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Restorative Justice

Victoria Integrated Court

Public disorder and disobedience have been long-standing complaints in Victoria’s downtown. The negative effects that graffiti, panhandling, public drunkenness and vandalism, among other things, have on local business and the tourism sector led the DVBA board to begin looking for potential solutions to mitigate the problem while also providing a measurable benefit to the downtown.

Restorative justice (RJ) is an informal community approach to criminal justice that focuses on repairing the harm caused by crime and holding the offender responsible for their actions in a manner that is outside of the traditional court system. In some communities this takes place through a completely independent community court, in others, an integrated court system that operates with staff from the justice system but otherwise outside of regular courts.

Contrary to traditional judicial proceedings, the RJ process provides community support for victims, offenders, and the community to better understand why the crime happened and to provide a process for reaching a mutually agreeable resolution proposal between victim and offender. The types of resolutions that can be reached include: the receipt of a written or verbal apology; restitution for damages; community service; and/or offender counseling (i.e. drug, anger management, alcohol).

With the Clean Team, the DVBA developed a program that gave disadvantaged workers a stable job with a decent wage at the same time as filling a much needed role in cleaning up the downtown core. Many of these workers come from the same target population as that of the Community Courts and the Clean Team was seen as a potentially good fit for community service options associated with a Community Court. The DVBA Board of Directors began looking into the potential of a Community Court be created in Victoria as early as 2006 but the process began in earnest in 2007.

In September 2007, a delegation from the DVBA and City of Victoria went to the IDA conference in New York where they had the opportunity to meet Judge Richard Weinberg, the fourth judge to preside over New York’s Midtown Community Court. Weinberg was invited back to Victoria for the June 2008 AGM where he spoke about his experience with community courts. The DVBA also hosted a community court open house with BC’s Chief Judge at the time, Richard Stansfield, along with Acting Police Chief Bill Naughton and CRD Regional Health Officer Richard Stanwick. In fall 2008, the DVBA commissioned OrgAide to prepare a study on community courts. Then in December 2009, the DVBA and the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce met with the BC Solicitor General Kash Heed and BC Attorney General Mike De Jong to seek their support for the creation of a community court.

In March 2010, the Victoria Integrated Court was created through the office of the Attorney General. BC Provincial Court Judge Ernie Quantz was appointed the first Judge of the Integrated Court and the DVBA was set up as a community service partner for those convicted in the courts. The Victoria Integrated Court falls under the control of the Attorney General’s office; however, the research, advocacy and determination of the DVBA Board and Staff were instrumental in getting the program off the ground in Victoria.

Participants:

  • British Columbia Attorney-General
  • British Columbia Department of Corrections
  • Victoria Police Department
  • Vancouver Island Health Authority
  • DVBA

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