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Home » Walking The Prevention Circle: Re-Searching Community Capacity Building

Walking The Prevention Circle: Re-Searching Community Capacity Building

The Research

The Canadian Red Cross, in partnership with five Indigenous communities in Canada, is working to promote pathways to wellness through Respect Education. The program supports communities in creating safe environments for children and youth, and promotes community-based skills and resources for creating wellness and preventing violence.

Researchers from York and other universities are partnering to explore pathways to wellness linked to the Red Cross program. We want to understand what aspects of this program work to help communities create positive changes and how these changes happen, to better understand what moves communities from a cycle of violence to a circle of healing, rooted in First Nations, Métis and Inuit cultures and practices.


Community-Based Researchers will gather knowledge about their community’s history, services, activities, policies, goals, strengths and challenges, documenting the process of community mobilization in communities before, during and after Red Cross' Respect Education programming. Community mobilization refers to the coming together of community members in a unified way to identify priorities, needs, strengths, challenges and risks toward a common goal. Following the principles of Indigenous research methods, the communities decide how the research is done, and how the learning is shared.

Red Cross Respect Education Programming

As part of the research process, the community will participate in Respect Education programming through the Canadian Red Cross. Community-Based Researchers will document the training process and will be able to gather knowledge about how the Red Cross training contributes to enhancing or building leadership, capacity and wellness within the community.

Sharing of knowledge

A principal goal of this project is to share the knowledge gained through this research. The findings will provide direction for efforts to support communities and organizations in building capacity and in developing strategies to promote community cohesion and movement toward a path of wellness. The findings will be shared through presentations in each partner community or organization, at academic conferences, and in articles, books or book chapters, reports, policy papers, exhibitions, educational tools, resources, and web-based materials.


  • York's Faculty of Health and Faculty of Education
  • Canadian Red Cross
  • Wilfrid Laurier University--Aboriginal Field of Study, Faculty of Social Work
  • PREVNet
  • RCMP
  • Australian Red Cross
Shelley Cardinal

Shelley Cardinal

Shelley Cardinal, National Indigenous Advisor to the Canadian Red Cross. She is the driving force behind Walking The Prevention Circle, a violence-prevention program that explores the historical context and contemporary complexities of the cycle of violence in Indigenous communities. This program was co-created with Indigenous leaders, and it “acknowledges the wholeness, history, light, darkness, challenges and potential of Aboriginal people and communities. From the cycle of violence to the circle of healing, Walking the Prevention Circle recognizes the inter-connectedness of these opposing realities.”[1] A member of the Bigstone Cree Nation in northern Alberta and now based in Victoria, BC, Shelley works closely with Indigenous people and communities across Canada. Shelley has an education background in Psychology and Social Work with post graduate education in Leadership.

[1] Fairholm, J. Fearn, T., & Ross, K. (2010) Walking the Prevention Circle for Aboriginal Communities. 3rd Ed. Canadian Red Cross Society (p.10)

Shelley Cardinal

Dr. Debra Pepler

Dr. Debra Pepler is one of PREVNet's Scientific Co-Directors and is a Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology at York University and a Senior Executive Member of the LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth Research. Dr. Pepler has conducted two major research programs on children at risk within the context of peer relationships at school and in context of the family. To study aggression and bullying, Dr. Pepler developed an innovative methodology to observe children’s interactions which would normally be hidden from adults. Dr. Pepler has been honoured for this research with the Contribution to Knowledge Award from the Psychology Foundation of Canada, the Educator of the Year Award from Phi Delta Kappa (Toronto), the University of Waterloo Arts in Academia Award, and the Canadian Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Contributions to Public or Community Service.

Dr. Kathy Absolon

Dr. Kathy Absolon

Dr. Kathy Absolon is Anishinaabe Kwe from Flying Post First Nation.  Her Anishinaabe name is Minogiizhigo kwe (Shining Day Woman).  She is also an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Social Work (FSW) and is the Program Coordinator of the Aboriginal Field of Study, FSW at Wilfrid Laurier University and brings strong experience in Indigenous research methodologies and processes. Dr. Absolon has recently published a book, Kaandossiwin: How We Come to Know (Fernwood, 2011) in which she examines the work of Indigenous scholars who utilize Indigenous worldviews in their search for knowing. In her book, she lays the foundation for research that is true to Indigenous principles and methods.

Dr. Susan D. Dion

Dr. Susan D. Dion

Dr. Susan D. Dion is an Indigenous scholar (Potawatomi and Lenape) who has been working in the field of education for over twenty-five years. Dr. Dion is a professor in the Faculty of Education at York University, her research interests include decolonizing and Indigenizing education; urban Aboriginal education; and violence prevention in Indigenous communities. Dr. Dion works in collaboration with the Toronto District School Board Aboriginal Education Centre on research and program development. She is widely consulted by diverse community groups, workplaces, and institutions on developing methods for building more equitable, respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Dr. Dion’s book titled Braiding Histories: Learning from Aboriginal Peoples' Experiences and Perspectives (2009) is available from UBC Press.

Dr. Onowa McIvor

Dr. Onowa McIvor

Dr. Onowa McIvor is Swampy Cree from Northern Manitoba, but now gratefully resides on Coast and Straits territory on Vancouver Island in BC. Dr. McIvor is an Assistant Professor and the Director of Indigenous Education at the University of Victoria. She is a long-serving board member with the Victoria Native Friendship Centre (VNFC) and has worked for the past ten years in various capacities with Indigenous communities but most recently in the areas of Indigenous early childhood education, care and development and Indigenous language revitalization.

Canadian Red cross logo

Red Cross Respect Education Violence Prevention programming

The Canadian Red Cross (CRC) is a major partner in this grant.  A core area of excellence for the CRC is violence and abuse prevention. Their Respect Education: Violence and Abuse Prevention programs have been helping to promote safe, supportive relationships and healthy communities since 1984. Built on decades of CRC experience in prevention education, injury prevention, and community-based safety programs, this nationally recognized, award-winning service has reached more than 4 million Canadians.

Walking the Prevention Circle (WTPC) is one of the Respect Education programs. WTPC was developed by and for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities and has been building community capacity in Indigenous communities for the past 13 years. Over 200 First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities coast-to-coast-to-coast have examined relationship issues and safe environments for their children and youth.

Ten Steps to Creating Safe Environments for Children and Youth “is a resource for organizations and communities to help in the development, implementation and monitoring of concrete actions to prevent, reduce, mitigate and respond to interpersonal violence.” (2011, p. 8 Ten steps ManualInternational Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies)

Click here for a Red Cross PDF file of the Ten Steps booklet.

PREVNet logo

PREVNet: Promoting Health Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network

PREVNet’s mission is “to create, facilitate, evaluate and mobilize science-based knowledge, tools and resources on building and sustaining healthy relationships in Canada and around the world.” PREVNet has consulted on Respect Education violence prevention programming for schools and communities. The partnership between the Canadian Red Cross and PREVNet has developed over seven years. PREVNet is a national network comprising 58 researchers, 56 graduate students, and 50 national youthserving organizations, funded by Networks of Centres of Excellence as a Knowledge Mobilization Network. PREVNet’s basic tenet is that healthy development depends on healthy relationships. Traditionally, Indigenous communities have been child-centered and survival of nations depended

In the last two years, we have been learning about the different ethical principles corresponding to each of our partner communities and the interplay of these principles with the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical conduct for research involving First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples that govern the grant in general.

These Indigenous ethical principles have provided us with great insight about how research activities and philosophies are framed for the communities adopting them.  We hope to continue learning about these principles and their practical applications as our partnerships deepen with each community, and ultimately share our learnings with our funders, other organizations and researchers.

Some of the principles we are working with include:

OCAP: Ownership, Control, Access and Possession

Principles of research from an Inuit perspective

Fact sheets published by Inuit Tuttarvingat (The Inuit-specific centre for the National Aboriginal Health Organization)

The Urban Aboriginal Knowledge Network's Ethical Guiding Principles (PDF)