What is Lateral Violence?



You're probably asking yourself, what exactly is lateral violence?


The short answer: being violent to your peers or members of your own group. In this case, we are referring to lateral violence within indigenous communities. This violence can be physical violence, but the lateral violence we address is emotional. This form of lateral violence can come from your peers, family members, friends, and from members within your community.  

Some examples of Lateral Violence:

  • Belittling 
  • Undermining
  • Icy Glares
  • Name calling
  • Gossiping

Sounds kind of like bullying, huh? But the difference with lateral violence is with its roots. Unlike bullying, lateral violence exists because of colonization, oppression, and inter-generational trauma from residential schools, and the ongoing experiences of racism and discrimination. 

The Native Women's Association of Canada defines lateral violence as: 

"When a powerful oppressor has directed oppression against a group for a period of time, members of the oppressed group feel powerless to fight back and they eventually turn their anger against each other."


When we feel powerless because of all these outside factors, it makes us feel bad about ourselves and need to reclaim our power. But when we do not know healthy ways of reclaiming our power this can lead to us instead trying to take power from our families, friends and community members through lateral violence. Just as intergenerational trauma is passed from one generation to the next, lateral violence is passed laterally, to the side, and affects everyone within the community. When you are laterally violent to someone, they will continue the cycle of lateral violence onto the next person. This is why when we engage in lateral violence, it negatively impacts the well-being of the whole community. 


How can we as youth stop lateral violence?
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We know that lateral violence is a learned behaviour, that can be unlearned. While we recognize that we can't completely eradicate lateral violence through one workshop, we can at least educate our peers so that the next time they are faced with lateral violence they can choose to change their behaviour in the moment.

We have been told that "this is just the way things are." We disagree, which is why we are dedicated to changing this mindset. If you are interested in hosting a youth workshop for your community, please see our services section.

As a part of our workshops, we were trained by Respectful Workplace on how to facilitate the Blanket Exercise. As our lateral violence workshops are only meant for indigenous youth, the blanket exercise provides an opportunity of learning for all ages and walks of life. The Blanket Exercise is a great educational tool for non-indigenous people to learn about our shared-history.