Ottawa

Ottawa's Notre Dame High School turns to indigenous tradition to resolve conflict

An Ottawa high school has created a new space to help students resolve conflicts and connect with indigenous culture and traditions such as smudging. Notre Dame High School opened its new 'restorative practices room' Thursday with a special ceremony involving local elders, students, teachers and school officials.

Notre Dame High School's 'restorative practices room' open to all students and teachers

The new restorative practices room at Ottawa's Notre Dame High School (Giacomo Panico, CBC News)

An Ottawa high school has created a new space to help students resolve conflicts and connect with indigenous culture and traditions such as smudging.

Notre Dame High School, under the Ottawa Catholic School Board, opened its new "restorative practices room" Thursday with a special ceremony involving local elders, students, teachers and school officials.

Alanna Trines and Kate McGarrity-Fournier helped create the restorative practices room at Notre Dame High School. (Giacomo Panico, CBC News)
Native studies teacher Alanna Trines and guidance counsellor Kate McGarrity-Fournier helped create the space, which features a circle for discussions, indigenous learning resources and traditional medicines like sage and sweetgrass for smudge ceremonies.

"Its origins are in First Nations community circles, where people would come together and share their voice and concerns and be respected," said McGarrity-Fournier.

'What we hope for the room is that it will build relationships, create a more inclusive environment at Notre Dame, and a place where people feel their voice can be heard and shared and respected.' - Notre Dame High School guidance counsellor Kate McGarrity-Fournier

"If there's a specific conflict in the school, we will be able to refer to this room specifically for restorative practices conflict resolution," added Trines. "We'll be able to have any student that's involved in a conflict sit in a circle, and we'll be able to resolve that conflict in a restorative practices type of way."

Room open to all students and staff

Former principal Bonnie Campbell came up with the idea for the room, which will be open to all of Notre Dame's staff and 750 students as a gathering space, or even to hold classes.

Notre Dame High School students and teachers will use the restorative practice room to smudge with traditional indigenous medicines like sweetgrass and sage. (Giacomo Panico, CBC News)
Trines plans to use it regularly for her students, where they'll smudge a few times a week, a practice she's been doing with her classes in recent years

"I just hope that everyone is going to be comfortable to access this space openly, because I don't want anyone to be shy," said Trines. "If anyone wants to come in, have a class in here, or if a student feels like they just want some quiet time in this space."

"What we hope for the room is that it will build relationships, create a more inclusive environment at Notre Dame, and a place where people feel their voice can be heard and shared and respected," added McGarrity-Fournier.

Grade 10 student Kathy Mitchell

Kathy Mitchell, a grade 10 student at Notre Dame High School, talks about the new restorative practices room. 0:33