The Williams Lake Community Council for Restorative Justice was established in 1996 to assist in bringing community healing to our justice system. Community Justice Forums were initiated by the RCMP. They are based on Family Group Conferencing which originated with the Maori people in New Zealand. The success of the program caught the interest of Canadians. Williams Lake is the second community in British Columbia to adopt this form of alternative justice. Indigenous people in this area have told us that these circles have much in common with their traditions.
Goals and Philosophy of Community Justice Forums
The philosophy of Community Justice Forums is based on community healing. The goals of a Community Justice Forum Conference are to repair harm and to maximize justice. The first involvement with a person accused of a crime is usually with the RCMP. In certain matters restorative justice conferencing is recommended by the RCMP. Referrals also come from Crown Counsel. If such action is recommended and approved, a formal conference is implemented outside the traditional court system. Obviously, some types of offenses and offenders cannot be suitably dealt with outside the traditional court system
Mission and Purpose
The Council’s mission is to maximize social justice for all citizens by providing an alternative to the criminal justice system that is restorative rather than punitive.
The purpose of the group is to provide an effective means of working with the offender, the offender’s family, the victim, and the community as a whole. Conferencing will hopefully result in fewer repeat offenders and bring a sense of participation in the justice process to all concerned. For the program to be effective, not only must the concerns of victims of crime be addressed in a meaningful manner, but there must be public support for the program.
The Executive Committee consists of two co-chairs and a secretary. The committee is nominated and approved by the membership through consensus. The term is two years, and, the goal is to have a rotating executive so that the group doesn’t become dependent on a few people. The past executive will serve as advisors to the new executive as needed.
Conduct of the Meeting
In keeping with restorative principles, agreements are made by consensus and the set up for the meeting is in a circle, whenever possible.