Restorative justice is a way of addressing conflict that enables the individual who caused harm, the people who were affected by it, and the larger community to work together to create a meaningful resolution. In contrast to traditional criminal justice responses, which seek to punish each act of wrongdoing, restorative justice focuses on repairing harm and restoring relationships.
Restorative practices not only provide us with tools to deal with conflict more effectively and responsibly than punitive approaches, they also provide us with a better framework for understanding conflict—how it arises and who is affected by it. For young people in our education and justice systems, punitive responses, such as suspensions and expulsions or criminal charges, do not address the underlying causes that led to conflict, nor do they recognize that young people in conflict with the justice system or at school are often victims too.
Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act includes several provisions that are consistent with restorative justice principles and practices including Section 3 (Principles), Section 10 (Extrajudicial measures), Section 19 (Conferences), and Section 42 (Youth sentences).
At Peacebuilders, we use restorative practices to keep young people out of the criminal justice system, make schools safer places for learning and development, and build strong and healthy communities. We developed Peacebuilding Circles, which were adapted from the Peacemaking Circles practiced in many First Nations in Canada, in particular those used in the Carcross/ Tagish First Nation, as well as those developed by Kay Pranis and Barry Stuart, and described in their book, Peacemaking Circles: From Crime to Community.