The Ladysmith Resource Centre Association, (LRCA) has received a grant from the B.C. Civil Forfeiture Office to explore opportunities for restorative justice in Ladysmith.
Carmen Hildebrand is leading the study to build capacity for restorative justice, and seek key partnerships in the community. Hildebrand plans to interview individuals and groups. The LRCA will also have public engagement sessions, and workshops for different audiences depending on what needs are.
“We’re looking at increasing access and referral, and expanding the program in relation to the community needs so this becomes a ‘for Ladysmith’ project,” Hildebrand said. “We’d like to share the findings with the community at a later stage through presentations, and through an official community report.”
Restorative justice is a concept that shifts from blame and punishment to repairing harm. It is not an alternative to the justice system, but a separate part of the system. The practice has wide applications and can be referred from a variety of sources.
“We get referrals from criminal justice system, the RCMP, Crown, probation, the school system — there are some systems in schools that have their own restorative justice process — it can be used in the workplace, institutions, as well as in community groups, and organizations,” Hildebrand said.
In restorative justice scenarios, offenders, victims, and others affected collectively discuss the aftermath of a crime. Cases must be first be referred, either through the RCMP, the Crown, or other organizations. Then consent must be given by all parties. Intake and assessment is done, and individuals go through preparatory meetings so everyone knows what to expect. The parties then meet and engage in dialogue that results in a written agreement reached by consensus.
Restorative justice has proven successful in Indigenous justice, and healing centres. Organizations like the John Howard Society and the North Shore Restorative Justice Society have helped facilitate restorative justice circles.
Hildebrand expects the study will conclude in March 2020.