Creating safe, respectful places of belonging
Yet history shows us that no organization, including L’Arche, is spared from abuses of power, or any form of abuse or harassment. Testimonies on the abuse of religious women in the Catholic Church presented in a March 2019 program on the Arte television network (Europe) are a painful example of this, allowing us to understand the impact of abuse on the victims.
We know today that this harm is greater when the organization does not have sound policies and procedures that prioritize the safety and wellbeing of all who enter its doors especially vulnerable persons. This harm is compounded when the organization does not reflect on its culture and structures to ensure respect for the value and voice of each person, transparency and accountability to its members, supporters, and regulators, and openness to the broader community.
Taking Action to Promote Respect and Prevent Abuse
In L’Arche in Canada, we continue to listen deeply to victims of abuse wherever this harm occurred (e.g. survivors of provincial institutions), empathizing with their suffering, seeking to learn what they need for healing, and supporting them to receive it. Together, we continue to reflect on ways that we can strengthen our commitment to promoting respect and preventing abuse. This work includes reflecting on the ways that L’Arche Canada - like all organizations and the whole of Canadian society - need to change to ensure that we create safe, respectful spaces for each person to flourish.
L’Arche is committed to strong policies at every level that clearly state that all forms of abuse, harassment, and discrimination are absolutely unacceptable. The protection of vulnerable individuals is fundamental. Our policies and procedures existed before revelations of abuse related to Père Thomas Philippe came to light in 2014, but they were renewed and strengthened afterwards. These policies set out clear procedures for educating all members, employees, and volunteers about their rights and the rights of others, reporting and handling complaints (preventing ‘double victimization’) and achieving clear, just outcomes. Support for victims of abuse and harassment is essential.
Creating a Culture and Structures of Listening and Respect
Beyond renewing our commitment to promote respect and prevent abuse and harassment, L’Arche Canada is working to ensure that deep listening is central to our culture and structures. This work includes:
- Ensure that all who participate in L’Arche are supported in their growth into greater wellbeing, autonomy, choice, valued social roles, and personal networks.
- Develop practices of open, honest conversation between all members with clear processes for raising concerns and addressing complaints.
- Develop supports to strengthen teamwork and collaboration, name and work through conflict, and seek forgiveness when appropriate.
- Cultivate practices and attitudes of respect for each person, our differences and common humanity, and celebrate each person’s unique gifts and contributions.
- Accept vulnerability and our need for one another as valued parts of our humanity while developing practices that establish healthy boundaries.
- Integrate listening to the voices of members with and without disabilities into organizational decision-making and governance structures.
- Create an environment that is open to the world and to different points of view and ways of seeing by building bridges to others in the wider community.
- Play an active role in the fight against discrimination, and advocate for valued listening and respect, and the experience of belonging and inclusion for all citizens.
These directions require ongoing reflection and action, yet together they will ensure that we lessen the gap between the compelling vision of L’Arche and our lived experience, thereby increasing our impact as we work with others to build a more just, vibrant, and compassionate world for all.