, and negative mental health outcomes for students. This interactive presentation highlights research into the health and safety needs of LGBTQ2 youth, identifies different types and tactics of bullying, explores the coming out process, and provides best practices and strategies to help develop welcoming, respectful, and safe schools and communities for all young people.


 #3 Caring & Safe Schools: Principals fostering inclusivity for students with special education needs
Dr. Steve Sider

Jhonel Morvan
This workshop will include an overview of a 2017-2018 national study on how principals can support inclusive schools for students with special education needs. The study included responses from 285 principals from across Canada in both English and French school systems. The results of the study were incorporated into the development of eight case studies. Using case studies as a key learning tool, the workshop will provide an interactive opportunity to discuss the ways that principals foster inclusive schools.


The workshop will focus on two key aspects:

1. Present and discuss the key themes of a recent Canadian national study on leadership for inclusive schools. These themes include: the types of professional learning experiences that helped shape principals’ views on inclusive education, the types of day-to-day experiences that principals engage in when supporting students with special education needs, and critical incidents that inform their views of inclusive education for students with special education needs.

2. Case studies that have been developed by the research team (including the two workshop presenters) in partnership with the Ontario College of Teachers will be presented. Workshop participants will engage in an exploration of the case studies to gain understanding into the kinds of inclusive education resources that are being provided to principals and those who lead their professional learning.


By the end of the workshop, participants will be able to:

1. Understand how case studies can help school leaders support students with special education needs in inclusive schools.

2. Identify opportunities to use case studies for the professional development of new principals.

3. Gain evidence-based knowledge acquired through new research on leadership and inclusion.


Throughout the workshop, the audience will be invited to actively participate through social media channels that will enable participants to post questions or reflections as well as through more traditional means such as open-ended questions and discussion prompts. There will be an opportunity to provide feedback on the cases as a professional learning resource for principals and those aspiring to be school leaders.


#4 Working with Youth to Promote Social Norms that Protect Against Teen Dating Violence
Lianne Lee
Lana Wells

Social norms (i.e., unspoken rules) within a culture shape individual attitudes and beliefs around relationships, and these attitudes and beliefs subsequently shape the ways individuals behave in relationships. Social norms that support rigid gender roles, objectification, and gender stereotypes, for example, lay the foundation for unhealthy relationship behaviours, including teen dating violence (TDV). The prevention of TDV and the promotion of healthy youth relationships, therefore, requires a focus on supporting young people to unlearn unhealthy attitudes around relationships while cultivating healthy social norms that promote equity, inclusion, and respect for all. Through a variety of illustrative activities, presenters will share four “competency buckets” that professionals can cultivate in youth in order to promote social norms that protect against TDV. These competency buckets include: 1) examining identities, assumptions, and biases; 2) examining power, privilege, and inequalities; 3) discussing gender norms and gender stereotypes; and 4) reflecting on our position on the Continuum of Action towards equity.


#5 Partnering with Indigenous Communities to Address Interpersonal Violence
Sarah Burke
Rebecca Ulrich

The Canadian Red Cross has been invited by Indigenous communities to work in partnership to address interpersonal violence for decades, leading to an increasing understanding about how the impacts of colonization continue to effect experiences of violence in communities today. Through a community engagement approach, communities are taking action to address the issues they have identified as impacting their community members and demonstrating their continued resiliency. Yet, it is very difficult to create a sense of momentum forward when communities are experiencing social emergencies and crises in rapid succession. What can external organizations do to continue to support and walk alongside these communities in this work?


Furthermore, young people are identifying severe bullying, romantic relationship break-ups, and fights with parents and caregivers as the incidents that led to suicide attempts or death. While young people may have coped with many experiences of harm in their life, it is these situations that can become too much for them to handle. How can we support children and youth to cope with these situations and support one another? How can we enhance the capacity of adults in communities to respond and support children and youth in these situations?

Come and explore these important questions with us!


#6 Circle and Play-based Process: Fostering a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion

Dr. Brenda Morrison, Angie Osachoff & Dr. Laura Wright

This workshop will enhance the knowledge and skills of participants to integrate play-based participatory approaches to support children and youth to contribute to a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion building on the foundation of children’s rights and wellbeing. In particular, we will focus on the right to play, right to participation, and right to culture and identity.  A Circle structure will be used to facilitate dialogue to engage with rights through a relational lens.  The session will include: 1) An introductory participatory Circle; 2) an overview of children’s rights as relational; and 3) participatory opportunities to experience new activities that can be applied in schools and community based programs. We will conclude with a closing circle and exploration of how activities can be integrated into practice. The workshop seeks to contribute to the theme of the conference through fostering space for knowledge development and skills development for inclusion, diversity, and equity.





#1 Exploring and Experiencing a Positive Mental Health Promotion Program for LGBT2Q+ Youth
Dr. Alicia Lapointe
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Two-Spirit, Queering/Questioning (LGBT2Q+) youth experience disproportionately negative outcomes compared to their heterosexual and cisgender peers in a range of domains, including mental health, substance use, and violence.  Queer and trans affirming supports, such as school-based Genders and Sexualities Alliances/Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA), can play a protective role in the lives of LGBT2Q+ youth.  Although the roles and functions of these clubs vary (e.g., safety, support, education, and advocacy), research suggests that LGBT2Q+ youth may benefit from structured programming that encourages them to process and cope with victimization in healthy ways. The Healthy Relationships Program for LGBT2Q+ Youth fills a significant gap in mental health promotion programming among sexual and gender minority youth.  This flexible and adaptable program includes 18 sessions, each lasting 45 minutes.  It has been piloted in publicly-funded secular schools and community agencies in Ontario, Canada and was well received by both facilitators and participants. Workshop attendees will develop an understanding of the fundamental principles of the program and the focus of the individual sessions.  Participants will also experience a variety of program activities and have opportunities to engage in practice facilitation.


#2 Bullying Prevention and Intervention for Students with Special Needs
Dr. Joanne Cummings

This workshop will provide a framework for understanding bias-based bullying with reference to students who are perceived by their peers as different based on academic (dis)ability, ethnicity, and sexual/gender identity.  We will explore the multiple ways in which diverse social identities may give rise to negative intergroup processes and unhealthy relationships at school.  We will discuss what educators can do to create inclusive and welcoming environments that lesson the incidence of bias-based bullying at the whole school and classroom levels.   When educators respond to bullying incidents, it is essential to assess for and address bias in constructive and meaningful ways.  When bias is identified as a component in a bullying relationship, this provides educators an opportunity to promote inclusive attitudes and healthy social emotional skills for the students directly involved as well as bystanders.  We will discuss ways to promote advocacy for self and other, cultural competence, and assertive communication.


#3 Safe Schools for All Youth: Considering Identity-Based Victimization
Dr. Deinera Exner-Cortens
To effectively prevent bullying and other forms of victimization, multiple strategies can be considered. However, many currently available strategies focus on the individual level, and may be less effective at addressing structural conditions that underlie many experiences of victimization. In this workshop, we will briefly consider why it is important to consider structural conditions as part of bullying prevention, and then explore one tool for addressing structural conditions: equity literacy. Attendees will work through a series of structured activities with the workshop presenter on 1) how equity is currently approached within their work setting; 2) opportunities and challenges for a greater consideration of equity in daily practice; and 3) specific activities that can be used to build equity literacy among children and youth. We will also review one existing program as an example of incorporating equity literacy into daily practice.


#4 Creating Hope, Belonging, Meaning and Purpose in the Lives of Indigenous Children and Youth
Dr. Brenda Restoule
Indigenous children and youth are often over-represented as service recipients when it comes to issues related to mental health, addictions, family violence and other social challenges. Addressing risk factors for Indigenous children and youth is critically important in promoting and supporting wellbeing and resilience. This workshop will examine how Indigenous knowledge and evidence can shift the lives of Indigenous children, youth and their families to promote mental wellness and foster resilience. As service providers there will be opportunities to explore how shifts in paradigms can create shifts in how services are offered and what we can all do to help create Hope, Belonging, Meaning and Purpose in the lives of Indigenous children and youth.


#5 Immigrant, Refugee, Ethnocultural and Racialized Populations and Bullying
Katholiki Georgiades, Irene Vitoroulis & Steven Ma
Canada experiences one of the highest per capita rates of immigration in the world. In 2016, 21.5% of the population was foreign-born and this percentage is expected to rise in the coming years. Given that immigrants and refugees settling in Canada come from diverse regions of the world, the ethno-cultural composition of our schools and communities is naturally changing. These demographic shifts call for a need to enhance our understanding of how to effectively support and facilitate positive peer relationships and intergroup peer processes in ethno-culturally diverse schools. Children and youth from immigrant, refugee, ethno-cultural and racialized backgrounds face increased exposure to social stressors that are inherently linked to the nature and quality of their social interactions, peer affiliations and experiences of bullying, victimization and discrimination in school settings. Research suggests that these associations are not fixed but rather dependent on the socio-contextual circumstances and conditions of the school setting. The objectives of this workshop are to share research findings documenting: (1) the prevalence and correlates of bullying behaviors among youth from immigrant, refugee, ethno-cultural and racialized backgrounds; (2) modifiable individual and socio-contextual factors that are associated with reductions in school bullying among youth from diverse backgrounds; and (3) evidence-based school practices and strategies that promote positive intergroup relations and minority inclusion and integration.

During this workshop participants will engage in multi-stakeholder dialogues and interactive breakout sessions aimed at sharing knowledge on: (1) existing supports currently available in schools and communities aimed at enhancing inter-group relations and reducing bullying across diverse groups of youth; (2) approaches to monitoring progress and outcomes for these supports; and (3) future research and practice directions on enhancing inter-group peer processes and bullying outcomes for immigrant, refugee, ethno-cultural and racialized youth, with special considerations on monitoring progress and potential for sustainability and scale-up. Our ultimate goal is to share knowledge and best practices that will help contribute to positive intergroup relations and inclusivity in our schools in order to foster environments that are conducive to success for all students.