Williams Lake Restorative Justice committee members make final preparations for a conference they are hosting in Williams Lake this weekend.

Williams Lake Restorative Justice committee members make final preparations for a conference they are hosting in Williams Lake this weekend.

Restorative Justice focus of weekend conference

After 15 years offering restorative justice in Williams Lake, local volunteers will share what they’ve learned at a conference this weekend.

After 15 years of offering restorative justice in Williams Lake, local volunteers will share what they’ve learned and help plan for the future of the program at a conference in the lakecity on Oct. 17 and 18.

Williams Lake Community Policing is hosting Williams Lake Restorative Justice, First Steps, Next Steps, and community safety co-ordinator Dave Dickson confirmed 54 people from communities around the province have signed up to attend.

“People are coming from Dease Lake, Terrace, Prince George, out west, Kamloops, and Vancouver.”

Local and “highly qualified facilitators” from Williams Lake are the main draw at the conference.

“We have 40 fully-trained facilitators and some qualified instructors,” Dickson said.

One of the facilitators is retired teacher and Restorative Justice Committee chair Sandra Hawkins.

“In January 2014 we started talking about doing a conference for ourselves and then Dave suggested we share our information with a larger audience,” Hawkins said. “When we wrote to our contact person at the Ministry of Justice we learned funding had just been announced for regional conferences.”

The group decided with or without funding they’d host a conference, however, soon into the planning they learned they were getting $22,000 provided by the Civil Forfeiture Fund.

Facilitator Jim World, a retired secondary school counsellor, will lead some of the weekend’s workshops.

One titled An insight into Working with Youth Restoratively will tackle issues of adolescence and on how those issues influence the behaviour of youth, in particular, those who find themselves in contact with the justice system and school disciplinary practices.

During the last few years, the program has handled on average 50 files done by 1,000 volunteer hours.

Defining the program, Dickson said restorative justice is a way for a person to repair harm. They apologize to the victim and pay a debt, which could be through volunteer community hours or helping a non-profit organization.

Under a memorandum of understanding with the RCMP, when officers deal with a file, they can determine if the perpetrator could benefit from the restorative justice program.

“There will be a suitability interview, healing circle, sanctions levied, with both the perpetrator and victim having input,” Dickson explained.

The conference will kick-off Friday evening with a panel discussion, followed by interactive workshops delving into actual cases on Saturday.

Dickson said people will be coming to glean new information and share what’s working and what isn’t working.

The conference is a first for Williams Lake. Thompson Rivers University is providing the venue, Dickson added.