WHO MAY REFER A CASE?
Cases may be referred by:
- RCMP officers who have discretion to refer a criminal matter involving youth and adults where they believe that the process will be of benefit for both the person causing a harm and the person they have harmed.
- ICBC fraud officers who encounter false claims against the Insurance Corporation and where the individual is willing to voluntarily participate in a restorative justice process.
- Federal Fisheries officers who choose to refer cases involving offenses under the federal Fisheries Act.
- Municipal and Regional District By-Law officers who believe that peaceful relations may be restored to the community where disputes involving by-laws have disrupted relations between neighbours or individuals and the community.
- Loss Prevention Officers who wish to refer shoplifting cases rather than laying formal criminal charges. In some of these cases, the business will be represented by a CJC trained and briefed “volunteer complainant” in order that these cases may be referred for restorative justice rather than processed as criminal charges. In such cases, a resolution agreement that is reached during this process is finalized when the representative signs the agreement.
- Foster care social workers, foster parents, foster children where conflict is potentially resolvable and so doing would overcome the need to move a foster child into a new foster home.
- Neighbours experiencing conflict where both neighbours agree.
- Non-profit boards where conflict between the Board and volunteers, between volunteers and volunteers, or between members of the Board itself, threatens to disrupt important community services.
BIA Member businesses may make a direct referral to the Community Justice Centre. Click below for appropriate forms.
We do not provide conflict resolution services in the case of marital breakdown, divorce, child custody, or division of assets matters as there are private practice mediators who accept such cases. Also, we are not able to provide conflict resolution services in cases relating to the provision of government mental health services, other health services, or residential tenancy conflicts. There are other resources available for such concerns through the Office of the Ombudsperson, the BC Access Centre, and other advocacy groups.
What they are. How they work. How to make one.
“I am sorry”
Easy to say… but do you mean it? In the last ten years, we have learned a lot about apologizing and its effect on those who have been hurt or harmed by our actions.
“I am sorry” is not enough…
This is to help you think about apologies and to help you to prepare for this important step in the restorative process. How can you tell the person you have hurt how you really feel?
What is an apology?
A full and sincere apology has five parts:
- Express remorse or regret for what you did, the hurt you caused, and its effects on other people. Say “I am sorry”, and really mean it. This shows that you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see it from their point of view.
- Accept responsibility – admit that you caused the hurt. Understand that your action was not OK. Understand that in the eyes of our community and its values, you have made a mistake. Say “I was wrong”, and really mean it. This shows that you understand how you were involved and what you are being held accountable for.
- Promise not to repeat- give some assurance that you have decided to change your behaviour. Say “I won’t ever do it again”, and mean it from deep inside. Think about, and maybe tell the person you hurt, how you will work to make this happen.
- Make restitution – tell the person you hurt that you want repair the harm. Ask “What can I do to make it right?” This shows that you do understand what it felt like for them. And that you have thought about how they felt. And that you have thought about what it would take to make things right for them.
- Request forgiveness – which allows the person you hurt the chance to decide whether they will accept your apology. Say “Can you forgive me?” Conflict is really about power, and when you hurt someone, you are taking power for yourself. This gives your power to the person you hurt. By putting yourself in their hands to decide if they can accept your apology, there is a chance for healing for you and the person you hurt.
Sometimes, it is helpful to:
Give an explanation – in certain cases, it is important to explain to the person you hurt why you did what you did. It is not an excuse. It is so that the person you hurt can know why it happened and what you were thinking at the time. If they can know the situation you were in, they may be able to understand why you did what you did. It can provide a basis for them to see that you are a human being, just like them.
How they work
Apologies are one of the things that can lead to a truly restorative experience for both you and the person you hurt. How they work and what they do is the subject of lots of study in universities and community service groups such as the Community Justice Centre. The early results indicate that an honest, sincere, and genuine apology:
- confirms that you acknowledge and understand that what you did broke the shared set of rules and values that hold a community together;
- tells them that it was not their fault that you hurt them, and that they are not responsible for what you did to them. This reassures some people who may wrongly blame themselves for what you did;
- lets them know that you understand how your actions affected their life – that you can “put yourself in their shoes” and understand how they would feel;
- tells them that you sincerely intend to change your behaviour so that others will not be hurt in the same way, so that others will be able to feel safe in the community. Many people who have been hurt believe that they have a duty to others to make sure that no one else will suffer by your future actions;
- it gives some power to the person you hurt. Many people experience fear and a sense of no longer being safe in their community because you have used your power to treat them in unacceptable ways. When you sincerely ask for forgiveness, you are giving the person you hurt some power to make a decision that affects you.
Apologies can be expressed by using any combination of the five parts of an apology. Using all of the elements ensures that the person you’re apologizing to will hear the parts that are most important to them. Most failed apologies lack at least one or more of the parts that are required to meet the needs of the person you hurt.
Another failing is that they don’t sound sincere. Almost everyone has a built in “crap detector” that tells them when they hear something that is not honest, genuine, and sincere. If you don’t feel it, don’t say it.
How to make a good apology
- Start by remembering the events for which you are apologizing and think about:
- what you did to cause the harm,
- how that person would have felt about it,
- why you are sorry for causing the harm.
Spend some time on this step, try to understand your responsibility and how you could have behaved differently in that situation.
- Review each of the five parts of a good and complete apology and make some notes on each one and how it applies in your situation.
- Use specific details, and your own words. Write from your heart. If you don’t feel it inside, your words will sound hollow and the reader may reject the apology because it seems insincere. If you use other people’s words, clichés, or jargon phrases, the apology will sound false.
- Read your first draft, then ask someone else to read it over. Look for each of the elements: full, complete honesty and disclosure, and for the details that show the reader that you have been thinking about what you did and how it would have affected them. Read it from their point of view.
- Rewrite it, a couple of times, to include things that were missed, and take out things that sound “fake”.
- Read it out loud to see what it sounds like. Underline words that need to be changed so that you express both feelings and truth.
- Check your spelling. Errors make it look like you don’t really care, or you are treating it like a joke.
- If you can’t write an honest and sincere apology, then you probably don’t really feel inside that you were responsible, or sorry, or that you ought to make things right. You also probably don’t feel that you can honestly say you will try not to do such things again, or that you are ready to ask someone to forgive you. If this is the case, then you may not be ready for a restorative justice conference.
You should probably talk with a case co-ordinator to see what happens next. It may be that you need more information to understand the role of apology in restorative justice, or you may need more time to prepare for the event. Apologies do not have to be written prior to the conference, they can be one of the elements of the resolution agreement.
When an apology works, both you and the person you hurt have an opportunity to move ahead with your lives. When it works – and it does way more often than not – you may be able to say:
This apology is mine, but the Peace is ours.
The court system is overtaxed to the point that many cases are not heard until months and even years after the offence. For many, what might have been a one-time foolish act can result in a criminal conviction. Victims participate as witnesses only. Both victim and offender lose. The Community Justice Centre was set up to deal with offending conduct in a non-legal, non-confrontational environment.
A police officer has suggested you might go to the Community Justice Centre. You have five days to decide if you want to go through the Centre or through the Courts.
So what can I do?
Read this first and then:
- You may see a lawyer.
- You may talk to your family, relatives or friends.
- You may telephone the Centre, and arrange for a pre conference consultation.
Why should I go through the Centre?
- You accept personal responsibility for your actions.
- You take part in repairing the hurt you caused.
- You and your family get the matter over with quickly, with less hassle.
- If you complete the agreement you make, you have no criminal record for this incident.
What is a Community Justice Centre?
The Community Justice Centre in the Comox Valley is operated by a non-profit local society. On the board of directors are representatives of the three municipalities, the regional district and the R.C.M.P. The other directors are elected by local non-profit groups and by individual residents. All the elected directors are residents of the Valley. At the Community Justice Centre, in a resolution conference, you acknowledge that another person (the Complainant) has been hurt by your action. The acknowledgment is not regarded in this process as a legal admission of guilt. Blame and fault are not the focus. The purposes are to heal the hurt, fix any damage done, and try to prevent it happening again. It is for you to suggest how those purposes can be realized. You will be expected to discuss ways to bring about a satisfactory solution.
What happens at the conference?
You, with up to three supporters attend a conference which will take place within 14 days of your agreeing to participate in the Centre process. The complainant or a nominee, also with up to three supporters will be there. The Centre will provide a facilitator/mediator and two panel members who represent the community. You will describe what happened, and what was in your mind at the time. The complainant will be asked to describe how the incident affected him or her or their family. You will then propose how to heal the hurt, fix any damage done, and try to prevent it happening again. You and the complainant will discuss your proposal. The facilitator and the panel will assist you and the complainant to arrive at an agreement. The supporters will be given an opportunity to speak on behalf of each party. All parties present will sign any agreement arrived at by you and the complainant.
Then what happens?
If there is an agreement, it will be given to the Centre co-ordinator. Copies will be given to all parties present. If the agreement is completed, the police will take no further action and the file will be closed. The agreement may be amended if you show good reason. You will have the opportunity to take part in any amendment process. If no agreement is arrived at or the agreement is not completed, the police may still take further action.
What if I don’t have friends or family in the Comox Valley?
Call the Centre which will arrange for a volunteer who can answer all your questions to call you. If you and the volunteer agree, the volunteer can appear with you at the conference as a supporter.
What kinds of things can I offer to repair the hurt caused?
Do you think an apology is in order? If so, think about what to say and how to say it. From the police officer, or through the Centre, you can get a good idea of the cost of fixing any damage. If you or your supporters can pay for the damage, immediately or over time, you might propose that. If you can’t, then you might propose how you, your friends or family could make amends. You might work off all or part of the loss suffered. If you lack skills, ask the Centre to provide the names of volunteers who would advise you on how to repair damage.
What can I propose that will prevent it happening again?
You know what was in your mind at the time. Do you need counselling? Do you need help, for instance, with an addiction? Ask the Centre to put you in touch with a volunteer, and make arrangements for rehabilitation. You make the commitment, not anyone else.
Are there time limits in this?
Apart from the five days to agree to this process and the fourteen days for the conference, you should be prepared to start redress (repairing the hurt) and rehabilitation within thirty days of the conference. The terms you have agreed to in the conference must be completed within five months of the date of the incident.
What is a supporter?
A supporter is a person who attends the conference with you. You choose the supporter. Examples are family members, relatives, counsellors, coaches, neighbours and so on.
Who knows what goes on in the conference?
Nothing of what you say in the conference can be used in a court of law as evidence against you. All persons present are made aware that what is said in the conference by anyone is not to be made public. Any agreement may be seen and read by the those present, and the Centre directors and staff.
What happens if I don’t follow through with my agreement?
If you deliberately refuse to comply with the agreement, the matter will be returned to the police for them to take such action as they determine. The Centre will notify all who took part in the conference that you failed to comply with the agreement. What they do with the information does not concern the Centre.
What’s in it for me?
You get this one opportunity to accept responsibility for your mistakes, and regain the respect of your community. You will have acted as a responsible member of the community. You may take pride in taking control of your own destiny. Furthermore, if you complete your agreement, based on what you propose, you will have no criminal record. This can be of great importance for your future.
Community Justice… “HEARing” the Community
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