Ever since its inception in November 1996, Restorative Justice Week allows Canadians involved in a crime or conflict to learn more about restorative justice. This approach to justice focuses on providing everyone involved in a crime or conflict an active role in repairing the harm caused and moving towards healing and a sense of closure.
Victims are often given a chance to ask the offender questions, have the harm or loss acknowledged, and, in some cases, a say in how the matter can be addressed.
Offenders are also provided with an opportunity to see how their crime has affected their victims and learn the effects of their actions.
Examples of restorative justice processes
If you’ve been affected by a crime, there are a number of programs associated with restorative justice that you may be able to participate in. The following are just a few examples:
A trained mediator helps bring together a victim and an offender so they have the opportunity to address what happened.
The meeting is meant to help a victim regain a sense of empowerment while the offender gains better insight and understanding of how the crime has impacted the victim.
Victim-offender mediation was first introduced in Canada in 1974, when two accused vandals were brought face-to-face with their victims.
Victims and community members are brought together to share a wider range of perspectives, better coordinate services and increase involvement of the victim and community. The purpose of the conference is to give advice on appropriate out-of-court measures, conditions for interim release, sentences, review of sentences and reintegration plans.
A healing circle is an Aboriginal restorative process that includes members of the community including the offender, elders, and the victim (if they choose to participate). In the circle, there’s discussion about the offence and how it has affected the victim and the community—but there’s also discussion about the underlying cause of the offence. For example, if alcohol or child abuse experiences contributed to the offence, this may be discussed in the healing circle.
A range of groups including community agencies, faith groups, Aboriginal communities, and government departments provide restorative programs.
During Restorative Justice Week, go to Correctional Services Canada’s website to find out more about what restorative justice is and the various programs that are operating across the country.