Creating Space: Safer, Brave, and Accountable Spaces

Authentic learning about anti-oppressive practice involves risk, difficulty, and controversy, which creates discomfort.

Setting shared guidelines is an important part of preparing for this discomfort and positioning the emotional work involved in learning about anti-racism and anti-oppression.

Brave Space Practice

This practice is offered by the staff of Hamilton Community Legal Clinic for consideration and adaptation.

A Brave Space is founded on mutual respect where we discuss important and controversial issues with civility. It is an inclusive space that confronts ideas and assumptions with movement towards action that influences effective change.


  • Gratitude: think about what you appreciate about each person in the room.
  • Avoid making assumptions about other people, including about history, race and experience & thereby, avoid contributing towards microaggressions.
  • Respect that there are different abilities, physical appearances, and cultural ways to communicate in the room.
  • “Perfect” politics are not expected (so that people do not feel judged if their views or language are not “politically correct”).
  • Speak for yourself. Use “I” language; don’t speak for others and don’t share someone else’s stories or experience.
  • Recognize that “understanding” is a powerful term and should only be used if you have lived experience. We cannot understand everyone’s lived experience, but we must acknowledge it.
  • Notice and acknowledge your own biases/judgments.
  • Agreement: do not personalize; no one is neutral; extend benefit of the doubt; self-reflect; be kind to each other.
  • Be open to critical self-reflection. If an individual tells you that something you said was harmful to them, listen. Listen for the sake of listening and not responding.
  • Acknowledge your privilege and be aware of historical past and current events that may place you at a position of power at this very moment.
  • Understand that we are all in a place of learning. If you say something problematic, apologize, listen to the voices of others, and then learn and adjust your behaviour.
  • Create allyship to communicate, and build relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability.
  • Express your views thoughtfully, courteously and respectfully, and without intimidation, discrimination, or harassment in all communication either spoken or written.
  • Create a brave space for differing views and fears about issues of racism and all forms of oppression where shame, blame, and judgment are not supported.
  • Don’t occupy the space by taking control or dominating the conversation without allowing other voices to be heard.
  • Observe complete confidentiality when matters are deemed confidential.
  • Engage in conflict resolution if conflict should arise.

Tools For Respectful Interactions To Minimize Conflict

  • Recognize the role of “intent” and “impact”. We judge ourselves by our good intentions, but judge others by the impact they have on us. Assuming intention based on impact ensures conflict. Question intention, but at the same time recognize impact (good intention does not sanitize impact).
  • Be mindful that such conversations as outlined in this document can create a myriad of emotions. It is best to be aware of this as emotions can influence your response. Your response must reflect the purpose of this inclusive space, which is ‘effective change’.
  • Blame is another pillar of conflict: switch from blame to “contribution” framework; understanding what has led to the situation helps deal with conflict; making an accusation (assuming the worst) creates a loop; judgement creates defensiveness in each other and escalates; don’t fixate on a specific outcome (e.g. apology), but look behind it to desired interest (e.g. respect); ask what are my contributions to this situation-this highlights each party’s power to change conflict.

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