by Harit Joshi —

The Nicola Valley Community Justice Service Society (NVCJSS) has moved to a new address at 1999 Garcia Street to increase their visibility and continue to offer their long-standing services. In order to engage with them and their not-for-profit wide bouquet of services on offer, one can visit them during their open house session on Friday, June 2, between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

The NVCJSS has been in operation since 2003, providing a wide range of quality advocacy services to the people of Nicola Valley. They also serve the surrounding Nicola Valley that includes five local First Nations and several small ranching communities.

The NVCJSS operates four programs: its Advocacy Centre, the Restorative Justice Program, the Nicola Valley Indigenous Court Program, and the Family Justice and Mediation Services .

Speaking about these programs, the Herald caught up with Christopher Stokes, restorative justice coordinator with the society.       

“The advocacy centre provides legal information, assistance, representation on legal problems such as income security, housing disability, crime and debt. We also provide legal education and application, and support for the community organizations,” said Stokes.  

About the restorative justice program, Stokes explained: “We provide Indigenous individuals, families and the communities to participate in structured alternatives to the court system. It is an alternative to promote justice procedures where the focus is more on proactive behaviour. We also work with BC corrections and do alternative measures and community work for Indigenous adults.”

The restorative justice program is also open to all individuals of the Nicola Valley.  

The purpose of the Indigenous court program is to provide “a holistic and restorative perspective for Indigenous offenders.”

“We jointly develop a healing plan for the sentence. It allows the client to come out better with a rehabilitation lens. It is usually a better result than the traditional system (with) wholesome and better accountability. We have monthly reviews where they sit with the judge and talk about how things have gone. How are they doing? What help do they need? It continues to wrap around support. We offer that extra support,” Stokes said.

The aim of the Family Justice and Mediation Services is to provide families the opportunity to develop and participate in alternative justice processes when dealing with family conflict and legal family matters.

Merrittonians wishing to get a deeper understanding of the NVCJSS services, can drop in for their open house tomorrow.