Big retailers embrace restorative justice model

Offences typically referred to restorative justice are on the low end of the scale, such as shoplifting, mischiefs and graffiti.

Should a drunk teenager who vandalizes his neighbours’ lawns one Halloween night pay for his poor decisions for the rest of his life? Should a hungry 90-year-old who gets caught stealing groceries be dragged through a year-long court process?

Police agencies in Canada this week are touting the benefits of restorative justice, which provides first-time offenders who are willing to take responsibility for their actions with a chance to avoid a criminal record.

“It’s a process that really looks at crime as being against community, rather than being against an individual or a business,” said Geoff Moffett, community justice initiatives case worker for the John Howard Society. “The restorative piece looks at, ‘How do you restore balance to the community?’ So looking at ways of paying back the community, rather than serving a sentence or punishment for something you did  against an individual.”

Offences typically referred to restorative justice are on the low end of the scale, such as shoplifting, mischiefs and graffiti.

To mark restorative justice week, a panel discussion on innovations in this justice alternative will be held at the UVic law school auditorium Thursday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m.

Invited speakers will give an overview of how restorative justice is being practiced in their fields and what new innovations are coming forward.

One such innovation is how retail stores, like the Hudson’s Bay Company, are now participating in restorative justice when dealing with shoplifters, said organizer Geanine Robey, who is also a restorative justice representative for the Victoria Family and Youth Courts Justice Committee.

“Traditionally large, corporate chain stores have not been participating in what ends up being shoplifting,” Robey said.

“Restorative justice requires repairing harm that was caused. The best way to do it is through an encounter, face-to-face.”

Robey said this kind of measure is more effective in deterring shoplifting than a court-imposed fine.

Six people have been invited to share their expertise on the subject. Keynote speaker Jerry McHale is UVic’s Lam chair (named after former B.C. Lt. Governor David Lam) in law and public policy. He is a former assistant minister with the justice services branch of the Ministry of the Attorney General.

“He’s been a real champion for alternative dispute resolution in the province,” Robey said. “He really got behind the mediators and because of that, there is a mediators society.”

Other speakers include Hudson’s Bay Company loss prevention manager Jesse Anderson, Victoria integrated court judicial justice Brenda Edwards, UVic student policy and judicial officer Kirsten McMenamie, RCMP school liaison officer Cst. Ravi Gunisinghe and First Nations Community Justice coordinator.

Tickets are free and available at eventbrite.ca.

– with files from Kyle Slavin