Restorative Justice in Nova Scotia
The Nova Scotia Restorative Justice (NSRJ) program was implemented in 1999 after two years of pre-implementation planning. It aimed at implementing the restorative justice approach throughout the criminal justice system (CJS), having the premise that restorative justice, in some modality, could be applicable to all offenders and all offences throughout the province.
Referrals to NSRJ could be made from any level in the CJS, whether by
police at pre-charge or the crown, judicial and corrections levels.
Different offences and different restorative interventions were
envisaged at the different levels. Restorative justice programming was
to be carried out by regional non-profit agencies each with its own local
board of directors and having significant experience in youth alternative
measures and in administering community service orders. The agencies,
each with a mix of paid staff and volunteers, have been funded by the
office of the NSRJ co-ordinator which has also provided training, protocol
development and administrative oversight. The NSRJ initiative, now in its
fifth year, received significant start-up funding support from the federal
government but is now 100% funded by the province.
The NSRJ program clearly represents a significant commitment by the provincial government. Funding, now in the amount of roughly 1.5 million dollars per year, is provided for over 40 full-time staff position throughout the province as well as for equipment, training, travel costs and special program development.
The organizational structure is impressive too. The coordinator's office, formally located in the Court Services Division, is assisted by both a steering committee and a program management committee drawn from CJS roles and the agencies and is fully integrated into the Department of Justice. The steering committee is chaired by the deputy minister of the Department of Justice. The NSRJ, through the coordinator, has a place at the table of the Justice Department as it were and, accordingly, is both accountable to and a stakeholder in major departmental decision-making.
Close linkages are also in place between the NSRJ coordinator's office
and the local agencies and their boards via standardized protocols and
guidelines and a provincially-managed Restorative Justice Information System
(RJIS) to which all referral and case management data are inputted and from
which a variety of reports are regularly issued. Regular regional meetings
of various stakeholders supplement the NSRJ and local boards meetings.
The NSRJ program has largely been evolving as projected. It has been extended to the entire province and, increasingly, referrals have been directed to the local agencies from both pre-charge and post-charge levels of the CJS. Considerable effort has been directed by the coordinator's office to standards for case management and session facilitation, and to protocol development relating to the promulgation of the YCJA as well as to the greater collaboration of judges and corrections officials. As problems and opportunities have been identified (e,g,, race/ethnic variations in frequency of court and RJ-based processing), action plans have been developed and implemented.
The NSRJ program has yet to expand, as projected, to respond to adult offending (there is an “alternative measures” or diversion program available for adults) but discussions are on-going on that issue. Also, a moratorium on dealing with cases of spousal/partner violence and sexual assaults remains in effect. The moratorium was put into effect in early 2000 in response to concerns raised by certain women’s organizations and others over the proposed referral of such cases at post-conviction levels of the justice system. Considerable effort, via, for example, conferences and regional meetings, has been extended by NSRJ, in discussing issues and possibilities of restorative processing of such offences, in collaboration with representatives of the women’s organizations and others.
Finally, the NSRJ program has increasingly aligned with two other
provincial restorative justice programs, namely the Mi'kmaq's Customary Law
Program (MCLP) and the RCMP's Community Justice Forum (CJF). Both these
programs' youth restorative justice programming dovetail closely with the
NSRJ's in protocol and administration but both exercise certain autonomy and
respond to adult offenders as well.
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