As public safety remains a growing concern in cities around the world, how we treat our most vulnerable people must also be considered. How can we become more compassionate, support these people and help them integrate into our communities? I recently attended a conference which addressed these issues in Victoria, BC (where I now live) and contribute. It’s a beautiful, creative city and there are many groups and organizations doing their very best to “meet the needs of all”, including the Salvation Army (ARC) and the Vancouver Island Criminal Justice Association, organizers of the event. The forum was made possible through the support of many other sponsors too, including the incredible Alix Goolden Performance Hall located in the heart of downtown.
A dynamic group of guest speakers attended including Dr. Gabor Mate, renowned speaker and best selling author. Dr. Bruce Alexander who has studied addiction since the 70’s and Mary Campbell, recently retired, Director General of the Corrections and Criminal Justice Directorate at Public Safety Canada also spoke to the audience (among other guests). Let’s just say that it was a very informative day that provided some great insight into the challenges in most cities – challenges that we can all help remedy. The most powerful words of the day came from a young man by the name of Chris Gaudet, an aspiring poet now living and working in the City. He quickly cut to the heart of the matter, expressing the harsh realities of life on the street and the trauma that is evident in every city throughout our country and beyond.
We must begin to create a more trauma-informed culture. Our approaches to law and the way we treat our most vulnerable must change. Melanie Randall and Lori Haskell have provided us with some timely research which states “the idea that law and, in particular, the criminal justice system, should be trauma informed is novel, and, as a result, is underdeveloped.” Their paper is titled: Trauma-Informed Approaches to Law: Why Restorative Justice Must Understand Trauma and Psychological Coping. The province of British Columbia is leading the charge on Trauma Informed Practice (TIP) and with almost $800,000 in federal funding will begin to develop and deliver a curriculum for use across the justice, public safety and anti-violence community sectors. Undoubtably, this will lead to safer and healthier communities.
The love we have for our cities and why we choose to live within their limits is not enough. We must understand that we are all connected and have an innate basic goodness that would allow us to cultivate more kindness and compassion, says Richard Davidson. In his National Geographic lecture titled: The Science of a Happy Mind, Davidson shares his research with us. This is inspiring to say the least because we learn that we are all kind, compassionate people. Can we not strive to embrace and support those that have not received the nurturing that’s necessary to sustain this inner goodness? If we can build skyscrapers and neighbourhoods we can surely help those around us. This is compassion, this is community.