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qathet Community Justice expands its role with crown counsel

Organization has agreement to handle restorative justice cases
SOCIETY STATUS: qathet Community Justice program coordinator Siobhan Brown outlined her organization’s activities to City of Powell River’s committee of the whole and expressed appreciation for financial support.

qathet Community Justice (qCJ) is expanding its role with a memorandum of understanding with crown counsel to handle restorative justice cases.

At the City of Powell River November 29 committee of the whole meeting, Siobhan Brown, qCJ program coordinator, said she was appearing to talk about the program and the support required to operate it.

She said qCJ  was established in 2004 and partnered with Lift Community Services in 2018. Capacity has been built since then.

“We recently obtained our independent society status, so we are now qathet Community Justice Society,” said Brown. “What we do is provide restorative justice services to this region. Restorative justice is an approach to justice that focuses on consequences instead of punishment.

“Essentially, we get victims and offenders for affected parties and responsible parties together with their support people, and others who have been impacted by conflict and crime. The impacts are discussed, and what they want to see happen next. It puts the power back into the hands of the victims and those who are directly impacted.”

Brown said the services of the society are typically a diversion from the criminal court system, but it can also run parallel.

Brown said it is expected there will be an increase in referrals this year because qCJ  has signed a memorandum of understanding with crown counsel.

“We’re one of a small handful of restorative justice organizations in the province that have a signed memorandum of understanding with
BC Prosecution [Service],” said Brown. “We’re really excited about that and we’re looking forward to getting some more cases.”

Referrals typically come from RCMP, self-referrals, other community organizations and now crown counsel, said Brown. It is about a 50-50 split between youth and adults, she added.

“Restorative justice is always voluntary and people have to take accountability for what they have done,” said Brown.

She said the organization is entirely grant dependent and annual budgets have run from $75,000 to $250,000 per year. She said about $44,000 a year can be counted on and the rest is made up of grants.

“We’ve been happy in past to have qathet Regional District and City of Powell River supporting us for keeping our office space and I’d really like to move to a place where the city is supporting our office space on a regular basis,” said Brown.

Pilot projects

City councillor Trina Isakson asked if, after having signed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with crown counsel, whether there would be funding from that source. Brown said no funding would be forthcoming.

“The process of developing MOUs with restorative justice organizations took many years,” said Brown. “It was made quite clear that when the organizations signed on, it would not be guaranteed funding.”

Councillor George Doubt said the city had a motion at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention trying to find alternative crime reduction strategies, one of those being funding for community justice organizations, another being mental health groups, and a third leg being housing.

“The provincial government accepted that delegation quite enthusiastically and suggested that pilot projects might be something that comes forward for consideration,” said Doubt. “There is going to be a new attorney general and I wonder if your organization would like to join with the city for a delegation perhaps with people from housing and mental health, to put some more pressure on the provincial attorney general’s department to move that forward and see if we can get a pilot project going for Powell River.”

Brown said participation in such a venture would be a “strong yes.”

Isakson put forward a motion that city staff work with qCJ to explore a pilot project in the next year. The motion carried.