A successful, longstanding community mediation program running in Waterloo Region, Community Justice Initiatives (CJI) has come to Guelph.
Guelph MPP Liz Sandals announced a $73,600 Ontario Trillium Foundation seed grant that will enable CJI to take root in the Guelph and Wellington County over the next 12 months. The organization trains volunteer mediators in a host of conflict resolution practices.
During a press conference Tuesday at 10 Carden in downtown Guelph, CJI executive director Chris Cowie said conflicts, such as those that linger between neighbours or family members, can destroy communities.
And yet, he said, we live in a society that is generally loath to the idea of individuals stepping in to deal with conflict directly. Instead we appeal to a higher level of authority like the government or police in many cases.
One of the outcomes of relying on those authorities, he said, is that far too many people are dissatisfied with the process and the outcome. And it leads to communities in which people are basically afraid of one another.
CJI, he said, has brought successful resolution to cases involving very serious conflicts between people, even ones involving theft or assault. He said the process is not based in a reward/punishment model, but in one in which the severed connections between people are restored.
Sandals said her constituency office often has people come it looking for resolutions to personal disputes, conflicts that cause “a huge amount of anxiety.” Those disputes may revolve around whether it is appropriate to fly a flag at a condominium, or who gets the best parking space, she said.
“We often have disputes present themselves at the constituency office, as I’m sure many of you do as agencies, where it isn’t exactly a legal dispute, and it certainly isn’t a political dispute,” Sandals said. “But people have a problem and they don’t know how to sort it out. And they are getting angrier and angrier, and in some cases you can see that the anger is just boiling up, to such an extent that they are at the point of exploding.”
Cowie said the Trillium grant money will go to hire a coordinator position in Guelph, and to ensure training of mediators. He said CJI in Waterloo has 23 staff members and just under 200 volunteers.
CJI is a non-profit organization known around the world for starting the first restorative justice program. It has been in existence for over 40 years. It has programs in Cambridge, Kitchener-Waterloo, Waterloo Region, and now in Guelph-Wellington.
The organization has a series of workshops coming up in the fall, related to dealing with high-conflict personalities, the basics of conflict and how to resolve it, and how to say ‘No’ effectively and appropriately.
Visit www.cjiwr.com/events or call 519-820-3034.