Why a joint conference?
In 2015 the President of the Ontario Association for Family Mediation, Jennifer Suzor, and Nicola Savin, the President of the Ontario Collaborative Law Federation, formed a vision for a conference that would focus on Consensual Dispute Resolution (“CDR”) approaches, bringing “peacemakers” together in one place with a focus on the important work they do. The importance of CDR approaches has been highlighted in several family justice initiatives, such as the Report of the Access Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, “Meaningful Change for Family Justice: Beyond Wise Words” where they state:
“The FJWG is very mindful of the many family justice reform reports that precede this one. These reports are remarkably consistent in their diagnosis of the problems and their prescriptions for change. A key theme of all reports is the place of adversarial (rights-based) and non-adversarial (interest-based) dispute resolution processes in the family justice system and the still untapped potential for non-adversarial values and consensual dispute resolution processes to enhance access to the family justice system.”
Simply put, this Conference needs to happen in order to address the on-going need for a culture shift in the family justice system to assist CDR practitioners to increase their skills in the nine guiding principles highlighted in that report, as set out below.
Minimize conflict - Programs, services and procedures are designed to minimize conflict and its negative impact on children.
Collaboration - Programs, services and procedures encourage collaboration and CDR is at the centre of the family justice system, provided that judicial determination is readily available when needed.
Client Centered - The family justice system is designed for, and around the needs of the families that use it.
Empowered families - Families are, to the extent possible, empowered to assume responsibility for their own outcomes.
Integrated multidisciplinary services - Services to families going through separation and divorce are coordinated, integrated and multidisciplinary.
Early resolution - Information and services are available early so people can resolve their problems as quickly as possible.
Voice, fairness and safety - People with family justice problems have the opportunity to be heard and the services and processes offered to them are respectful, fair and safe.
Accessible - The family justice system is affordable, understandable and timely.
Proportional - Processes and services are proportional to the interests of any child affected, the importance of the issue, and the complexity of the case.