Restorative justice is an alternative to standard criminal justice processes, with roots in traditional and indigenous forms of justice. It focuses on repairing the harm caused by crime, within the context of relationships and communities.
There is a growing interest in restorative justice as an important aspect of criminal justice reform in many parts of the world. Public Safety Canada is at the forefront of research and development in this field.
U.N. basic principles on restorative justice
In July 2002, the United Nations Economic and Social Council adopted a resolution containing guidance for member states on restorative justice policy and practice. Canada played a key role in establishing these principles, and continues to share its experiences and expertise at the international level. Basic principles on the use of restorative justice programmes in criminal matters is available on the United Nations Economic and Social Council website (document E/2002/INF/2/Add.2, pp. 54-59).
About restorative justice
Restorative justice can take many forms. It often involves a face-to-face meeting between victim and offender. Sometimes other members of the community are involved.
Participants are given the opportunity to discuss the crime's impact and they collectively decide how the offender can make amends. This might involve paying for stolen property, doing community service or seeking treatment for underlying problems.
The goal is to encourage healing for the participants, reparation of the harm and reintegration of the offender into the community as a law-abiding citizen.
This approach, which holds offenders accountable in meaningful and constructive ways, can contribute to a more satisfying experience of justice for victims and communities. Research shows that both victims and offenders have high levels of satisfaction with the process and the outcomes. Studies also suggest that offenders are more likely to follow through with restitution or community service, and that there is some reduction in repeat offending.
Restorative justice holds significant promise as an alternative to the mainstream forms of criminal justice, but careful study is needed to assess:
- its impact on victims and offenders
- how the greatest benefits can be achieved
Public Safety Canada is at the forefront of research and development in this area and has published several research summaries:
Federal/Provincial/Territorial Working Group on Restorative Justice
The mandate of the Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FPT) Working Group on Restorative Justice is to consider and coordinate discussion on administrative, policy and evaluation issues that emerge from the implementation of restorative justice and related alternative criminal justice programs.
Please note that the following resources have been developed and compiled by this Working Group but not endorsed by a specific government or organization and are for information purposes only. The following resources are intended to assist federal, provincial and territorial governments, justice agencies, and restorative agencies with public education and communications about Restorative Justice: