Giving Victims and Communities a Voice

An approach being considered for dealing with the Stanley Cup rioters is one that represents viewing conflict as an opportunity for a community to learn and grow, operating on the premise that conflict, even criminal conflict, inflicts harm. Individuals must accept responsibility for repairing that harm. Communities – family, peers, professionals – are empowered to choose their response to conflict: Victims, offenders, and communities actively participate in devising and implementing mutually beneficial solutions.

This restorative justice approach has the accused meet with the person the crime impacted, apologize, and then both sides work out a punishment. Restorative justice is designed to put more focus on the victim who, in the conventional court process, doesn’t get a voice beyond making a victim impact statement. Victims are basically excluded in the legal process, except as witnesses. The community doesn’t have a place within the criminal justice process. Through restorative justice, victims get a clear voice. The focus is on victim needs, offender responsibility, and community building.

In October, the Vancouver Police Department recommended 163 charges against 60 individuals suspected of taking part in the Stanley Cup riot. At this time, more than 60 charges have been laid against 25 people, and the VPD is finalizing the next batch of charges to be forwarded to the Crown in the coming weeks. As for the rest of the suspected rioters, evidence is still being reviewed.

All well and good – or is it? Some people are skeptical as to the type of punishment that will ultimately be handed down. Will many rioters simply be given a slap on the wrist; will some actually do jail time; how much probation will be meted out? And what good will any type of punishment actually accomplish?

To set the record straight, so to speak, restorative justice is not soft on crime. Far greater creativity exists in restorative justice in determining what needs to happen to make amends, set things right. The approach has been used successfully with all kinds of conflict, including serious crimes like assault and murder.

Canada was the first nation to offer a victim/offender reconciliation program, initiated by the Mennonite Community in Kitchener, Ontario. Viewed world-wide as having experts in the field of violent-offence (post-incarceration) mediation, Canada has also been on the leading edge of adopting the Aboriginal concept of circle remedies, now an integral part of progressive programming in the federal justice system.

We will continue to see offenders acquiring criminal records, but with restorative justice, conflicts will be resolved in a way that restores harmony in the community members’ relationships and allow people to continue to live together in a safer, healthy environment.

And anyone with a criminal record who sincerely wishes to make a new start can do so by obtaining a record suspension to remove that criminal record. Pardon Services Canada will handle the entire process, assuring you of results. Call 1-8-NOW-PARDON (1-866-972-7366) to speak with a Client Specialist.

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