The first delegation to present to council was Michelle LaBoucane, coordinator for the North Peace Justice Society, and Patricia Burley, a conservation officer with the provincial Ministry of Environment’s Conservation Officer Service, who talked about the restorative justice program.
In British Columbia, restorative justice is most commonly used for less serious offences such as mischief, assault, and theft, though the process can potentially be used in more serious crimes where the offender is showing an adequate degree of responsibility and willingness to make amends, and where the victim would like an opportunity to be heard, to have questions answered, or to seek restitution.
“The philosophy of restorative justice is based on community healing,” said LaBoucane. “In other words, the community decides what is best for the people concerned in certain criminal matters. The focus of restorative justice is on offender accountability, problem-solving and creating an equal voice for offenders and victims. The best results occur when the victim, offender and community jointly resolve the effects of the offender’s behaviour.”
She said using a community justice forum model, the process involves bringing together the offender and his/her family and/or supporters, and the victim and his/her family and/or supporters, to talk about the offence and develop a plan to address the impacts, under the guidance of a trained facilitator.
“This could involve a simple apology and restitution for the victim,” she said. “Other agreements may include community service work, counselling or addictions treatment for the offender.”
LaBoucane said the program gives first-time offenders, and especially youth, a chance to atone for their crimes without going through the criminal justice system.
“When kids do silly things, it offers them a chance to repair the wrong, learn from their mistakes, and in the end, it’s a really good learning experience for them,” she said.
She added her goal is to host training early in 2012 and invite participants from Dawson Creek so a similar program can be implemented in the city.
Burley added that for the last few years, conservation officers have been trained to use the restorative justice model for certain environmental offences such as industrial spills or poaching.
More information on the provincial restorative justice program can be found at http://www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/crimeprevention/justice/index.htm.
The third week of November mark National Restorative Justice Week, and the theme this year is “Re-visioning Justice.” More information can be found online at www.csc-scc.gc.ca/text/rj/rj2011/index-eng.shtml.
Council also heard from Sherrie Jones, adoption support coordinator in northern British Columbia for the Adoptive Families Association of BC, and Karen Maxwell, adoption worker for the Ministry of Children and Family Development in Dawson Creek, who received a proclamation of “Adoption Awareness Month” in Dawson Creek.
Jones said there are presently 4,700 children in British Columbia who are under adoptive care, and 1,200 more still waiting to be adopted. She said 263 children were adopted in the last year, but there is still a significant number of children in need of a home.
“We’re pecking away at it, but we never seem to get below the 1,200 still waiting for homes,” she said.
“We always need new families, quite desperately, actually,” added Maxwell.
When asked by a councillor, Maxwell said there is a post-adoption openness registry run out of Victoria that can put adopted children in contact with their biological parents if requested.
Anyone interested in learning about adoption in British Columbia or adopting a child is encouraged to call 1-877-ADOPT07 (1-877-236-7807), or visit www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/adoption. Information on pre- and post-adoption support services can be found at www.bcadopt.com.
Lastly, council welcomed Katherine Charbonneau and Carol VanDeBon with Child Care Resource and Referral (CCRR), and Gloria Cleve with School District 59, for the proclamation of Nov. 20 as “National Child Day” in Dawson Creek.
CRRR will be hosting a celebration of National Child Day on Nov. 24 to coincide with the grand opening of the Kiwanis Early Leaning Hub, a new centre for early childhood development conceived in partnership between the school district, the Kiwanis Club of Dawson Creek, and other early childhood education partners. Charbonneau said the centre has an indoor playground open to families, which fits with the theme of National Child Day this year, which is “I Have the Right to be Active.”
“We feel that children have the right to be active all year-round, and children will have that opportunity now, so it’s quite exciting,” she said.
Families are welcomed to attend the opening of the Kiwanis Early Learning Hub – located behind the South Peace Campus of Dawson Creek Secondary School, off of Sam Wilson Way – at 3 p.m. on Nov. 24, which promises to include lots of activities for children, as well as cake and other refreshments.
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