Mediate BC Blog

Mediating in the Time of COVID-19: What does safe mean for mediation?

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Earlier this year, and what seems like years ago, we became aware of a new public health threat that had the potential to be devastating globally – COVID-19. The truth is that we in Canada, and BC more specifically, have been pretty lucky to not have experienced the widespread transmission and deaths that have been experienced elsewhere. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that, for many of us, what we’ve experienced has been an enhanced set of concerns for our family, and inconveniences in all areas of our life.  

The reality is that the limited impact of COVID-19 on our communities in BC is because we’ve done a good job limiting it. It isn’t that BC is somehow super resistant to COVID-19; it is that we took the steps in our families, workplaces, and social settings to best mitigate the risk of contraction and transmission. In fact, we did such a good job that we seemed to be in a good and safe position to start removing the safeguard measures. Plus let’s face it, people were tired, and they wanted to resume their normal. 

Currently, we’re at the start of the second wave and quite frankly it doesn’t look good right now. We are seeing higher rates of contraction and spread in some communities, and that’s coupled with the very reasonable fatigue that’s set in. The bottom line is that we’ve got a global pandemic and that requires us as service providers to consider safety for our processes. 

So, what’s “safe”? If I had the answer, I’d be leading a task force and could make that determination, but I don’t and I can’t make that call.  

What I can say is that this isn’t my first pandemic. I ran a homeless resource in Ontario during the SARS crisis and so I have some experience keeping people safe at times like this. I can also say that I use the same guidelines for my practice and home now that I did then, and knock on wood, it’s worked thus far. 

So, here’s what safe looks like for me, when it comes to mediation right now: 

  1. Every action that we take is safer when we are actively trying to not infect others. Masks, personal hygiene (including sanitizing hands and clothes), disinfecting surfaces, using and providing single use items instead (where we would normally share items) and limiting face to face contact with everyone else, is what I think is important here. When we shift the paradigm from protecting ourselves, to protecting others I actually believe we are better able to also protect ourselves. Moreover, none of this is exceptionally taxing.  


  1. Listen to and follow the guidance of experts. Unless you’re an epidemiologist or work in crisis management, you really don’t know. The Federal, Provincial, Regional and Local Health authorities are charged with the responsibility of making sure that people get the best information about what’s happening and how to handle it. This is not a time to rely on hearsay, opinion, or unverified information. There are people who know this stuff well and they’re good at what they do – follow their instruction. 


  1. Ask for, and take seriously, the wishes of others. We’re all used to a high level of personal freedom and autonomy, and we will again. Right now, there are smaller communities, businesses, families, and people that just don’t want to expose themselves to risk. We need to hear them and give them the respect deserve. Everyone can make their own choices; we need to remember that one person making a choice does not create the requirement that someone else adhere to that plan or provide consent in those cases. If this creates a situation where, as service providers, we need to modify our practice to accommodate their wishes then that’s what we need to do. 


  1. Be reasonable and kind. The likelihood is that we are going to continue to be impacted by safety precautions, guidelines, and orders for the foreseeable future. In my program, the Child Protection Mediation Program, I’m telling mediators that we should anticipate that these measures and practice guidelines will be necessary for the next 12 – 18 months. It may be shorter, or longer, but this is what we’re planning for in our program. That means mediators can expect, and must anticipate, that things may need to change for a mediation – and not just because the mediator thinks something needs to change. When that happens, we need to approach it reasonably and from a position of understanding. We need to explore the possibilities of what might work to help things move forward, and throughout it all we need to be kind – especially when change means cancellation. 
  1. Talk. This one should actually be easy for mediators, but I don’t know that it always is. The truth is that we move forward better when we do it together. Find practice groups, reach out to colleagues, talk to your friends and family, and do it as much as you need to. The uncertainty is more than just “Will we get COVID?” The uncertainty is about Will we be able to work? Will we be able to make it through financially? Will the nature of mediation change so much (because this will change some of how we practice) that my style of practice won’t be as desirable? And then, we add all that to Will the people I love be okay? All that together is a lot of stress, for us and those around us. Make sure you’re not carrying that alone, and make sure that you’ve got help because this is a biggie – but we can get through together. Also, it’s not like you get cool points for doing things by yourself, so make sure you’re connecting out. 

In the end, there’s not a quick or simple answer for what’s safe. All we can safe is that we’re safer when we’re considerate of others and ensuring that our actions are good for everyone. This won’t last forever, but while it does, we need to be responsible for making it so that we’re not being a danger to ourselves or others.  

Be kind to yourself and remember that it can’t rain all the time, good things are happening all around us. 

Jereme Brooks 

Program Manager 

Child Protection Mediation Program 

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