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St. Stephen’s Community House will settle your dispute – for free!

June 30th, 2011 · 1 Comment

By Katie O’Connor

Peter Bruer has been the manager of the conflict resolution service since 1977. Katie O'Connor/Gleaner News

In a city of small spaces like Toronto, loud and obtrusive neighbours can become more than just a mere annoyance. Conflicts rise as the weather heats up, which is why making nice with them has never been more important.

St. Stephen’s Community House (260 Augusta Ave.) offers a free mediation program for neighbours, housemates, families, and anyone with a conflict in their private life.

The service covers a wide range of issues, from property line arguments to landlord and tenant problems.

“It’s a noise dispute in apartment complexes, it’s the people upstairs who have little kids running around, it’s people shovelling snow onto someone else’s sidewalk,” said manager Peter Bruer. “They are the kind of disputes that don’t get resolved by other means.”

Created in 1985, the program is funded through money from the City of Toronto and the United Way. The service is available to individuals living south of Eglinton Avenue between Victoria Park and the Humber River.

Individuals meet with trained mediators in a neutral location. The mediators work to figure out the root of the conflict, and how it can be solved amicably. “Our process isn’t about who is right or wrong,” said Bruer. “Our belief is that conflict is going to happen, that it’s a part of life.”

Jill Moriarty, interim co-ordinator for the program, said active listening is the most important part of the mediation process.

“You have to give each of the parties the space to be heard,” she said. “It’s very important that they know that they are being heard or understood.”

She said that most people look at mediation as a negotiated settlement, but it’s about finding a solution that’s workable for everyone.

“We don’t just give people their piece of the pie, we try to make the pie big enough so that everybody gets what they want,” said Moriarty.

The program also offers their services for cases that are referred to them by legal clinics and police. Bruer said the service is very successful when people involved in the cases are willing to take part in mediation, but that it can be difficult with cases that are referred to them.

He said that people have to be willing to fix the problem in order for mediation to work. Bruer said they get cases referred to them by legal clinics and the courts, but that if people are unwilling to be there, the mediation often doesn’t work.

He said the cases that get referred to them simply can’t be solved in court and that the program works as an alternative problem-solving method. “It was created partly because the other systems we have—and they are good—but, they are cumbersome. They often just plain don’t work.”

Bruer said the goal of the mediators is to create long-term solutions. “What it does in the long run is create a workable relationship between people.”

Call 416-925-2103 ext. 229 for more information.

Tags: Liberty · News · People · General

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Peter Bruer // Jul 29, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Thanks Gleaner, for helping to spread the news that community mediation is available to your readers. In fact, the service is now offered all over the City of Toronto: through Warden Woods Community Centre for residents of Scarborough, and through St. Stephen’s everywhere else. It’s free and it’s confidential, so it’s hard to imagine why anyone wouldn’t at least give it a try!