RJ in the News

Province provides $84,000 grant to Fort’s Restorative Justice over next three years

Fort Saskatchewan and Area Restorative Justice Program was one of 16 organizations who received provincial funding, as part of the Justice department’s announcement on July 17.

For 2016-17, the local group will receive $28,000 in Alberta Community Restorative Justice (ARCJ) grants — a bump of $11,000 annually.

“That’s a substantial increase from what we traditionally had and that’s primarily due to the acceptance of our program and our program being one of the largest in Alberta,” said Don Lehman, coordinator of the local Restorative Justice branch.

The organization works with RCMP and Crown prosecutors to helps rehabilitate individuals in a collaborative way.

The grant will fund three programs: the weekly Men Achieving Change program (a men’s support program which discusses being better people while struggling with relationships), the Peacekeeping Circle program in four local schools (an eight-week early intervention curriculum which includes advice regarding test stress, social media, bullying, how to break up appropriately, and resolving conflict), and the Restorative Justice initiative which addresses crime intervention and conflict resolution, including partnering with the school resource officer.

Men Achieving Change began in November 2016 and has seen great success with 19 men enter the program and 16 of those have returned three times or more. The program is similar to Edmonton’s Men without Hats, however uses facilitators instead of psychologists.

“That whole idea is about engaging men and boys to be part of the solution, as opposed to being viewed as part of the problem. It’s about accepting accountability for our actions and behaviours and working to achieving change to make life better for ourselves and our families,” Lehman said.

The local restorative justice program will receive $28,000 annually from the province for the next two fiscal years as well. In the past year, the program has seen 88 files in comparison to 15 files when it first launched in 2004.

“Without this funding, the men’s group wouldn’t be able to sustain itself… we wouldn’t be able to function. The Peacekeeping program would go by the wayside. We’re pretty much at capacity right now but this will allow us to train our people,” Lehman said.

In the long term, the Restorative Justice Program such as the Fort’s saves the government money since operating a court room hourly is $2,000 and further resources pegged at $500 per case.

Overall, the province provided $360,000 to 16 restorative justice initiatives. Recipients were required to be an incorporated non-profit and/or volunteer organizations, coalitions, local community groups, Indigenous organizations or youth justice committees sanctioned by the Government of Alberta.

“These provincial grants enable organizations to help give victims a voice, while allowing offenders to repair the harm caused by their actions. Restorative justice is an innovative approach to ensure both victims and the community are a part of the resolution of conflict,” said Kathleen Ganley, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General.

New Men’s Support Group in Fort  

A new men’s group had been started by Fort Saskatchewan’s Restorative Justice program, Families First Society and the Boys & Girls Club.

The Men Achieving Change group meets every Thursday at the Families First office to discuss issues and learn different ways to deal with life, says organizer Don Lehman.

“It’s really about having a place to talk,” he says. “Typically men do not seek out out help, nor is it easy to find.”

Any man can join the group, though it is especially for those having difficulty in relationships or those depressed or anxious. It is a friendly, safe, supportive place to talk about being good fathers and challenge the stereotype of the tough man, Lehman adds.

Anyone interested can drop in at the Families First office Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. or call Lehman at 780-905-3124 or check out restorefortsask.ca

Men’s Support Group Formed

A new men’s support group aims to provide an outlet for local men going through divorce, depression, anxiety or other personal issues.

Fort Saskatchewan resident Don Lehman is coordinator of the local Restorative Justice branch, an organization that works with RCMP and Crown prosecutors to helps rehabilitate individuals in a collaborative way.

Through his work with that organization, he is frequently a part of family group conferencing. In that setting, he said he noticed there was a lot of anger, particularly amongst the men.

“It’s typically me and one or two other guys and it’s all women,” Lehman said. “I just noticed in the community, there were no resources for men. And typically the resources come out after something bad happens.”

That’s why the new support group, called Men Achieving Change (M.A.C.) hopes to take a preventative approach toward negative behaviours. The group meets every Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Families First Society. No signup is required.

“We’re looking for something that’s preventative and educational … The environment has to be safe for men to be able to open up. When they don’t open up, they’re going to internalize that and they have a lot of frustration on not being able to be heard,” Lehman said.

“Men won’t typically seek out someone to speak with about their troubles,” he added.

That can lead to further issues, such as depression and anxiety. Addressing mental health issues is also part of M.A.C’s mandate.

The group is based on three cornerstones: strength, dependability and accountability. The third is most important, because in the Restorative Justice approach, Lehman noted it’s very important to take personal responsibility for any kind of problem an individual has caused.

“The men that we have coming in now are already in situations where there are no contact orders or they’re in trouble. And one thing that’s really bad is we tend to minimize (their problems),” he said.

“The other one is the strength it takes to make change, to be a man in today’s world,” Lehman added. “And of course there’s dependability, because our kids, wives and families depend on us … it’s about building strong men so we can have strong families.”

The support group came to existence through a partnership between Families First Society, the Fort Saskatchewan Boys & Girls Club and Restorative Justice. It’s also supported by the Government of Alberta.

Lehman said the members of the group won’t have all the answers, but can help people find them.

“We’re not psychologists, we’re not counsellors, we’re group facilitators … at some point if they need resources, we guide them in that direction,” he said.

“Let’s have a place for men to talk, and while we’re at it, let’s look at some different ways on how to deal with these common issues and triggers.”

For more information, contact Families First Society at (780) 998-5595.

Resident Awarded for Community Service

To say that Fort Saskatchewan resident Don Lehman is committed to justice would be an understatement.

Lehman has served as program coordinator for the local Restorative Justice branch since 2009 and was recently recognized for his commitment with the third annual Alberta Restorative Justice George Brertton Award, handed out by the Alberta Restorative Justice Association to those who promote, educate and support restorative justice practices.
Restorative justice is a form of rehabilitation that allows an individual to have a say in how harm they caused is repaired. Restorative Justice gets referrals from the RCMP and Crown prosecutors for convictions that may be better addressed with rehabilitation rather than straight punishment, for example shoplifting.
It’s often aimed towards youth but can also be tailored for adults.
“It’s quite impactful when a young person, or even an adult has to face the person or people they’ve harmed,” Lehman said.
As a young man, Lehman said he was often lost and had no one to turn to for advice. He saw that pattern repeat with his own son when he lived away from home for some time.
“I had nobody to fight for me, nobody to help me, and I guess my son kind of suffered the same thing. So through that, that’s really my background as to why I got into it,” Lehman said.
As much as he’s embraced the opportunity to help other people, especially youth, he recognizes that his time with Restorative Justice has also helped his own personal growth.
“The more I do this, it makes me a better person, a more understanding person. I think we all have a tendency to grow up inside of our own lens of how we view the world … I’m there for people, and it’s helped me as a human being and helped me to heal.
“Through my growth and learning from practising Restorative Justice … I’ve got more out of this than I’ve probably given I think,” he added.
He’s most proud of how since he joined the role of program coordinator, he’s helped oversee the program’s expansion. When he first started, they dealt with about 15 to 20 files a year. Now that’s up to 65 to 70 files a year, involving anywhere from 120 to 175 people.
“Just being recognized for that, by my peers, meant a lot,” he said.
He wanted to thank the Fort Saskatchewan RCMP for having always supported the program, as well as the Alberta Restorative Justice Association for the recognition.
He wants to continue helping people find their way with Restorative Justice, especially the young people.
“I have a passion for kids, and I never really understood that passion until I started doing this … I want to help other people that are struggling, and there’s no shortage of those people.”


New Men’s Group comes to Fort Saskatchewan!

A new men’s support group aims to provide an outlet for local men going through divorce, depression, anxiety or other personal issues.

Fort Saskatchewan resident Don Lehman is coordinator of the local Restorative Justice branch, an organization that works with RCMP and Crown prosecutors to helps rehabilitate individuals in a collaborative way.

Support Group meets every Thursday and is drop-in

Through his work with that organization, he is frequently a part of family group conferencing. In that setting, he said he noticed there was a lot of anger, particularly amongst the men.
“It’s typically me and one or two other guys and it’s all women,” Lehman said. “I just noticed in the community, there were no resources for men. And typically the resources come out after something bad happens.”
That’s why the new support group, called Men Achieving Change (M.A.C.) hopes to take a preventative approach toward negative behaviours. The group meets every Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Families First Society. No signup is required.
“We’re looking for something that’s preventative and educational … The environment has to be safe for men to be able to open up. When they don’t open up, they’re going to internalize that and they have a lot of frustration on not being able to be heard,” Lehman said.
“Men won’t typically seek out someone to speak with about their troubles,” he added.
That can lead to further issues, such as depression and anxiety. Addressing mental health issues is also part of M.A.C’s mandate.
The group is based on three cornerstones: strength, dependability and accountability. The third is most important, because in the Restorative Justice approach, Lehman noted it’s very important to take personal responsibility for any kind of problem an individual has caused.
“The men that we have coming in now are already in situations where there are no contact orders or they’re in trouble. And one thing that’s really bad is we tend to minimize (their problems),” he said.
“The other one is the strength it takes to make change, to be a man in today’s world,” Lehman added. “And of course there’s dependability, because our kids, wives and families depend on us … it’s about building strong men so we can have strong families.”
The support group came to existence through a partnership between Families First Society, the Fort Saskatchewan Boys & Girls Club and Restorative Justice. It’s also supported by the Government of Alberta.
Lehman said the members of the group won’t have all the answers, but can help people find them.
“We’re not psychologists, we’re not counsellors, we’re group facilitators … at some point if they need resources, we guide them in that direction,” he said.
“Let’s have a place for men to talk, and while we’re at it, let’s look at some different ways on how to deal with these common issues and triggers.”
For more information, contact Families First Society at (780) 998-5595.


Restorative Justice and The Boys & Girls Club Team up to address Bullying

Rosy wardrobes, signs, and spirits sauntered down 101 Street, on to 99 Avenue, and into the Co-op parking lot for the fifth annual national Pink Shirt Day on Feb. 25.

The anti-bullying campaign began eight years ago at a Nova Scotian high school. Classmates wore pink to support a fellow male student after he was bullied for wearing a pink polo shirt to school. Pink Shirt Day now coincides with national Anti-Bullying Day on the last Wednesday of February each year.
Boys and Girls Club executive director Wendy Serink said it is important for Fort Saskatchewan to continue its Pink Shirt Day rallies and the message of kindness to one another.
She noted kids from the club will continue carrying out random acts of kindness around the Fort, and she hopes residents will cross paths with them at some point this year.
“Watch for them out there,” Serink said.
“We’re really excited to do this. It really teaches them that it’s better to be kind than to be the opposite.”
The club received some big boosts in donations for their bullying prevention programs with $2,500 from Serenity Funeral Service and $4,000 from Co-op.
Recently, Restorative Practices and the Fort Saskatchewan Boys and Girls Club have joined forces to create a bullying intervention partnership.
“Restorative Practices will be working hard this coming year to make this community safe for everyone,” Restorative Practices program coordinator Don Lehman said.
Lehman added he felt there was a need to recognize an anti-bullying initiative over the course of a year, instead of just on Pink Shirt Day.
“I also felt the need for people to seek support, counselling, and educational resources as part as the mediation process, to help both people who are causing harm and the people who have been harmed, to resolve the conflict,” Lehman said.
He noted that in the last year, facilitators were certified in restorative group conferencing, along with 36 community members from various organizations.
Schools included in that training were James Mowat Elementary, Ecole Parc, Ruloph Hennig, Saint John Paul II, and Andrews School.
Const. Janice Schoepp, who started as a school resource officer with Fort Saskatchewan RCMP at the beginning of the year, said bullying comes in many forms, such as verbal or physical abuse, and that residents should not sit back and watch it unfold.
“A lot of people have been victims of bullying, and if we’re all honest then at some point in our lives, some of us have done a little bit of that ourselves,” Schoepp said.
“We’re here today to show our support to everyone who has been (a victim of bullying),” she added.
“We want to encourage everyone to show kindness and tolerance in every form of life. (Don’t) just be a bystander — if you see someone being bullied, do something about it. Report it to someone and support the victim so they know they are supported by everyone around them.”
Mayor Gale Katchur noted people across the province have a role to play in preventing bullying and promoting kindness, since the impact of bullying can be carried over generations.
“I call upon all citizens to speak out against bullying. I call upon you to make a difference in creating a culture of support,” Katchur told the crowd. “I call upon all Albertans to make a difference to make our province bullying-free in 2015 and beyond. We can do it… Bullying does stop here.”
To learn more about the bullying intervention partnership, visit www.restorefortsask.ca, or contact the Boys and Girls Club at 780-992-0103 ext. 25.