Restorative justice emphasizes repairing the harm caused by crime. When victims, offenders, and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results can be transformational. It is viewed as a process that improves upon the traditional criminal justice in that it has significant benefits:
• Rather than defining crime only as lawbreaking, it recognizes that offenders harm victims, communities, and even themselves.
• Rather than giving key roles only to government and offender, it includes victims and communities as well.
• Rather than measuring how much punishment has been inflicted, it measures how much harm has been repaired or prevented.
• Rather than leaving the problem of crime to the government alone, it recognizes the importance of community involvement and initiative in responding to and reducing crime.
The concept that true healing after a crime doesn’t necessarily come from harsher punishment but rather from the coming together of criminal and victim, giving them a chance to understand one another and work to repair the harm done.
In theory, this approach has merit, viewed strictly from an objective point of view. But when a victim is given the opportunity to be involved in such a program, the prospect of meeting with the offender could well be daunting. So a better understanding of the process would be helpful and beneficial for anyone concerned with the Federal Government’s Safe Streets and Community Act, Bill C-10.
Three principles form the foundation for restorative justice:
1. Justice requires that we work to restore those who have been injured.
2. Those most directly involved and affected by crime should have the opportunity to participate fully in the response if they wish.
3. Government’s role is to preserve a just public order, and the community is to build and maintain a just peace.
Resources for information on the process, when reviewed, show it to have great potential. Yet, although programs exist across Canada to facilitate such meetings, restorative justice hasn’t become widely accepted. Now some victims’ advocates fear such programs will be used even less often due to the federal government’s tough-on-crime agenda and its emphasis on incarceration. Of particular concern are the mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug and sex offences.
Measures introduced recently in the government’s sweeping omnibus crime bill interfere with judges’ abilities to tailor sentences and consider restorative-justice options. Mandatory minimums do not allow restorative justice to take place.
Understandably, for anyone wanting to get a pardon to clear his record, now is the time to act. Pardon Services Canada assists people in the process. A Client Specialist ensures that all the required forms are created and compiled to support the application. Pardon Services Canada’s pro-active approach ensures that each case is processed expeditiously and applicants are kept informed at each stage of the process.