If you walk around Killarney Lake on Sunday, June 26, you are likely to bump into islanders Brenda Morrison and Lisa Holland somewhere along the loop. For the past two years, these islanders have devoted a day at the end of June to circling Killarney six times as a fundraiser for North Shore Restorative Justice (NSRJ).
Morrison has been walking for this cause for much longer than two years, but Covid gives her a reason to speak about the organization’s work, and about restorative justice itself, here on Bowen Island.
Holland is one of NSRJ’s longest-serving volunteers. “I started working as a volunteer with NSRJ 15 years ago because she was intrigued with restorative justice as an alternative to the criminal justice system,” she says.
“As a volunteer facilitator I have witnessed people repair relationships with their neighbours, others have learned life skills and repaired the harm they’ve caused. The Restorative Justice process can be used in any kind of conflict when the offender takes responsibility for their actions. All involved can move forward.”
Morrison, the Director for the Centre of Restorative Justice at Simon Fraser University, adds “rj” is grounded in traditional practices that Indigenous peoples around the world have used to heal their communities after they have suffered a harm.
Over the years, the Bowen Island Community has benefitted from NSRJ by participation in its Restorative Response Program which diverts criminal cases away from the courts and towards the community.
“A court process steals the voices from those most affected, victims becomes mere witnesses to their own crime,” says Morrison. “And we we know that for one dollar spent on restorative justice, eight dollars is saved from being spent in the criminal justice system.”
Island youth have also participated in NSRJ’s Youth Justice Lab. These labs teach youth interpersonal, conflict resolution and project management skills. The original lab in 2020 led to the development of a Youth Justice Council which focused on learning about decolonization and presenting that learning through free online workshops.
Donations made to this walk-a-thon will go straight into these programs. Online contributions can be made at nsrj.ca/news/join-our-2022-walk-a-thon
If you are simply up for a walk and to learn more, head to the lake on June 26.