Paralegal students at St. Clair College will be involved in a new mediation service recently launched in collaboration with Family Services Windsor-Essex and the Windsor-Essex Bilingual Legal Clinic.
Community Mediation Windsor Essex will be a free service offered to people who want to avoid expensive litigation in the courts. “It’s here to assist two parties to resolve a conflict or disagreement,” said Joyce Zuk, executive director of Family Services Windsor-Essex and a part-time instructor at St. Clair. “Mediation is widely recognized as an effective alternative to resolving conflicts or disagreements without having to go through the legal or court process.”
Some examples of what the program seeks to mediate are: disagreements between neighbours, roommates or colleagues; issues between property owners and tenants; conflicts at school or a workplace; disputes between family members.
Zuk said St. Clair College faculty members will be integral to the program because they will provide mediation training and their expertise for the volunteer mediators. The students will help facilitate the mediation service by providing intake services, and they will also sit in on some of the mediation sessions as part of their hands-on work in the program, if both parties agree.
“Our agencies and the college have a long-standing relationship,” Zuk said. “We have jointly operated a forms completion service. This service has employed the students in the paralegal program at St. Clair College and provided the students with the practical learning opportunity.”
Randy Semeniuk, the chair of the School of Community Studies, said students will benefit from the partnership “because they will get real life experience helping out people in the community who need legal services and mediation.”
Elizabeth Strutt-MacLeod, coordinator of the Paralegal program and the new Social Justice and Legal Studies bachelor degree program, said the service will seek to have volunteer mediators who will offer their support to people wanting a resolution to their conflict outside of the court system. “You’re supposed to consider mediation before you start looking into going into litigation. So it’s a natural complement for the students of ours involved in the Paralegal program.”
At any given time, there are about 120 Paralegal students in first and second year, Strutt-MacLeod said. Students in the college’s new Social Justice and Legal Studies program, will also be brought in eventually to participate in the service as part of their studies.