An inclusive process to 'resolving criminal harm'

Restorative justice the most accountable process for offenders: police chief

- June 29, 2011

The world conference of the International Institute for Restorative Practices was held at the Westin Nova Scotia.
The world conference of the International Institute for Restorative Practices was held at the Westin Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia is home to one of the most comprehensive restorative justice programs in the world. It incorporates victims and their families, offenders and the community in resolving criminal offences by holding offenders accountable and giving victims and members of the community a voice.

Halifax recently hosted the 14th World Conference of the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) in collaboration with Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Community University Research Alliance (NSRJ-CURA) at the Westin Nova Scotia. The director of NSRJ-CURA, Jennifer Llewellyn, associate professor of law at Dalhousie University, joined 500 other attendees from all over the world for three days of workshops, panel discussions and a keynote address by world-renowned criminologist John Braithwaite.

The conference began on June 15 with opening remarks by Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter who noted the impressive turnout and international representation.

Unique partnerships

“I am very proud that Nova Scotia is a province that believes in and supports restorative justice practices. And I’m equally as proud to see that one of our own academic, government and community research initiatives, NSRJ-CURA, partnered with IIRP to bring this marvelous conference together.”   

Next, Dr. Martha Crago, vice-president of research at Dalhousie University, spoke on the unique partnerships that allow programs like NSRJ-CURA to grow.

“It gives me tremendous pleasure that Dalhousie University and the province of Nova Scotia can share their valuable experience and research with you and yours with them—in hopes that all people, young and old, victims and offenders, can live in a more just world.”  

Those in attendances included social workers, teachers, policy-makers, probation officers, community volunteers, academics and scholars, to name a few. Verne White, chief of Ottawa Police Service, was also in attendance and believes the conference was a great opportunity for the public to engage and gain a better understanding of restorative practices.

“Restorative justice is the most accountable process for offenders, the most satisfactory process for victims and the most successful process for the community based on recidivism rates and client satisfaction,” he concludes.  

The remainder of the conference, which wrapped up on June 17, consisted of panels, small circle discussions, short films and an original play by David S. Craig called Tough Case which dramatized the restorative justice process for young audiences.

Bruce Archibald, professor of law at Dal, was also present at the conference as a panelist and moderator. Prof. Archibald has been studying restorative practices for several years and, along with his colleague Prof. Jennifer Llewellyn, has numerous publications on the subject.

'Proactive and reactive'

“Restorative justice is more than just getting to ‘yes’ and it’s more than just mediation. It’s a way of resolving criminal harm that includes the offender, the victim and the community,” he says. “Restorative justice in Nova Scotia is notable because it’s both a diversion of the criminal process and an inclusion of the criminal process.”

"Restorative justice takes a relational approach that's both proactive and reactive. It's a way of approaching justice differently," explains Jennifer Llewellyn.

Recently, there’s been considerable interest across the province to establish restorative practices in schools and the workplace. In fact, workshops and information sessions for students, parents and teachers are currently taking place in several schools across Nova Scotia. Also, the Minister of Community Services took part in the conferences and shared with delegates her plans to use a restorative approach within the work of her department.


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