Southern Gulf Islands Community Justice Program

The Southern Gulf Islands Community Justice Program strives to build safety and trust within our communities through the application of peacemaking, dispute resolution, and restorative justice practices.

What is Restorative Justice?

Restorative Justice is an alternative to the court system. It is commonly employed for offenses such as vandalism, mischief, minor theft, causing a disturbance, etc. On the Southern Gulf Islands, the program relies on referrals from the RCMP.

Each of the Southern Gulf islands is its own small society. Each depends on trust between residents. Offenses committed in these island societies create immediate harm — a breakdown of trust. This harm affects the victim, the offender and the community around them.

The Restorative Justice process aims at undoing this harm. It offers a support for victims. It gives offenders an opportunity to atone. And it engages affected members of the community.

The Restorative Justice Idea

Restorative justice is commonly defined as an approach to justice that focuses on addressing the harm caused by crime. While holding offenders responsible for their actions, restorative justice provides an opportunity for the parties directly affected by the crime to identify and address their needs in the aftermath of the crime. Click here for more background on restorative justice theory and practice.

How does Restorative Justice work?

The Restorative Justice process follows four steps…

  • 1. RCMP Referral

    The RCMP make a referral

    A crime is committed. The RCMP decide the offence is appropriate for a Restorative Justice process. They ensure both the victim and offender are willing to go through this process. If they are, the RCMP sends a referral to the Restorative Justice program.

  • 2. Interviews

    The Restorative Justice team interviews victim and offender

    The team consists of a trained restorative justice facilitator and two trained mentors (one for the victim, the other for the offender). The team meets separately with the victim and the offender to talk about the incident and to explain the restorative justice process. The facilitator schedules as many of these separate meetings as needed until both victim and offender understand exactly what they can and can’t expect from the process—and both are willing to proceed to the conference.

  • 3. Schedule a Conference

    The team schedules a conference between victim and offender

    At the conference, the victim and the offender meet. Each can be accompanied by their restorative justice mentor. As well, each can be accompanied by a supporting member from the community. The conference is a dialogue between the victim and the offender under the supervision of the facilitator. The dialogue’s purpose is to explore what happened, the harm done, and the impact of the incident on all concerned. At the end of the conference, a voluntary agreement is reached between victim and offender. The agreement may consist of financial restitution, community service, written apologies and such. The agreement is put into writing at the end of the dialogue and both victim and offender sign it.

  • 4. Complete Agreement

    The team and the RCMP follow up the agreement

    Under the supervision of the mentor, the offender fulfills the terms of the agreement. The RCMP is notified and the case is closed.

What is Peacemaking?

Peacemaking is a process of resolving conflict. The process is based in the concept of peace circles, which are structured to enable communication, even on very difficult issues.

Peace circles emphasize healing and learning through a collective group process, aiming to repair harm done and assign responsibility by talking through the problem. Peace circles combine victim reconciliation, offender responsibility, and community healing.

What does a peace circle look like?

At a peace circle, a minimum of 3 participants sit in a circle of chairs, ideally without tables or other obstructions between them. They use a talking stick to take turns speaking and determine what happened and why, and how it can be fixed. Peace circles can be used in a myriad of settings including schools, neighborhoods, workplaces, among family and friends, and in the juvenile and criminal legal systems.

How long does the process take?

Discussion and resolution of the problem may be achieved in a single session, but peace circles may extend into multiple sessions until genuine consensus is
reached. Circle processes are simple and organic but certainly cannot be facilitated in a pinch and are by no means, an ‘easy way out’.

This summary of peace circles comes from a Student Peace Alliance PDF. For a more detailed explanation of the theory and practice of peace circles, click here.