As of 2021, the Williams Lake Restorative Justice Program had received 20 referrals as of November 19.
The program provides an alternative measure to the court system and can handle cases from the RCMP, Crown, Conservation Officer Service, Fish and Wildlife and community groups, said co-chair Deborah Pickering.
In a recent three-day training session held in November, several participants learned how the program works and it is hoped that some of them will continue to be part of the program.
Typical records include shoplifting, vandalism, graffiti, break-ins and sometimes assault, depending on the circumstances.
Pickering said there is a lot of prep work before a restorative justice circle.
âWe will be interviewing all parties so everyone can tell their story and how they were affected. “
Everyone in the circle decides what the offender is going to do to right the wrong. The offender could do a few hours of community service, write a letter of apology, and if First Nations can work for the elders by chopping wood.
Pickering said the circles can be very intense because of the emotions and at the end there is always a feeling of relief.
âIdeas are suggested and the groups decide if any of them is a good idea. We try to have the hours completed in a month and whatever is decided must be achievable. We don’t want to prepare the offender for failure, âPickering said.
Volunteers come to court for the first court appearances to see if there are any records that would be suitable for the restorative justice program.
“The judge and the lawyers can decide and if it goes forward the offender has to sign an agreement to attend,” she said.
National Restorative Justice Week is November 21-28.
New Zealand was the first country to introduce restorative processes into law when it comes to young people.
The first victim-offender mediation took place in Canada in 1974 with two offenders accused of vandalism.
In Williams Lake, there has been a restoration program since 1996. There have been as many as 50 volunteers and there are currently about 20.
âRestorative justice is increasingly becoming a choice as an alternative form of justice,â said Pickering, noting that the program is always in need of new volunteers.
Criminal Justice Williams Lake