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qathet Community Justice gets help from Powell River business

A restorative justice program in the qathet region says it struggles to find stable core funding.

qathet Community Justice has been running for eight years and has 32 volunteers, mostly conducting restorative justice circles. It started in 2004 on Texada Island.

The aim of the program is to divert some criminal cases from the court system and also resolve non-criminal conflicts in order to restore community relationships.

Program Coordinator Siobhan Brown says the talks, headed by volunteers, focus more on consequences than punishment.

“The idea is to get the responsible party and the affected party or the people who are directly affected by the conflict or crime into a room and talk a little bit about what the issues are, how everyone has been affected and what the best way is to move forward,” Brown said in an interview with Vista Radio.

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She says a case can go through the whole court process and still end up with a restorative justice solution. qCJ has agreements with the RCMP and Crown counsel to refer cases to the program if they see it’s a good fit.

Brown says the program has seen cases increase and decrease in two year cycles. Many of the cases that come to them are youth cases for bullying and harassment and criminal cases for break-and-enter, vandalism and theft.

But that doesn’t preclude other serious crimes where one might think a victim would not want to be face to face with their attacker.

“If a victim of sexual assault wanted to look their perpetrator in the face and get an apology and understand what happened then maybe it would be a good option.”

But Brown says both sides need to be “really taking full accountability” otherwise the program doesn’t work.

qathet Community Justice is also getting some help at the grassroots level.

Brown says a casual chat with an employee at the Willow Rose Boutique has seen the Willingdon Avenue shop agree to make the program its next fundraiser.

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