Island youth organizations collaborate for ‘Relationships, Resiliency, Reflection Conference’

Dr. Michael Ungar discusses children and youth resilience during his presentation at the Relationships, Resiliency, Reflection workshop held at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre last week. photo by Robin Burridge

MANITOULIN—Several Manitoulin organizations partnered to bring leading industry professionals in child psychiatry to Manitoulin, connecting Island youth workers and parents with Dr. Jean Clinton and Dr. Michael Ungar at the inaugural ‘Relationships, Resiliency, Reflection Conference’ held at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre last month.

The organizing committee included representatives from the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising (UCCMM), Gore Bay Child Care, Manitoulin Family Resources and the Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board (DSB).

“We, the UCCMM and Manitoulin Family Resources, had both been looking at booking the same speaker, Dr. Michael Ungar, for a separate conference,” explained Eli Fox of the UCCMM Justice Program on the idea behind the Relationships, Resiliency, Reflection Conference. “When we realized we had the same idea we decided to join together to organize the event.”

“We all attend a lot of conferences off-Island and thought it would be nice to bring speakers here to Manitoulin and offer the training to industry professionals on the Island,” added Anne Steele-Giffin with Gore Bay Child Care. “The DSB came on board to help fund the conference, as did the UCCMM.”

Dr. Jean Clinton speaks to participants at the Relationships, Resiliency, Reflection Conference held in Little Current.  photo by Amanda Roy
Dr. Jean Clinton speaks to participants at the Relationships, Resiliency, Reflection Conference held in Little Current.
photo by Amanda Roy

“We wanted to help child and youth workers on the Island come together on the same page and work together to change the framework,” said Mr. Fox.

Paula Corbiere, also with the UCCMM Justice Program, explained that the conference was also about two communities, both First Nations and non-First Nations, coming together and working together.

The conference was held last Tuesday and included presentations from both keynote speakers throughout the day, in addition to a parent panel evening session with Dr. Ungar and Dr. Clinton.

Dr. Clinton is an associate clinical professor with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University. She is on staff at McMaster Children’s Hospital with cross appointments in Pediatrics and Family Medicine and an associate in the Department of Child Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and Sick Children’s Hospital.

“Dr. Clinton is renowned locally, provincially and nationally, and more recently internationally, as an advocate for children’s issues,” states her biography. “Her special interest lies in brain development, and the crucial role relationships and connectedness play therein. Jean champions the development of a national, comprehensive child well-being strategy including a system of early learning and care for all young children and their families. She is equally committed to ensuring that children’s and youths’ needs and voices are heard and respected.”

Dr. Ungar is a top writer and researcher on the topic of resilience. “His work has changed the way resilience is understood, shifting the focus from individual traits to the interactions between people and their families, schools, workplaces and communities,” states his biography.

During his presentation, Dr. Ungar stressed the importance of structure and consequence when dealing with youth. He also spoke of the correlation between positive school experience for abused children and their happiness.

Amanda Roy with Manitoulin Family Resources said that the conference was very well attended and there was positive feedback from participants about the speakers.

“It went really well,” said Ms. Roy. “We had over 160 youth workers, individuals in child services, child care and the UCCMM Justice program attend the conference. We also had some parents attend, which was great to see. Everyone was also pleased with Dr. Ungar and Dr. Clinton. We (the organizing committee) will be meeting again in the next few months and discussing making this an annual event.”