Volunteers seek to increase visibility of restorative justice in Powell River area

Program aims to bring community together, says coordinator

qathet Community Justice volunteers will spend restorative justice week, November 17 to 24, rebranding the program as they prepare to seek out more sources of local funding.

Originally established in 2004 as Texada Restorative Justice, the program gradually encompassed the rest of the Powell River region over the years before taking its current name. Now local high school students are designing the program’s new logo.

“We have students at Brooks [Secondary School] who are designing a logo for us, which is really exciting,” said program coordinator Siobhan Brown. “As soon as the new year hits, we’re going to be working really hard to get our visibility up, and our vision.”

That vision, Brown explained, centres on resolving conflicts through inclusivity, respect, compassion, accountability and relationship.

“The goal is really about bringing community together, using conflict as an opportunity to have healing conversations and more effective communication with one another.”

“It’s not just for crime,” added Brown. “We also can do neighbourhood conflicts. We’re working with Brooks Secondary. The principles can reach a lot of situations.”

After the program receives a referral, either from the RCMP or through a self-referral, each case goes through four stages: establishing suitability, undergoing preparation, participating in a discussion circle and meeting for a follow-up talk.

“This can happen at any stage in the legal process,” said Brown. “It does not have to be either court or restorative justice. They can run parallel to one another. If a victim feels they’re not being heard enough in the court system, the court case can still go on and the victim can access restorative justice services to have a bit more of a voice.”

The entire process, added Brown, is carried out by hardworking volunteers.

“It’s all from extremely dedicated volunteers; a lot of people come with their own professional expertise,” she said. “We have trained mediators, we have teachers, we have a former probation officer, we have former mental health workers.”

The program is classified as a Community Accountability Program, meaning it receives its core funding from the province. Although that funding increased this year, from $2,500 to $4,000 per year, the group is looking to establish more local and more reliable sources of financial support.

“At the moment we’re entirely dependent on provincial and federal and specialized grants, and it’s incredibly time consuming, and you never know one year to the next what your funding is going to look like,” said Brown.

Last summer, the program had a Canada Summer Jobs intern position for eight weeks, allowing the program’s volunteers to work on grant applications and focus on coordination work.

“We received some grants this year, which was really excellent, so we’re just kicking it up in the level of professionalism and time that we can dedicate to coordination,” said Brown.

In the meantime, Brown encourages anyone who is interested in the program to get in touch by calling 604.485.2004 or emailing qcj@prepsociety.org.

“Get the conversation going about the potential this has for our community,” she said, “because I think it could do a world of good in a lot of different areas.”

 
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