New restorative justice strategy to focus on victims' needs, community safety

A new five-year strategy will expand the Manitoba government’s ability to deliver restorative justice, better meet the needs of victims of crime and increase community safety, Attorney General Gord Mackintosh announced today.

“This new strategy will set the province on an innovative path to increase the use of restorative justice as an effective alternative to the traditional court system, by expanding programs and services for victims, offenders and the community,” said Minister Mackintosh. “The entire approach to restorative justice has to begin from the perspective of the victim. To succeed in the long term, we must make offenders more accountable, and better identify and address the root causes of an offender’s criminal activity.”

Manitoba’s Restorative Justice Act, a Canadian first, was also put into effect today, Minister Mackintosh said. It creates an advisory council to oversee the implementation of the five-year strategy and help grow restorative approaches and includes community and government representatives with expertise in restorative justice.

The goal of restorative justice is to rehabilitate offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community. Minister Mackintosh said the strategy includes:

  • creating a new nine-person prosecution unit to help significantly increase referrals to restorative justice programs;
  • funding new and expanded mental-health and drug courts;
  • working with north end residents for a North End Community Court;
  • supporting restorative justice programs on the Bloodvein First Nation, Portage la Prairie and Morden;
  • investing $320,000 to create restorative justice opportunities immediately in the Westman and Parkland regions, and for Métis residents of Winnipeg including $10,000 for Candace House to help create a business plan to aid in delivering victim supports;
  • establishing a restitution recovery program to help victims collect court-ordered payments;
  • creating five restorative justice hubs throughout the province to support existing programs and co-ordinate services;
  • improving training and building awareness;
  • enhancing supports for victims throughout the entire process; and
  • identifying supports for chronic, low-risk offenders.

“The act and council‎ are important steps forward in much-needed justice reform,” said Kate Kehler, executive director, Social Planning Council of Winnipeg. “Restorative justice is proven to provide resolution for victims of crime, accountability to those who commit crimes and context of the crime so the community can address the root causes.”

Minister Mackintosh noted the new investments are in addition to more than $1.8 million in restorative justice programs and services already funded by the Manitoba government including:

  • mediation services in Winnipeg, Brandon, Portage la Prairie and Morden;
  • justice committees in 45 communities with volunteers who hear cases that have been diverted from the traditional court process; and
  • community justice programs and mediation services for Indigenous and Métis people through partnerships with Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, Manitoba Metis Federation, Southern Chiefs Organization and other agencies.

“Restorative justice can provide a more appropriate resolution in many situations,” said Minister Mackintosh. “Through a strong restorative justice system, we can help reduce future crimes, provide closure to victims and reduce some of the pressure on the traditional court system.”
For more information about Manitoba’s strategy for victim-centred restorative justice and other resources, visit www.gov.mb.ca/justice. Manitobans who wish to provide feedback on the strategy can do so until Feb. 1, 2016, at restorativejustice@gov.mb.ca.

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RESTORATIVE JUSTICE ADVISORY COUNCIL

Restorative justice can be any program, approach or policy that helps to deal with criminal activities outside of the traditional court process. The goal is to help prevent future offences through mediation, restitution, treatment or counselling. The offender, and often the victim or community, are essential to this process.

The new Restorative Justice Advisory Council will provide advice to the Manitoba government on how to implement the new five-year strategy on restorative justice, focused on programs, policies, evaluation and related issues. In addition to government representatives, the council includes:

  • Victor KaiCombey is originally from Sierra Leone and now a Canadian citizen living in Winnipeg. He was an active member of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Working Group after the Sierra Leone Peace Accord, and holds a degree in conflict resolution.
  • Richard Kennett is a former teacher, school principal and a long-time advocate for restorative justice. He managed the Manitoba government’s Lighthouses program prior to retirement, has been a working member of a volunteer justice committee and is a trained mediator.
  • Julyda Lagimodiere lives in Thompson and is the minister of the Métis Justice Institute, which runs diversion and restorative justice programs in the community and throughout Manitoba. She will also represent the Manitoba Metis Federation.
  • Phil Lancaster is a retired lawyer, current board member with the John Howard Society and a contributing editor to the Canadian Native Law Reporter. He was a special assistant with the Manitoba Aboriginal Justice Inquiry, is a trained mediator and a local justice committee volunteer.
  • Mabel Morin is a community leader on the Peguis First Nation including the Peguis Justice committee, Housing Society and RCMP committee. She holds certifications from Grande Prairie Regional College, the University of Alberta and St. Francis Xavier University.
  • Janet Schmidt operates a consulting firm, Schmidt and Associates, that specializes in facilitation and mediation training for organizations and individuals.
  • Roy Smith is a Thompson resident and an employee of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), which delivers restorative justice programs in 16 MKO communities.
  • Karen Swain is the cultural advisor for the Onashowewin Justice Circle, an Indigenous restorative justice agency in Winnipeg, and will also represent the Restorative Justice Association of Manitoba.
  • Karen Wiebe is the executive director of the Manitoba Organization for Victim Assistance and will provide a victim’s perspective on the restorative justice programs. Her son, TJ Wiebe, was murdered in 2003.