Guest View: Restorative justice: Transforming communities

The following is an opinion-editorial written by Minister of Public Safety and Attorney General Mike Morris.

The following is an opinion-editorial written by    Minister of Public Safety and Attorney General Mike Morris.

Editor:

In British Columbia, we have a long history of inspiring and promoting new ways of achieving justice. During Restorative Justice Week, Nov. 20-27, 2016, I have the opportunity to share some of the important work being done by the province’s leading restorative justice (RJ) organizations.

Many of us know the value of a second chance. I know I do. As a young man, I was fortunate to meet a willing neighbour who became a valued mentor. Without his guidance, my life may have taken a different turn and I may not be in the position that I am today.

Later, during my 32-year career as an RCMP officer, I was reminded time and again that crime isn’t just about an offender breaking laws. Crime affects

victims and relationships, and can impact entire communities.

Restorative justice is more than a second chance. It holds offenders meaningfully accountable for their actions. It offers victims the opportunity to meet offenders in person, a process many describe as transformative. Each year, Crown counsel, schools and police refer more than 1,400 files to more than 40 RJ programs throughout the province. Volunteers and staff devote more than 70,000 hours to these cases.

A common misconception is that RJ is only for minor crimes, first-time offenders and youth. In fact, this approach can be applied at many different

stages – from school responses to conflict to various stages of the criminal justice system – pre-charge, with Crown counsel through to post-sentencing.

It can be especially effective when there is a victim who can speak personally to harm that was caused. One such story involves a couple whose

27-year-old son Graeme was abducted, held captive for six days and succumbed to his injuries after being released. Devastated, the couple contacted a

restorative justice program and learned why it’s important to meet the offenders face-to-face to share stories about their son, providing the key players in the kidnapping and murder with a complete picture of Graeme’s life. The parents also needed to learn about the offenders’ lives.

They visited the offenders in a federal institution and urged them to dig deep, take responsibility for their roles. At least two of them turned their

lives around. As for Graeme’s parents, this allowed their healing process to begin.

During a visit to Abbotsford Restorative Justice and Advocacy Association, I heard from a teacher who participated in the RJ process as a victim, due to an inappropriate action directed at her by one of her students. They took part in a reintegration circle; a sincere apology was made and a sense of

community was restored. She described the experience as powerful and transformative.

The Province and the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General support this work in a number of ways. Since 2012, $621,316 in civil forfeiture

grant funding has been invested in RJ programs. As well, more than $330,000 in community gaming grants funding went to restorative justice organizations in 2015-16. My ministry is also supporting 10 projects that are increasing the number of complex and diverse cases that can be referred to RJ.

I encourage all British Columbians to be open to the idea that there is more than one way to achieve justice. Restorative justice provides an opportunity

to help transform the lives of victims, offenders and even communities.

Mike Morris, Minister of Public Safety

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATE: Man drowns crossing Skeena River

59-year old Prince Rupert victim pronounced dead at Mills Memorial

Reports of gunshots

No shooting according to RCMP

Better COVID-19 testing results needed in the north

Former senior Northern Health official also wants work camps shut down

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

Northern Health preparing ‘for a changing situation’ in response to COVID-19

The health authority is taking a number of measures to free up hospital capacity where possible

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

Helping those at risk, one piece of paper at a time through ‘isolation communication’

Simple paper tool during pandemic making its way across Canada thanks to social media.

‘Back to school, in a virtual way’ for B.C. students in COVID-19 pandemic

Province adds online resources to help parents at home

Canadian COVID-19 round-up: Air Canada cuts 15,000 jobs, 90% of flights

Comprehensive Canadian news update as of 2:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Canadian ferry operators call for inclusion in COVID-19 travel restrictions

Domestic travel restrictions should include ferries, operators say

Cruise ships, one with COVID-19 on board, carry Canadians covertly through Panama Canal

Zaandam, Rotterdam pass through canal under cover of darkness in face of local protests

’The energy sector is destroyed beyond repair’: expert on COVID-19’s impact on economy

‘That’s never been heard of before; no one sells oil for $4 a barrel.’ – Dan McTeague

Most Read