Community Justice Program
The Southern Gulf Islands Community Justice Program strives to build safety and trust within our communities through the application of peacemaking, dispute resolution, and restorative justice practices.
On the Southern Gulf Islands, Community Justice is an umbrella term that covers restorative justice, dispute resolution and peacemaking. These three approaches share the ideal of community justice as described in our mission statement and vision.
Our Mission Statement
The Southern Gulf Islands Community Justice program strives to build safety and trust within our communities through the application of peacemaking, dispute resolution, and restorative justice practices.
A community that embraces inclusivity, accountability, compassion and respect.
What is Restorative Justice?
Restorative Justice is an alternative to the court system. It is commonly employed for offences such as vandalism, mischief, minor theft, causing a disturbance, etc. On the Southern Gulf Islands, the program relies on referrals from the RCMP and other community organizations such as schools, parks, etc.
Each of the Southern Gulf islands is its own small society. Each depends on trust between residents. Offences committed in these island societies create immediate harm — a breakdown of trust. This harm affects the victim, the offender and the community around them.
The Restorative Justice process aims at undoing this harm. It offers a support for victims. It gives offenders an opportunity to atone. And it engages affected members of the community.
The Restorative Justice Idea
Restorative justice is commonly defined as an approach to justice that focuses on addressing the harm caused by crime. While holding offenders responsible for their actions, restorative justice provides an opportunity for the parties directly affected by the harm to identify and address their needs in the aftermath of the offence.
Restorative justice is based on an understanding that crime is a violation of people and relationships. The principles of restorative justice are based on respect, compassion and inclusivity. It encourages meaningful engagement and accountability and provides an opportunity for healing, reparation and reintegration.
In short, Restorative Justice helps build a stronger community. Victims of harm are supported. Offenders have the opportunity to atone. The community has an active role in restoring a sense of safety and cooperation.
History of Restorative Justice Abroad and on Pender Island
Originating in the 1970s as mediation between victims and offenders, restorative justice broadened in the 1990s to include communities of care as well, with victims’ and offenders’ families and friends participating in collaborative processes called “conferences” and “circles.”
Public interest in restorative justice practices is growing and governments around the world are increasingly acknowledging its potential benefits and significance. In 2001 the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice drafted the “Basic Principles on the Use of Restorative Justice Programmes in Criminal Matters” which urged national governments to establish principles for restorative justice practices. The Canadian Federal Department of Justice followed this recommendation with a set of principles and procedural guidelines. The Canadian Youth Criminal Justice Act, passed in 2002, makes provisions for restorative justice alternatives. The BC Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General has a Community Safety and Crime Prevention Branch that provides funding for many of the over 70 restorative justice programs in BC.
Restorative Justice programs have been operating on Pender and the Outer Gulf Islands since 2001. The current incarnation, the SGI Community Justice Program, formed as a program under the Southern Gulf Islands Community Resource Centre in 2018, and has since transitioned to the SGI Neighbourhood House. Our steering committee is currently focusing on providing Restorative Justice facilitator training. All volunteers receive basic training and are encouraged to participate in advanced training and workshops to increase their skills. The program uses conference circles where the victim and the offender, with their supporters, are provided with a safe environment to deal with the harm that has been done and the offender signs a formal contract to make amends. Our program volunteers act as neutral facilitators in the circle and mentors to the victim and to the offender.
The SGI CJP employs the practice of peace circles in a number of ways. Peace Circles create a safe environment to strengthen communication in situations such as learning, decision-making, conflict resolution, relationship building, healing, reconciliation, and celebration. We use circles to explore community building and to examine issues that stand in the way of communication. We regularly host “Community Conversation Circles,” both in person and virtually. In these Circles, participants examine community topics in a process that allows for speaking and listening in a safe, respectful and constructive way. Please look for upcoming Circles under “Events” and on our Facebook page.
More information on Peace Circles: peaceofthecircle.com/
What is peacemaking?
Peacemaking is a process of resolving conflict. The process is based in the concept of peace circles, which are structured to enable communication, even on very difficult issues.
Peace circles emphasize healing and learning through a collective group process, aiming to repair harm done and assign responsibility by talking through the problem. Peace circles combine victim reconciliation, offender responsibility, and community healing.
What does a peace circle look like?
At a peace circle, a minimum of 3 participants sit in a circle of chairs, ideally without tables or other obstructions between them. They use a talking piece to take turns speaking and determine what happened and why, and how it can be fixed. Peace circles can be used in a myriad of settings including schools, neighbourhoods, workplaces, among family and friends, and in the juvenile and criminal legal systems.
How long does the process take?
Discussion and resolution of the problem may be achieved in a single session, but peace circles may extend into multiple sessions until genuine consensus is
reached. Circle processes are simple and organic but certainly cannot be facilitated in a pinch and are by no means, an ‘easy way out’.
For further information on Peace Circles, please click here.
Watch this space for upcoming events or check our facebook page www.facebook.com/sgicjp/
MARCH 15 @ 7:00 pm
How many conflicts occur because of conversations that never happened?
At our next Community Circle Conversation on March 15, we will be asking an intriguing question: “Why Didn’t They Just Talk to Me First?”
We’ve all heard it and probably said it at one time or another. You get “reported” to someone in the community, your boss, your mother! You get the picture. Often the “reporter” is anonymous, but you have a feeling you know who it is.
So why didn’t they just talk to you first? Maybe it’s “preventative defensiveness.” Maybe they’re worried about the results of talking to you. Maybe they’re worried about “confrontation.”
On March 15 at 7:00, let’s talk about the ways we can have those difficult conversations. Please reserve your virtual seat at the Conversation by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will then send you the Zoom link to join us.
Speaking of joining us, we are looking for people to work with us, at whatever level they are comfortable. Whether it’s Restorative Justice cases, Peace Circles, Conflict Resolution or simply contributing to healthy communication in our communities, there is a place for you to help build safety and trust on our islands. Please contact us at by email at email@example.com and check us out at https://sginh.ca/programs/cjp/. We can provide training and great company.