OHSWEKEN — Representatives from a not-for-profit organization based in Hamilton are asking Six Nations Elected Council if their Restorative Justice and Conflict Mediation Program (RJCMP) could be implemented into schools and social circles in the community.
Garth Bell, from the John Howard Society, presented his idea at last Wednesday’s Human Services Committee meeting and received mixed reviews from elected council and the four directors of the community’s human service departments.
“We’ve already met with Six Nations Police and they said they are committed to do our training as well,” said Bell. “We didn’t want to do anything else without council’s approval, so that’s why we came today to present our plan.” Bell said that the program recently came into some funding so he has just recently begun reaching out to communities for support.
The RJCMP would provide peer mediation to youth aged 12 to 21 using a restorative justice approach within a school setting to address conflicts and violence that impacts the school community. Some key objectives of the program are; promote and teach empathy; promote safer school communities; reduce suspensions; reduce violent behaviours; reduce truancy and school drop-outs and to increase linkages to supports to enhance at-risk and high-risk youth’s school engagement.
Bell is a professional youth worker with more than 20 years of experience in promoting and empowering positive change for at risk youth. He was asked whether or not he foresees any barriers or roadblocks that would make implementing the program difficult and he said he did not see any, but others in attendance weren’t so sure the transition would be so simple.
“Transportation would be an issue,” said Councillor Lewis Staats. “The kids still have to get to these meetings somehow and we know that transportation is a huge problem for many of the members in the community.”
Director of Ontario Works Sharon Martin said that the target group for this program is not a good fit for the Six Nations community.
“Your target group should be at a younger age and communication starts in the home,” said Martin. “We’re always tying to fix the adolescent, but we need to start earlier.” Martin said that the program would need to focus more on family issues and focus on solving these things from the home before a program like this is implemented into the school systems.
Councillors Melba Thomas and Hazel Johnson both said that the RJCMP sounds like a good program, but there were simply too many questions and concerns from those at the meeting to make a unanimous decision to support the delegation. Thomas thanked Bell for coming and asked him to come back to a general council meeting in the near future where he can make his presentation to the entire elected council.