Kudos to Bruce Curtis of the Comox Valley Community Justice Centre, City of Courtenay Centennial Committee and North Island College for bringing the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, as the keynote speaker for the fourth annual Iona Campagnolo Lecture series on Restorative Justice on Feb. 26.
McLachlin’s comments tracing the recent Canadian history of the move towards more restorative justice compared to traditional sentencing was insightful and encouraging. Her caution that restorative justice is not the end-all-be-all in considering options in dealing with criminal cases in our courts was not lost on us.
However, her historical lesson highlighting the fact that restorative justice has been utilized most successfully in many cultures for centuries as a solution to deal with injustices certainly struck a chord with many.
Regarding young offenders in our Comox Valley Community, we are very fortunate to have an RCMP detachment that is very open to considering, when appropriate, as a preferred option, diversion from the courts towards restorative justice opportunities provided by our Community Justice Centre.
In my experience as a public school administrator, referring young offenders to the restorative justice process as opposed to sending young offenders through the court system, which often has long waits and potential criminal records a possible outcome, was a much preferred and more instructive option in most cases. Having the young offender face the person(s) the offence was committed against, hearing the consequences caused as a result of the offence, giving the young offender a chance to listen and be heard, and to be part of an agreed solution with other community elders regarding compensation and/or retribution in some form, can be a positive life changer for a young offender.
If the Chief Justice of Canada’s Supreme Court, with all her years of experience, sees restorative justice as the preferable option, that should support the consideration of diverting young offenders to a restorative justice opportunity, when appropriate, that our RCMP detachment seems to be willing to consider.
Kudos to our judges, our RCMP and the many volunteers of our Community Justice Centre who consider and help provide the opportunity of restorative justice in our community!