John Howard Society of Brandon Mediators present at world conference for the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP)

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After presenting twice Nationally in 2018 Travis Blaine and Michelle Funk; Mediators with Westman Mediation Service (WMS) program of The John Howard Society of Brandon were invited to speak to an International audience on their experience with Post Sentence Mediation.

Restorative Justice is typically utilized for first time offenders in minor cases. In 2011, an innovative Judge in Manitoba, Canada had an idea to include the victims and the community in the justice process, following a serious crime. What followed was healing and forgiveness for the offender, victims/community, and the first of many post sentence referrals for Blaine and Funk of WMS. Due to the success of the first case in the eyes of the victims and the affected community, Judges in the Western area of Manitoba have continued to send victim offender mediation cases, post sentence to WMS. The referrals sent are serious in nature including, for example, assault with a weapon, criminal negligence causing death, and arson, etc. Too often, victims and communities are completely cut out of the justice process, often finding no avenue for healing and closure. As well, offenders find they are unable to explain their story and provide the necessary context.

Restorative justice is not a new concept. It has connections to Indigenous and many other cultural traditions, which historically used forms of restorative justice to resolve community issues. What we now consider a criminal act was dealt with as a violation of people, relationships and the peace of the community as a whole. In this approach, the community considered healing, reintegration and preventing future harm to resolve the issue. Restorative justice can help address the root problems that led to a person becoming involved in criminal behaviour, with the goal of preventing future offences. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) recently highlighted that offenders may themselves be victims of historical wrongs stemming from residential schools or the Sixties Scoop. In fact, the TRC has recently charged governments across the country to find ways to reduce over-representation of Indigenous people in the justice system, as offenders and as victims. Increasing the use of restorative justice is one way to help reduce Indigenous over-representation.

Blaine and Funk will deliver a breakout session at the  IIRP Europe Conference, “Community Well-Being and Resilience,” May 15-17, 2019, in Kortrijk, Belgium.  The breakout presentation is titled Post Sentence Victim Offender Mediation: A Voice For Victims and Community.

The John Howard Society of Brandon maintains contracts with the Manitoba Department of Justice for the provision of restorative justice solutions through out Westman and The Parkland regions. 

For more information on mediation, restorative justice or the other programming the John Howard Society of Brandon provides please contact  Ross Robinson, Executive Director at rrobinson@brandonjohnhoward.ca or 204.727.1696