Sometimes you need an apology to move on, and a Golden organization aims to help both offenders and victims do just that.
“Crime and conflict result in harm done to people. Restorative Justice seeks to heal and put right the wrong,” said Ann Younger, a volunteer with the Golden Community Restorative Justice Program.
“The wrongful act stands as a barrier between the two people, and the relationship is fractured. No one really enjoys broken relationships.”
This volunteer-run, provincially funded program brings offenders and victims together and gives both parties the space to speak and be heard. The process involves a referral (often from the RCMP after a crime has been committed, but could come from anyone), individual sessions with the victim and offender, and then a joint session where it is made clear the harm that has been done, and a sincere apology is offered.
“Sometimes people really don’t recognize how they have harmed someone,” said Younger. “We work with youth a lot…It’s really interesting to see it in some of the younger one’s faces, when they finally understand that what they’ve done has harmed someone.”
Although most referrals come from the police, Younger wants the community to be aware that this group offers conflict resolution for all kinds of issues. This could be an interfamily conflict, a dispute between neighbours, or a problem between two business owners.
“We want the community to know that this program is available to everyone,” she said. “Referrals can come from a parent, maybe the conservation or bylaw officer…anyone who needs a relationship repaired.”
The local chapter, which is one of the longest running in the province, has completed approximately 40 cases in the last three years.
The group is hosting a Community Conversation where they will show the community how Restorative Justice can create a better future for victims, offenders, and the town. The evening will include speakers, Sergeant Troy Durand with the RCMP, Justice Grant Sheard, and Mayor Christina Benty, as well as question periods.
“There will be lots of opportunity for people to get a better understanding of what we really do, and how we might be able to help them,” said Younger.
The Community Conversation will be held at the Golden Seniors Centre on Tuesday Sept. 30 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Refreshments will be served.