Restorative Justice (RJ) Week runs Nov. 19 to 25 nationwide, and Salt Spring’s RJ group has organized two special public awareness events during that period.
The first is an information sharing gathering on Tuesday, Nov. 21 that will include storytelling about the transformative power of peace-making circles and casework, and volunteering opportunities with RJ Salt Spring Island. It takes place in the library program room from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Registration to firstname.lastname@example.org is requested.
RJ Salt Spring Island coordinator Jessica Terezakis, and long-time organization volunteers and current board members Roberta Temmel and Laura Dafoe, will be at that session.
Temmel said it is exciting to have Terezakis, who has recently completed Simon Fraser University’s restorative justice program, as the group’s new leader. But Terezakis points to the relationships built by Temmel, Dafoe and others as being critical to the success of RJ on Salt Spring.
“I think the largest and most important part of restorative justice is the relationship building,” said Terezakis, “and when you’ve been in this community doing that kind of work for that long, relationships are at its centre.”
RJ is usually thought of in the context of the criminal justice system, as an alternative to traditional court appearances and judgements in cases where harm has been done. It involves bringing the responsible party together with the affected party in a circle facilitated by individuals trained in RJ. The responsible party hears about the impact of their actions directly from the affected party, and the affected party hears what may have led to those actions.
“For me, the biggest part of restorative justice is that connection with people,” said Temmel, “and giving that time for somebody to feel that they’re heard and that you meet them where they’re at, and to give them the opportunity to share what was happening with them. I always think nobody is the worst thing they’ve ever done, this isn’t who we are, this is just a part of our path.”
People who make poor choices have often lacked support in the past, she adds, and RJ volunteers can help provide that support.
Dafoe observed that RJ “holds complexity . . . it’s not guilty/not guilty, or good/bad. It’s a structure and the processes are able to hold complexity — and every single thing that happens is complex.”
She also said RJ is not just for the criminal justice system, but people and groups can request their services to help resolve any kind of personal or organizational conflict.
RJ has its roots in Indigenous cultures, which makes a second Restorative Justice Week event that much more meaningful.
A Land Acknowledgement Circle led by the library’s Indigenous coordinator Caroline Dick will be an opportunity for settlers to learn more about how to meaningfully incorporate land acknowledgements into their lives as an important part of Truth and Reconciliation.
It will run on Saturday, Nov. 25 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., also in the library’s program room.
Dafoe said Dick will talk about what the land means, and participants will learn proper pronunciations and how to create their own acknowledgments.
“When we go to another meeting we’ll be ready to be the one to stand up and say, ‘Hey, I’d like to do this,” said Temmel.
To register for the Nov. 25 session, email email@example.com.
For more information about Restorative Justice Salt Spring Island, visit rjssi.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, check out RJ books at the Salt Spring library or explore YouTube videos about restorative justice.
EXPERIENCE SHARED BY RESTORATIVE JUSTICE SSI PROGRAM PARTICIPANT:
“My experience with the Restorative Justice Program (RJP) surprised me. I had a mentor assigned to me and they were so kind and empathetic. I felt safe with them. They said to me, ‘If you don’t keep in contact with me, this won’t work’ and I took that to heart because I didn’t want to be charged again by the police. It’s just what I needed at the time — guidance, support and acknowledgement. Someone who genuinely cared for my well-being. I was starving of eldership in my life and this opportunity with the RJP nourished that aspect. With the commitment for weekly communication, consistency, I felt less alone. My mentor made me feel anchored during a pivotal time in my life and I can’t express fully how much that has helped me heal from what led me to Salt Spring Island.
“Through my journey with the program, I built connections with the community which was all I desired from the beginning. A sense of belonging and purpose. I learned that there are more people out there than we realize that truly care for all. That there is always a solution. It’s allowing the time and creation of space to do it.
“I have so much gratitude for the people who worked with me and listened to my story. I hope we can continue to collaborate with community and rise together, instead of repeated behaviour of immediately casting out individuals who don’t fit the status quo. Thank you for your extending your hand to me.”