When the law is broken, a restorative approach considers the impact on the people and their relationships at interpersonal, social, and institutional levels. Restorative justice is aimed at understanding and addressing the harms and needs of those affected by crime with an aim to support just relations in future. Restorative justice processes bring together those with a stake in the outcome of a situation—those who have been affected, those with responsibility for what happened, and those who can support a good outcome.
Restorative justice takes a relational approach in response to crime. It is based on and guided by the following principles:
- Relationally focused: Attention to interconnection, seeking to understand and promote just relations between individuals, groups and communities.
- Comprehensive and holistic: Takes into account histories, contexts and causes of harm and its impacts.
- Inclusive and participatory: Culturally grounded and trauma-informed, attentive to the needs of parties and the safety and well-being of participants.
- Responsive: Contextual, flexible practice, accessible, efficient and effective processes, informed by data and knowledge.
- Focused on promoting individual and collective accountability and responsibility.
- Collaborative and non-adversarial: Among parties to the process and system and community partners.
- Forward-focused: Educative (not punitive), problem-solving, preventative and proactive.
Restorative justice processes consider the contexts, causes, circumstances, and impacts related to the crime to determine what is required for a just outcome. Through restorative justice, parties can participate together in processes designed to address harms and needs. Restorative justice engages those responsible for harms as active participants in planning and action to address the harm and ensure they relate justly in future.
How Does the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program (NSRJP) Work?
The Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program is available to youth aged 12–17 and adults across the province.
Offences under the Criminal Code of Canada, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and other provincial and municipal statutes are eligible to be considered for referral by police, prosecutors, the Courts, corrections, and victim-serving agencies.
A court referral to the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program is a discretionary tool available to the Judiciary post-guilty plea or finding of guilt. Judges may, in their authority and discretion, make referrals to the program as a mechanism to obtain important information for sentencing purposes, including information focused on:
- Hearing from victims or community members
- Details of cultural and contextual circumstances
- Restorative sentencing recommendations
- Case conferencing with or/ without a judge (to generate broad information from the accused, victim(s), community members and supports)
- Ongoing accountability to the community while awaiting sentencing
Judges can also refer to the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program as part of sentencing, including:
- As a condition of the sentencing order
- As part of a community-based sentence
- Crafting a reintegration plan
In addition to providing information for sentencing, a referral to Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program often results in meaningful accountability, addressing or repairing harms caused, and restoring relationships.
For more information on the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program, please visit the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program | novascotia.ca.