Restorative Justice

Guest Blogger: Amber

Alternative Dispute Resolution is a means to resolving conflict through alternatives to going to court. This may be through Mediation – pretty much for any dispute; the assistance of a group of professionals in a Collaborative Family Law process; or Restorative Justice which is used primarily for torts (civil wrongs) and criminal offences.

Restorative process can be described as a healing process for the whole of the community, not just for the victim and the offender. Restorative Justice means different things to different people but there are common underlying principles:

Harm recognition. At the core of restorative justice is the recognition and acknowledgement of the full effects of the offending behaviour. There is recognition of the harm caused to individuals, property, relationships, and to the community.

Choices about participation, the design of the process, time frames are essential.  The needs, wants and desires of those who choose to participate are considered.

Accountability: This means the offender admits to what he or she has done and takes responsibility for the harms created by his or her actions. People who have been directly affected are given the opportunity to gain insight and, perhaps, to accept responsibility for the harm by addressing the needs arising from it.  This might entail making a commitment to give temporary emotional support to another.

Inclusion: The community directly affected  may be given an opportunity to participate. In addition to the offender and the victim (or surrogate victim), family, friends, neighbours are given a voice to express what they have experienced and what they need to heal. They are given ownership of the process and an opportunity to support one another.

Safety:  The facilitator must create a sense of safety  -  physical, emotional and psychological – during the process itself.  Rights of participants to be respected during the process includes the right to be heard without interruption. Power imbalances must be addressed effectively.  The creation of support structures before, during and following the restorative process is an important part of the process.

Transformation: Some believe the real goal of  restorative justice is to transform the offender. A true transformation will include healing for all of the participants. What each participant genuinely needs to put the matter behind them is addressed. Not to forget what has happened, but to let go of it and move on. The process hopefully restores positive relationships while offering insights to make further healing possible. This in turn fosters more positive relationships in the community and not just between the offender and victim.

An annual Restorative Justice Symposium is being held at William Head in Metchosin on Saturday, November 21 from 9 AM to 4 PM.  Contact Wally 391-7041.

Written by Amber
Non-Practising Lawyer

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