Indigenous Community Mediation

Indigenous communities may use mediation for a variety of community issues, including land use planning and project development.  Mediators with specialized training in Indigenous Community Mediation have the knowledge and experience to mediate with cultural sensitivity and respect in assisting community members with productive discussion.


Indigenous communities for centuries have had, and to varying degrees in different Territories still preserve and apply, their own ancient and traditional methods of problem-solving. Indigenous communities can inform others, but they, in turn, are informed by mediation developments elsewhere: we need to learn from each other as is so often the case in this field, which is always open to being shaped by cross-cultural influences. This awareness has inspired the formation of the FMC Indigenous Community Mediation specialty.

Mediation is, we believe, well-suited to addressing issues that can arise in First Nations family, social, cultural, and, more recently, human rights, contexts. In particular, the mediation process is highly adaptable to traditional customs. The process typically provides opportunities for building respect and enhancing relationships.

Over the past few years, there has been an increase in the need for First Nations communities to engage in comprehensive community planning as well as land use planning. These types of projects rely on collaborative approaches that bring community members together in positive and productive environments. Mediation can help participants focus on common community goals and implement workable solutions.

There has also been an increase in the need to contact and communicate with members who may not necessarily be living at home or even within the territory.

The challenge is to get information out and to receive community input in a way that is both meaningful and useful. Mediation responds to this challenge by providing a variety of ways in which to connect and work with participants.

A number of professional mediators across Canada are experienced in providing conflict resolution services in the Indigenous context.

The FMC Indigenous Community Mediation Committee is working to bring professional mediators together in a forum where knowledge, skill and experience can be shared, with a view to honing the skills of mediators practising in this area and generating awareness of and use of culturally-relevant conflict resolution techniques.

The Aboriginal Human Rights Project 2012 (sponsored by Mediate BC through funding provided by the Law Foundation of British Columbia) had this to say in relation to First Nations dispute resolution in the human rights context:

Documenting a dispute resolution process in this context is not as simple as mapping out methods used in the past, based on traditional stories. While it is true that all communities have conflicts and that each First Nation community has ways to manage conflicts and address disputes, these methods are not static. They have evolved over time to incorporate developing values and principles arising from within the community, its customs and traditions, and from external influences. “Legal traditions and customary laws”, referring in this context to process and methods rather than substantive law, are not stagnant, but are living systems and subject to continual enhancement and continuous evolution to develop and remain relevant under changing circumstances.

Another layer of complexity is that the community may develop different process options for different types of disputes.

This project’s experience with the Tsleil-Waututh community has confirmed that this important work will take considerable time, energy and resources. Even with the support, resources and encouragement available through this project, the process for the Tsleil- Waututh community has only begun. Despite its commitment to see this project through, it will not be easy for the Tsleil-Waututh to find the necessary time and resources, especially in light of the many other weighty initiatives and challenges the community faces. Developing a community-based dispute resolution process is not an easily achievable goal.

To review the full report, click here.


International Custody Mediation

Mediation may be used preventatively or to resolve international family disputes.  Mediators are uniquely trained in cross-border issues while keeping the safety and security of the child at the forefront.

International parental child abduction is a prevalent phenomenon that has aroused the anxious interest of most national governments. It usually arises out of a complex and extreme breakdown in relationship between parents. It frequently causes acute emotional distress to both parents involved, and most importantly to the abducted children.

Governments from many nations have been cooperating to seek a consistent approach, to discourage, and as far as possible, undo the effect of, international parental abductions. Most such abductions cases coming to our courts are considered under the provisions of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the Hague Convention). The basic premise is humanitarian — that it is normally in the best interest of an internationally abducted child to be returned as quickly as possible to the country from which he or she has been taken.

Mediation in International Abduction Cases Anne-Marie Hutchinson, presented at the World Congress on Family Law and The Rights of Children and Youth, Cape Town 2001

There are now 88 member states to the Hague Convention. Parental abduction cases are currently on the rise in Canada, and FMC would like to see mediation made available to all families and their children dealing with this major life event. International Custody Mediators specialize in resolving cross-border family disputes.

Mediation has become a well-recognized form of resolution in international custody cases. This highly specialized form of family mediation calls for a mediator with the ability to conduct distance mediation across cultural differences in highly volatile situations that are embedded in a complex, often mind-boggling, set of legal entitlements, forums and processes.

Families caught up in cross-border family disputes experience different levels of conflict — each case is unique. Mediation is an option at any stage of the conflict, and it can also be used preventatively. There is no question that responding to cross-border family disputes through conventional court-based processes (litigation) can be toxic for children. It is also clear that in these kinds of situations both children and their families can benefit tremendously from mediation services. Everyone involved has the opportunity to participate in the process, and the process itself is structured to allow everyone’s needs to be addressed all the while keeping the children’s safety and concerns in the forefront.

FMC is working to put in place ongoing training for certified family mediators across Canada who wish to develop a practice assisting families embroiled in international custody disputes. Our goal is to provide the best-trained and most experienced professionals in the field. We intend to build on co-mediation models based on a mentoring structure that allows mediators to acquire hands-on experience. The program will be designed with the benefit of input from the Canadian Government as well as from international and local agencies.

For a discussion of best practices for mediation in International Custody Disputes, click here or here.

FMC International Custody Disputes and Mediation Committee
Chair: Mary Damianakis
Family Mediation Canada’s International Custody Disputes and Mediation Committee (ICDMC) is open for prospective members; FMC membership is a requirement.
Membership Criteria:  Committee members must have a minimum of ten years experience in family dispute resolution, and or completed at least forty (40) Memorandums of Agreement specific to international family restructuring within separation, and or divorce, challenges.  The ICDMC will advise the board and the certification committee on any new developments that involve Canada, nationally and or provincially, and continue to provide input for policy makers, training, supervision, always with FMC’s  Standards of Practice and Ethics.  This is a working committee with the goal of engaging in an enriching working group from across Canada, and internationally, and with an interdisciplinary approach.