New provincial and federal funding being provided to support restorative justice practices aimed at helping empower victims of crime in Alberta is both welcome and needed.
Provincially, $720,000 in Alberta Community Restorative Justice Grants is being provided to 25 non-profit restorative justice providers and organizations.
As well, $350,000 in federal funding is going to support dozens of Alberta youth justice committees, which facilitate community-based alternatives to court proceedings.
While the restorative justice system does not replace more traditional court proceedings, it has proven to be a worthwhile way to ease the burden on the already heavily burdened court system.
Restorative justice is a method of resolving disputes that addresses the harm caused by crime or conflict and promotes meaningful resolutions, say officials.
Under the voluntary process, the victim of crime, the offender, family members of the victim and/or offender, affected members of the community, and support service staff meet in person.
During the meetings, everyone has an opportunity to speak, with the discussion focused on helping to identify the harm caused by the crime, what can be done to repair the harm, and who is responsible for repairing the harm.
The program has been in operation in Alberta for more than 20 years, providing a workable alternative to court proceedings, saving taxpayers money and giving victims a chance to have meaningful, concrete input.
For his part, Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro calls the program good for the community-at-large.
“Properly utilized, restorative justice programming reduces recidivism, heals communities damaged by criminal actions and, most importantly, empowers victims,” said Shandro.
Benefits of the program include reducing the chance of offenders committing other crimes and providing communities with an opportunity to actively participate in crime reduction and healing, he said.
With the court system costing Alberta taxpayers many millions of dollars every year, the restorative justice initiative is a small but useful alternative program.
As such, the $1 million being committed to restorative justice in 2022 is money well spent.
Dan Singleton is an editor with the Albertan.