Holding space vs. Making space: Building youth-led community belonging through education, leadership and dialogue

June 10, 2021

The workshop will examine what it means to hold, share and give over space to youth voices in community-centred research.

In partnership with the SFU Research and Engagement Centre for Restorative Justice (RECRJ), North Shore Restorative Justice Society (NSRJS) piloted the first Youth Justice Lab (YJL) in summer 2020, inviting 15 youth from the North Shore to our first ever cohort program. We held weekly sessions with staff and guest speakers exploring topics such as restorative and transformative justice, decolonization, racial equity, intergenerational activism, and more.

In groups, participants developed projects to tackle justice issues with the guidance of local mentors. At the program graduation, groups presented their ideas to the community. Project topics included:

  • Poverty and income inequality;
  • Curriculum changes to decolonize BC public education; and
  • Peer mental health support networks.

Through this 6-week virtual lab, youth deepened connections between themselves and with community leaders. In the words of a youth participant, “the [Lab] group environment was extremely supportive and inclusive, and this helped build a sense of community belonging for me”.


Brenda Morrison, Director of the SFU Research and Engagement Centre for Restorative Justice

Brenda Morrison is SFU's Director of the Research and Engagement Centre for Restorative Justice. She is a social psychologist with teaching, research and field experience in outdoor education, governance and justice. She has worked on restorative justice initiatives in Canada, Australia, the USA and Brazil. In BC, she serves on working groups for a Justice System for the 21st Century. In her home community, she is an active board member for the North Shore Restorative Justice Society.  


Anne-Marie Parent, NSRJS staff

Anne-Marie Parent (she/her) is a white settler of French ancestry currently living on the unceded lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish) and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. She graduated with her MA in Human Development (Educational Psychology) in 2019 from McGill University. As part of her graduate studies, she became interested in restorative justice in education and social-emotional development as a response to discrimination and bullying in schools, with a specific focus on the experiences of LGBTQ youth. She continues to interrogate these important issues in another capacity, acting now as Program Manager of the Restorative Justice in Education Initiative at the North Shore Restorative Justice Society.

Emma Mendez, youth alum

Emma Mendez is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and a mixed-Indigenous “mestiza,” who strives to help create a decolonized world free of oppression and injustice. A Creative and currently an undergraduate student, she lives, creates, and studies on the unceded and ancestral lands of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, so-called Vancouver, Canada.

Graham Best, youth alum

Graham Best was born on, and grew up in, the stolen traditional territories of the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations. A participant in NSRJ’s 2020 Youth Justice Lab, and a member of the Youth advisory council at NSRJ, Graham invites other youth to join him in the process of “Learning and Unlearning” as we create a more equitable future. Graham is currently a High School senior and plans to go on to study the Social Sciences.

Sorcha Joseph, youth alum

Sorcha Joseph is 18 years old, from Bowen Island BC. She lives on the unceded territory of the Squamish Nation, and is passionate about social justice and helping to make a positive change in the world. Some hobbies she enjoys doing are crochet, practising violin and spending time with her dogs.