Last week was Restorative Justice Week in B.C., which celebrates the important work being done by groups dedicated to restorative justice.
I would like to take a moment to talk about this important issue and thank the community volunteers who make these programs so successful, helping so many in our communities.The idea behind restorative justice is to repair the harm that has been done to those who have been victims of crime and violence. It holds those who have perpetrated these crimes accountable and is based on a process that takes into consideration the individual needs of victims.
The theme of this year’s Restorative Justice Week was “Diverse Needs; Unique Responses,” and I think this really goes straight to the heart of what restorative justice is all about. Every crime is different and impacts different people in different ways; by looking at the specific circumstances of individual cases and the impacts that they have had on the victims, restorative justice tries to achieve fair outcomes which leave both victims and offenders better off than they would be under a traditional approach to justice.
Offenders who participate in a restorative justice process have much better outcomes than those who do not. Having participated in a process that allows them to realize the consequences of their actions, and to help repair the harm they have caused, they begin to take responsibility for their own decisions and so are less likely to fall back into crime.
Here in B.C., we are fortunate to have volunteers who make these programs possible, such as the Williams Lake Community Council for Restorative Justice. Across the province, in communities both large and small, they take on about 1,400 cases and spend more than 90,000 hours a year helping both victims and offenders reach better outcomes.
To those of you working or volunteering to make restorative justice programs so successful, I would like to thank you for your hard work and dedication; you are truly making a difference in peoples’ lives.
Donna Barnett is the Liberal MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin.