Restorative Justice funding merits another look says Chilliwack mayor

Statistically Restorative programs are shown to effectively reduce recidivism, or repeat offences, by 87 per cent.

Chilliwack put forth a resolution that passed at the 2014 annual conference of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, urging the provincial government to undertake greater cost sharing of restorative justice programs across B.C.

And it’s not the first time.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz said Chilliwack has a long history of formally requesting a greater funding share from the province on this important matter.

“We continue to ask the provincial government to fund ongoing restorative justice programs, because we know they bring results,” she said.

The restorative approach, which brings together first-time offenders with those they’ve harmed in the community, looks for concrete ways to help the parties heal from the incident.

Statistically the programs are shown to effectively reduce recidivism, or repeat offences, by an estimated 87 per cent, she said.

Offenders must accept responsibility for their actions, and they get to hear directly how their behaviour impacted the victim and supporters, as well as their own family.

“Hopefully one day the provincial government will see the value of funding restorative justice,” Gaetz said.

Provincial agencies used to fund programs, she noted, but at one point reverted to providing funding for program start-ups only.

But the money is always “well-spent,” she noted.

“Restorative justice can change lives and direct people into a healthier way of living,” Gaetz said.

The UBCM resolution, titled Restorative Justice Program Funding, was proposed by Chilliwack. It read “Therefore be it resolved that the Union of BC Municipalities request that the provincial government consider greater funding to cost share in the Restorative Justice programs across the province.”

There’s still hope.

“It just seems to be something that merits another look. It’s a no-brainer.”

Chilliwack Restorative Justice and Youth Advocacy Association was founded in June 1998, aimed at fostering a safe and caring community through restorative processes. The program provides mentoring and a forum for victims and payment of monetary restitution to victims collected from offenders. Agreements may include options such an apology letter, community service work, counselling or restitution.