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The 2017 PREVNet conference in Gatineau, Quebec

by Joyce Li, M.Sc., Graduate Student Member, PREVNet

A few weeks ago, PREVNet held its annual national conference in Gatineau, Quebec. This conference was an opportunity for researchers, educators, policymakers, service providers, law enforcement, and other adults who work with youth to come together and discuss how we can promote healthy relationships and healthy development.

We held a pre-conference day on November 15 for PREVNet members. In the morning, PREVNet graduate students were invited to participate in some professional development. Graduate students contribute thousands of hours to PREVNet activities each year (by conducting research, creating resources, consulting with organizations) and are truly passionate about youth mental health and peer relationships. First, Dr. David Hammond, Professor & CIHR/PHAC Applied Public Health Chair at the University of Waterloo, gave an illuminating and entertaining presentation on how we can use social media and marketing strategies to share our research with the public.


Next, two panels of early career professionals shared their thoughts on finding a meaningful career within academia or in other sectors. Thank you to Dr. Deinera Exner-Cortens (Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary), Dr. Danielle Law (Youth and Children’s Studies & Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University), Dr. Nicole Racine (University of Calgary & Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute), Dr. Christine Polihronis (Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute), Dr. Rosalie Poulin (Education Ministry , Quebec Government), and Dr. Heather McCuaig Edge (Canadian Department of National Defence), for sharing your insights with our graduate student members. 


PREVNet researchers, youth advisory committee members, and partner organization staff joined for lunch, and in the afternoon we heard updates on the latest research findings and innovations in bullying research and practices. From our researcher network, we had presentations from Dr. Melanie Dirks (McGill University), Dr. Isabelle Ouellet-Morin (Université de Montréal), Dr. Dorothy Vaandering (Memorial University of Newfoundland), Dr. Depeng Jiang (University of Manitoba), and Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt (University of Ottawa).

PREVNet researcher Depeng Jiang

Isabelle Ouellet-Morin 

From our partner organizations, we heard updates from Jason Colero (Toronto Argonauts Football Club), Marisa Silver (Child Development Institute), Lisa Evanoff (Canadian Red Cross), Matthew Johnson (MediaSmarts), and Dr. Mary Motz (Mothercraft/Breaking the Cycle). These organizations are doing outstanding work in the field of mental health and violence prevention, and represent just a few of the dozens of organizaitons that make up our network!

PREVNet partners

That evening, we headed over to the Canadian Museum of History for our first #SpreadKindness Youth Town Hall! You can read more about that event here

The next day, November 16, was our public education day!


We welcomed folks from all across the country for a jam-packed day of learning and networking. Shelley Cardinal, National Indigenous Advisor, Respect Education, Canadian Red Cross, opened the conference with a presentation on “Creating Safe Environments in Indigenous Communities – Unpacking Research Learnings”. Her presentation set the tone for a day of curious, child-centred, holistic, and evidence-based teaching and learning.  

Graduate students presented research findings on posters, and partner organizations shared their resources at booths in the hall. Thank you for your contributions!

We are also grateful to all our workshop presenters for developing a diverse array of learning opportunities for our attendees! Presenters included:

  • Debra Pepler: The Whys and Hows of Promoting Healthy Relationships for Healthy Development

  • Tracy Vaillancourt: Understanding mental health outcomes among bullied youth: Biological considerations
  • Nimmi Kanji: TELUS WISE (Wise Internet & Smartphone Education)

  • Wendy Craig, Rachel Baitz and Johanna Sam: Evaluating Online Resources to Foster the Well-Being of Young People

  • Joanne Cummings: Preventing Adolescent Gender Based Violence
  • Ken Jeffers: Talking Relationships - Evidence Based Learning for Healthy Living and Loving with Clear Consent and Boundaries

  • Shelley Hymel: Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and Mental Well-Being in Schools: One-Stop Resource Finder
  • Tara Wilkie and Sophie Langri: Creating a culture of caring and inclusion in the classroom: Practical SEL strategies elementary and high school students

  • Paula St-Arnaud and Rosalie Poulin: Dix ans d’actions ministérielles en prévention de la violence à l’école

  • Isabelle Ouellet-Morin and Sophie Bourque: Challenges and Opportunities in Supporting Students who are Bullied -Integration of a New Mobile App, Stronger than Bullying, in the School Context

  • Dorothy Vaandering: Restored Justice-Restored Hope - Relearning Relational Ways of Being  

  • Ken MacNaughton, Danielle Hunter, and Dan Hogan: Using PREVNet’s Bullying Prevention: Factsheets & Tools for Schools Document to Support a Positive School Climate in the Durham District School Board

  • Matthew Johnson, Faye Mishna, and Moses Okumu: Sexting research among young people: Where do we go from here?

  • Mary Motz: Supporting Brain Development in the Early Years – A Relational Approach

Mary Motz

Faye Mishna

We capped off the day with two keynote addresses by experts in the field of youth wellbeing. First, Dr. Jean Clinton, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster, presented on how we move science to action in order to promote youth wellbeing. Next, Lisa Wolff, Director of Policy and Education at UNICEF Canada, shared findings from the most recent UNICEF report card on how Canadian youth wellbeing, and how we can mobilize to create healthier childhoods. 

Lisa Wolff


To close, our scientific co-directors, Dr. Debra Pepler and Dr. Wendy Craig, reflected on what an inspiring conference we had. It is clear that while we still have a lot of work to do in order to ensure every child in Canada has a healthy, safe, and happy childhood, we are making some really good strides. By coming together, sharing ideas, and finding what works, we can create a better future for our children.


Photos by David Simon, Sandbox Photovideo

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