Conflict is a natural part of life. The trick is to be prepared to deal with it effectively. That was the message from Community Engagement & Development Coordinator Peter Williams of the Peterborough Police Service as he introduced Cavan Monaghan Council members to a new mediation program launched last month in Peterborough County. In a pilot stage, this volunteer service is hosted through a partnership between the local John Howard Society of Peterborough, the Peterborough Police Service and Peterborough Housing Corporation. While it is a new program for this community, similar programs have been operating for more than 40 years in Waterloo and Durham County.
It is based on the premise that conflicts will be resolved more smoothly if we adopt the motto of the Boy Scouts, and “Be Prepared”. The program aims to help citizens address issues that arise in their community themselves: it is not an intervention program designed to fix problems on behalf of others. In order to find a lasting solution to difficult issues, the parties involved must buy into the resolution. It is designed to address issues such as noise, pet behaviour, parking, disputes between neighbours and other neighbourhood disturbances. Mediators cannot involve themselves in family disputes, legal issues or court diversions.
Under the supervision of two independent, trained mediators, the participants get together in a neutral setting where each has the opportunity to voice their concerns and seek ways to resolve issues together. Mediators are not problem solvers; they are good listeners and are trained to never take sides. Their job is to ensure that each side gets to tell their story and be heard. Participants make their own decisions and there are no guarantees for success. However, when those at the centre of the dispute are the ones to identify the solution rather than an outside third party, the chances of a permanent resolution are much higher.
The process must be perceived as neutral, confidential, accessible and FREE in order to attract users to avail themselves of this service. To that end, the organization has ensured that their mediators come from all parts of the community, so users can identify with those trying to help.
Now they are open for business. Anyone can make a referral, through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by contacting the John Howard Society at 705-743-8831. Your case will be reviewed for suitability for the program within five business days.
The program has a parallel program operating in public schools, where peer mediators are used to help address conflicts in the classrooms, schoolyards and beyond. Training our young people to address problems before they escalate is a great way to ensure our communities deal with conflicts quickly and constructively now and in the future. KG