SAINT JOHN (GNB) – The Department of Justice and Public Safety is seeking volunteers for a program designed to help vulnerable victims as they navigate the court system. The Court Support Volunteer Program will be expanding this year to incorporate the Saint John region.

“Volunteers in this program do meaningful work by providing victims of crime with emotional support throughout the court process,” said Justice and Public Safety Minister Denis Landry. “Your government is proud of the accomplishments of volunteers in the pilot region. We hope many more New Brunswickers will come forward to guide vulnerable victims through what can often be a traumatic experience.”

The volunteer program complements the province’s Victim Services program and aims to facilitate victim participation in the court process by expanding the availability of support services. A volunteer may help in explaining the court process, answering questions, accompanying victims to court, and standing or sitting with the victim during testimony.

The program will assist children under the age of 18, as well as people with mental, intellectual or physical disabilities. It will also help victims based on the nature of the crime, such as intimate partner violence or sexual assault.

The pilot program was launched in the Fredericton, Burton and Woodstock areas in January 2017. The program has 12 volunteers who have participated in an intensive training process. Program co-ordinators for similar, longer-standing volunteer programs across Canada were consulted in the development and implementation of the pilot program.

“As a court support volunteer, I can only describe my experience with the Court Support Program as exceptional,” said Fredericton area volunteer Debbie Percival. “Most importantly, the Court Support Program has allowed me to ‘give back’ to my community by providing me with the opportunity to assist in supporting its most vulnerable citizens.”

Volunteer applications are now being accepted for Saint John, St. Stephen and surrounding areas. The program is open to anyone living in New Brunswick who has a high school diploma or equivalent and is 19 or older. Applicants will be asked to submit to a criminal background check. Volunteers will also participate in a training process. More information is available online or by calling 1-844-242-7577.

These services are expected to be available in the Saint John area as early as this fall. The level of services will increase as more volunteers complete their training programs in the following months.

The project is supported by the federal Department of Justice’s Victims Fund and was part of a five-year funding agreement to provide victims of crime in New Brunswick with increased access to services. The project reflects the government’s commitment to build a stronger, safer New Brunswick.