South Peace News
Northern Sunrise County has come through when it’s needed most.
Peace Regional Restorative Justice received a donation of $20,0000 from Northern Sunrise County Dec. 14, 2021 so the organization can continue its much-needed programs and services.
Program co-ordinator China Sieger wrote council Dec. 20, 2021 thanking them for the money.
“It will go a long way to help us maintain our course and take our program to the next level,” writes Sieger.
Sieger wrote council with the request and appeared as a delegation at the Dec. 14 meeting. She first acknowledged the County’s past support [since 2016] and recognition of the value of restorative justice.
She wrote their most “significant challenge” is funding.
“Some years we’ve had to greatly limit service due to fluctuations in funding cycles and delayed arrival of funds,” wrote Sieger.
“We are strong in regional support for our programs and with some strengthened local partnerships within the criminal justice system and renewed connections with Indigenous communities within the region, we anticipate some significant growth this coming year.”
At the meeting, Sieger reminded council their goal is to provide another option for people impacted by crime. They work closely with the RCMP and Victims Services “when victims [and perpetrators] are willing to participate.”
They do so carefully.
“Our role is not to judge.”
If an agreement is reached amongst all parties involved, the charge is withdrawn and the accused stays out of the criminal justice system.
Sieger added they have seen an increase in referrals from the RCMP and Victim Services.
“We’re at a point. . .with an increase in referrals from the RCMP. . .we’re going to see a lot of referrals.”
However, the organization was about $41,000 short “to provide the best program possible” according to Sieger.
She was asked if they approached local Indigenous governments for money. While Sieger had not yet done so, the plan is to ask. Sieger said she would be meeting with Woodland Cree chief and council soon.
Reeve Carolyn Kolebaba was concerned the Alberta government would attempt to download mental health issues to Restorative Justice.
“I hope you have the courage to say no,” she said.
“We will not take on anything we don’t feel ethically we are prepared for,” promised Sieger.
“It’s hard to say no because we want to help,” but Sieger added others are trained to be the experts which they are not.
Council heard the Alberta government budgets $720,000 each year to be split amongst all Restorative Justice programs in Alberta. The maximum amount each organization can receive is $50,000 which the Peace River group has received the last two years.
“Not a lot of money to do the work that we’re doing,” said Sieger.
She added New Zealand budgets $9 million annually for a similar program.