Peacebuilders’ core program, Restorative Youth Circles (RYC), is a highly respected, volunteer-driven program that has won many awards including the Canadian Criminal Justice Associations’ Crime Prevention Award, the City of Toronto Mayor’s 2008 Community Safety Award and the Toronto Community Foundations’ 2009 Vital Ideas Award.
Since its inception in 2006, Peacebuilders RYC program has helped divert over 700 young people in the GTA from the criminal justice system. RYC has made a name for itself as the leading and most comprehensive youth court diversion program in Toronto.
In contrast to the conventional, often times punitive, criminal justice approach, the restorative justice approach of the RYC program allows participants to consider their current life path and encourages them to make better choices.
RYC Program in Toronto Family and Youth Court
The Restorative Youth Circles program has two components: peer-to-peer circles and individual circles.
When a young person has been accepted into the RYC program, she or he will be required to attend weekly, after-school, peer-to-peer discussion groups. These groups help the young person experience the Circle process, explore values and beliefs with other young people, and share their own experiences. With the guidance of a trained Youth Circle facilitator, young people gather together in safe, non-judgmental Peacebuilding Circles and learn how to speak openly, honestly, and respectfully with one another about issues that they face in their daily lives.
Once the individual completes the peer-to-peer circles, she or he will then move into the individualized Peacebuilding Circles known as Restorative Youth Circles (RYC), or Restorative Youth Circles Enhanced (RYCE), if located in the Jane and Finch community.
Circles provide youth and their families with the opportunity to articulate, discuss and try to develop action plans to deal with their stressful and difficult life conditions, with the support of caring peers, adults and professionals. They also provide an opportunity for young people to stop and think about the circumstances that provoked their behaviour and to think of an alternate, more appropriate way of dealing with their challenges. Circles are about taking responsibility, learning positive values, making amends, and moving forward.
Each youth referred to Peacebuilders’ RYC Program is assigned to a team of trained volunteer Circle Keepers. The youth then proceeds to participate in a series of weekly Circle sessions with the team as well as with parents, custodians, teachers, other youth, victims and any other parties as feasible and necessary in order to develop a proactive plan which is then captured in a report and submitted to the Court.
Through this community-led, non-culturally specific, secular process, Peacebuilders equips diverse youth from Toronto’s high-need communities with tools and support, helping them to stay out of the criminal justice system. This process re-directs youth into activities and associations that will provide more positive outlets while assisting youth in making appropriate choices for their futures.
To date over 700 youth have participated in the rigorous RYC Program process, graduated and have been successfully diverted from the justice system.
In order to support the youths referred to our programs and serve their diverse needs, Peacebuilders relies on volunteers from a variety of different backgrounds, ages, and languages that care about disadvantaged children and youth. See our volunteer section for more information.