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Virtual Circles of Support and Accountability Canada (Virtual CoSA) supports individuals who have been convicted of sexual offences as they reintegrate into the community. Virtual CoSA volunteers will attend weekly virtual meetings (about 1 hour per week). This involves role-modelling pro-social behaviour, active listening, helping the individual access appropriate resources, celebrating all the successes during the reintegration period, and creating an environment of trust where the Core Member is equipped to make healthy choices and live out their commitment to a non-offending future. Please email Sheila at sheilavdhc@cosacanada.com with a short bio and a paragraph explaining why you would like to volunteer with Virtual CoSA. 

Volunteer with us!

Contact

Joy Steem

joysteem@cosacanada.com

Sheila van den Heuvel-Collins

sheilavdhc@cosacanada.com

Virtual Circles of Support and Accountability

PO Box 40017

RPO Charlotte

Peterborough, ON

K9J 8R9

782.409.5030

Public Safety Canada has granted Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) Canada funding for a two-year project exploring virtual Circles. The purpose of this project is three-fold: 1) to broaden the availability of Circles to Core Members who do not live in areas where in-person Circles are accessible, 2) to work with CoSA sites to shorten Circle wait-lists, and 3) to recruit, train and supervise new and under-utilized volunteers across the country.

Since its Canadian beginning in 1994, CoSA has been grounded in restorative justice principles and has reduced sexual victimization by assisting people who have committed sexual offences to lead responsible, constructive and accountable lives in their communities. Using evidence-based best practices, CoSA has been shown to significantly reduce recidivism, thereby effectively contributing to safer communities. In fact, nearly thirty studies in various countries have demonstrated CoSA's effectiveness. In 2018, a Minnesota study demonstrated that participation in CoSA decreased the overall risk of arrest by up to 88% and reduced general recidivism by 49-57%.

Many remote communities not only cannot sustain a local CoSA site but may also have challenges in mobilizing sufficient volunteers to provide Circles. This project will require the development of a national leadership training program that is able to recruit volunteers from any community in Canada.This project seeks to collaborate with established sites in order to identify and incorporate effective strategies for Circles in our ever-evolving technological landscape, increase the presence of CoSA across the country, and enhance our combined capacity through shared resources. This project will develop a consistent model for Virtual Circles in the program, including a management plan for referral of Core Members and a national bank of volunteers to deliver Circles for remote communities.

The goal of the project is to mobilize 30 volunteers and start 20 new Circles over the 2-year period. While CoSA already has a well-established training programme and policies for best practices, adjusting the existing programme to accommodate the virtual world will take some consideration. The experience gained throughout the COVID-19 pandemic will serve to guide the project; as well, the evolution of society over the last twenty years–since the creation of virtual meeting platforms–suggests that this is the correct time for this project.

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