Restorative Justice: The people are more than ready for it

I attended my local Restorative Justice society’s AGM last weekend. It was a full house.  My sense is that in my location, and Canada for that matter, the people are more than ready, in a very receptive mood, to an expansion of restorative justice.  

Restorative Justice Victoria AGM

Restorative Justice Victoria (RJ Victoria) is a small nonprofit organization – staffed by three strong, dynamic women, two of whom have been nationally and provincially awarded for their restorative justice achievements. It’s often said women are more relationship-oriented than men. Restorative Justice is about restoring relationships. Hmm…

RJ Victoria, in-sync with much of the nonprofit world, wrestles with funding sustainability. They currently operate on a budget of $150k. The public is getting excellent ROI for that 150k; via staff, board, and dozens of trained, compassionate volunteers.

In the hearts of the people

My pattern recognition antennae tell me that, surprise, surprise, restorative justice is not seen as marginal in the eyes of much (most?) of Canadian society. Rather, it is seen as a more-than-viable conflict management option.

People are looking for a better way to manage relationships, whether its dealing with youth vandalism or after really bad things happen.

Restorative justice is a working together approach to justice. The victim has a say. Offender punishment is not left solely up to the court. Accountability and relationship intersect. Collaborative ways.

The signals for ‘more restorative justice’ surround us

In 2015, a new Canadian government was elected – espousing a new approach to justice, instead of the previous government’s ’tough on crime’. That new approach, more relationship-based, was reflected in the appointment of Jody Wilson-Raybould as Canada’s Minister of Justice, someone with roots in aboriginal, restorative justice, culture.

Canada has now completed its’ national Truth and Reconciliation Commission; “Honouring the truth. Reconciling for the future.”; on the journey to restoring relationships. Even the U.S. is inching towards Racial Healing With a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission

We are rooted in a culture of restorative practices; in fact, argues leading Canadian thinker, John Ralston Saul, Canada’s culture of inclusivity and multiculturalness, originated with our aboriginal roots. My reframe – we are wired for relationship with people who are different from us; even when that difference is bad behaviour, or worse.

Award-winning Canadian writer, Carmen Aguirre’s latest book, Mexican Hooker #1, is her memoir on being abused in her youth, by a serial rapist, and the restorative justice initiative that followed, 30 years later. Restorative justice is powerful, and marketable. 

Locally, police funding continues to grow for RJ Victoria’s community work. That’s a good thing, and yet, the people are receptive to so much more.

From alternative to mainstream

Language matters. When it comes to approaches to justice, restorative justice is typically referred to as an ‘alternative’ approach. Is the alternative label a technicality, given government’s money is focused on ‘traditional’ justice? Or, is it more than that? Does the ‘alternative’ label represent a way for those in power and influence to devalue the ‘other’. I say when it comes to restorative justice, ditch alternative. ‘Appropriate’ is more like it.

It’s not unusual for governments to lag behind the people. 

In times when social, political, and environmental events speak of broken relationships, people get it – the need for  restorative, collaborative, approaches… to restore those relationships.

Government and/or funders who connect with that sentiment will be demonstrating the future worth of working together, through restorative justice, today.

Is restorative justice in your heart? If so, what next?


  1. Robert Ball says

    Thanks Ben for reporting on this Restorative Justice event that normally gets so little press. I like your idea of calling it “appropriate justice” from now on.

  2. With pleasure, Robert. Nice to see you at the AGM. It’s a great RJ community we have here, as the turnout showed! Glad you are with me re ‘appropriate’. 🙂

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