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What is Restorative Justice?

In the face of crime and conflict, restorative justice (RJ) is a philosophy and an approach that views crime and conflict principally as harm done to people and relationships. It strives to provide support and safe opportunities for the voluntary participation and communication between those affected (victims, offenders, and community) to encourage accountability, reparation, and a movement towards understanding, feelings of satisfaction, healing, safety and a sense of closure.

RJ is a non-adversarial, non-retributive approach to justice that emphasizes healing in victims, meaningful accountability of offenders, and the involvement of citizens in creating healthier, safer communities.

While there is no single universal definition for RJ, common elements are shared between those that exist. These common elements, often referred to as RJ values and principles, are fundamental to ensuring that RJ values and principles remain consistent with the founding philosophy of this approach.

RJ is about giving all parties involved in a conflict the opportunity to take an active role in a safe and respectful process that allows for open dialogue between the victim, offender, and the community. The decision to participate in a restorative justice process may be a complex and difficult one. Those who have participated in RJ processes report that RJ helps fulfill needs that have been previously left unmet.

  • RJ provides victims with an opportunity to tell their story, address the harm caused, and find answers to questions that are important to them.

  • RJ provides offenders with an opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and to be held accountable by those they harmed.

  • RJ empowers communities to gain a better understanding of the root causes of crime and allows the community to express and reduce its fears.

What Can Restorative Justice Mean to Each of Us?

Everyone engaged in restorative justice tends to have their own definition of what it means. While no single universal definition of restorative justice has yet emerged, the roots of its understanding lie in examining the core elements shared between them. These common elements, or values, are fundamental to ensuring that restorative justice approaches remain consistent with the philosophy underpinning it. The following is a list of common elements found among many restorative justice writings:

Harmful Behaviour: At the core of restorative justice is an appreciation of the full effects of criminal behaviour. Restorative justice views crime not only as law breaking, but primarily as damage to individuals, their property, their relationships and their communities. As such, any appropriate response requires a principal focus on the harm caused by crime. In addition, there is also an acknowledgement of harm created by the criminal justice process on the participants.

Inclusion: Restorative justice is driven by an engagement of all people affected by crime, who are most often identified as the victim, offender, their individual support people (family, friends, others) and the community. This requires elevating the roles of those traditionally excluded from the process, particularly the victim and the community. Government, criminal justice professionals and Canadian society in general also need to be included in appropriate ways within these processes. Inclusion involves the important elements of giving voice, accessibility, ownership of the process and support.

Accountability: Restorative justice is about creating processes that allow offenders to take responsibility for the harms created by their actions, directly to those harmed. As well, it is an opportunity for community to see its role in contributing to the crime. This requires, to the degree possible, an ability to hear all points of view and understand the "truth" of what occurred. In all cases, accountability involves not only accepting responsibility for the crime, but also accepting responsibility for addressing the harms and needs arising from it. For many, accountability also represents the opportunity to denounce the criminal act and reinforce social rules and laws.

Safety: A complicated element, safety has two primary folds. First, safety is identified as the need to restore a sense of security to those impacted by the crime. Second, safety refers to the need to create processes for restorative justice that are safe (physically, emotionally, psychologically) for those participating. This often involves creating support structures within and around the restorative intervention. In cases of power imbalances among the participants, these dynamics can be powerfully destabilizing to the creation of a safe environment for restorative justice. Safety also involves ensuring that the rights of participants are respected. 

What are the Principles of Restorative Justice?

Does RJPSC work with the RCMP?

The RCMP plays a critical role in the restorative justice process. They offer their support through:

  • Police referrals to assist young offenders in taking responsibility for their actions and to repair the harm done to victims and the community, encouraging them to understand, accept and carry out their obligations

  • Police referrals for children, and Crown and/or Police referrals for adults involved with minor crimes, on the same basis 

  • Support for those harmed by crime and wrongdoing, enabling them to express the impact of the crime, and what is needed to make things right

  • Opportunities for dialogue, direct or indirect, between victims and offenders as appropriate

  • Support for program participants in finding satisfactory resolutions that are fair, timely, proportionate, and meaningful. This includes a restitution plan with follow-through to make amends and repair the harm

  • Access to community resources to provide support and help for those referred to our Program

The RJPSC is designed to provide facilitated Community Group Conferences and /or Victim-Offender Mediation that will enable the offender and the victim to meet in a safe, controlled environment. This enables the offender to take responsibility for his/her actions, and to take steps to repair the harm and damage caused by his/her behaviour.  In addition, victims are provided with an opportunity to express how the offence has affected them, and to have any questions answered that will assist them in their healing process.

Conferences only take place after the program team has met with all the parties individually and assessed that it is safe and reasonable to proceed to a face-to-face meeting. The conference also enable the parents of a young person to be part of the restoration process, along with other members of the community who have been affected by the offence. Together, all conference participants (with the guidance of a facilitator) discuss and work together to create fair and proportionate resolution agreements that will be of positive benefit to the person who committed the act, both for reparation and for a disincentive to offend again.

Reintegrating the offender back into the community is a vital dimension of restorative justice, and is accomplished when the individual regrets his crime and makes amends by carrying out the restorative contract developed during the conference. These actions coupled with the support and supervision of the RJPSC volunteer bring about the resolution of past issues, restoration with the community and empowerment to build on these new positive experiences and relationships.

Consistent with the principles of restorative justice, our priority is to:

  • Hold victim involvement as central

  • Ensure preparation and safety for all participants

  • Facilitate dialogue among the persons involved

  • Strive for reintegration of the offender along with accountability

  • Ensure adequate resources for reparation and reintegration

  • Ensure that conference outcomes are practical, fair and agreed upon by all parties

The RJPSC is committed to serving Sunshine Coast youth. Through timely intervention, conferencing, community interaction and accountability, our organization has the ability to redirect youth at a crucial point in order that they become productive and contributing citizens.

In addition to the above, the RJPSC is committed to fulfilling government requirements regarding restorative justice programs, such as: 

  • accepting referrals for crime categories appropriate to the skills of the facilitators

  • conducting criminal checks on volunteers

  • maintaining strict confidentiality on the part of volunteers; maintaining confidentiality standards amongst participants involved in all RJPSC facilitated solutions

Community Group Conferences

  • training our volunteers to function skillfully, effectively and with professionalism

  • developing systems of evaluation to determine: the satisfaction level of conference participants, attitudinal change on the part of young offenders and victims, effectiveness of volunteer facilitators and the effectiveness of our program

  • maintaining appropriate records of referral files in cooperation with police procedures regarding the handling of information

  • ensuring that all participants are treated with courtesy, dignity and respect at all times

We are committed to excellence in the delivery of our services to the community. Each participant is provided opportunity to give feedback on their experience with our program. Facilitators provide feedback on each case and debrief with the Program Coordinator and Program Mentor to ensure the process continues to improve and stays relevant over time.

What is the Criteria for Referral?

As directed by the new Youth Criminal Justice Act* an officer shall consider whether it would be sufficient to consider an extrajudicial measure, instead of laying a charge. One option is to refer the young person to a community program that may assist the young person not to commit offences. Restorative Justice is one of these options.

Restorative Justice referrals are appropriate for...

  • A first-time offender (youth or adult)

  • A young offender

  • A child

  • A case where the offender takes responsibility for the crime

  • A case where the offender understands and regrets the harm done, and is willing to be co-operative and accountable (At minimum, the offender needs to acknowledge responsibility, accept the act was wrong and be willing to make amends. Empathy and remorse often grow in the offender throughout the RJ process.)

  • Charges such as theft, mischief, assault, vandalism (this does NOT include offences related to domestic or sexual violence or hate crimes.)

  • A case with an identifiable victim

  • A victim with specific issues and concerns, and/or needs questions answered

  • Neighbourhood Disputes: not necessarily criminal, but could escalate without intervention. (The RJ team will guide the participants through a conflict resolution process)

Inappropriate Referrals...

  • Offender is unwilling to take responsibility, or feel remorse about it

  • Victim is unwilling to participate directly or indirectly

  • Offender is unwilling to participate

  • Violent crimes including domestic, sexual or hate crimes

What Programs are Offered by RJPSC?


  1. Community Justice Forums or circles (victim or victim proxy participates) 

  2. Community Accountability Panels (victim chooses not to participate directly - i.e. shoplifting).  

  3. A new Alternative Resolution process may resolve issues without going to conference if parties do not wish to participate directly.

  4. Peacemaking Dialogue Circles

Restorative Justice Circles (or a Community Justice Forum) is a process in which all parties affected by a criminal offence or wrongdoing agree to a voluntary gather together in a circle under the guidance of two RCMP-trained facilitators who follow an RCMP developed script used to discuss the incident, uncover its impact and develop an agreement to repair the harm. 

Community Accountability Panels are used in cases where a crime impacts the community at large and the victim is not able or willing to participate directly but does support the restorative approach. The panel comprises of program volunteers who represent the interests of the wider community. Panel members follow an RCMP script that encourages offenders to accept responsibility for their actions.

Resolution agreements for both types of conferences include verbal or written expressions of apology, counselling, community service, financial restitution, keeping the peace or having no contact (peace letters) and posters or research papers on a topic agreed by all participants. The resolution is monitored by an RJPSC Agreement Supervisor who keeps in regular contact with the offender to ensure the contract is completed. Once the agreement has been concluded the matter is deemed closed and all files returned to the RCMP.

​A Peacemaking Dialogue Circle is a carefully constructed process of communication, designed to create a safe space for all voices. In a healthy community, all members feel respectfully listened to and valued.
The practice of Dialogue Circles enables us to have those difficult conversations which arise in conflict or dispute when there is need for change or if challenging questions arise which unsettle or disturb relationships within our homes, work places or communities. Through structured elements, participant interaction is organized for maximum understanding, empowerment and connection, while maintaining a sense of positive possibilities to resolve differences.


The RJPSC has trained Circle Keepers who are available to prepare a circle process.​










Files are returned to police for further action if:
The person responsible decides to withdraw from the process
The person responsible fails to fulfill the agreement
For some other reason the process cannot go forward

Please note: The vast majority of cases are able to be concluded successfully through Restorative Justice. The compliance rate remains high and recidivism rates are lower than through the traditional justice system.

The Circle

"As the story unfolds, the labels fall away.​Tears blend.The 'other' becomes one of us.​We cannot hold the other separate, for we are inextricably intertwined in a combined story"


- Kay Pranis

Peacemaking Circles; From Crime to Community

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