This is a story from real people, told in their own words.
It contains information about themes that may be difficult for some audiences.
Nova Scotia’s Restorative Justice Program is one of the oldest and most comprehensive in Canada
It emphasizes accountability, making amends, and facilitated meetings between victims, offenders, and other persons. The results can be transformational
Antigonish, Nova Scotia
Meghan Peters, Co-owner Tall and Small Café, Antigonish, N.S.
My name is Meghan Peters and I’m the co-owner of the Tall and Small Café in Antigonish. We opened 12 years ago; we just had our anniversary. It’s definitely a work of passion and love and we definitely get that back from the community, for sure.
After my husband and I had gone on a rare vacation to Halifax for a night, we left the Café in some very capable hands. The day that we got back, we discovered that there was some money missing. We checked on our cameras and we discovered that we were broken into and robbed.
Last year, I honestly don’t remember everything about it, I was drinking and I ended up just walking by the Café and slipping through the window. I don’t know what exactly was going through my head. I never thought about doing anything like that before or, if I would ever do something like that. It was just a stupid night when I was 21 years old and just could have really ruined the rest of my life. It’s awful.
My first reaction to watching the video was I was angry and disgusted and hurt. There was a lot of backlash from the community. People were up in arms about it.
Sarah, Antigonish resident:
It’s such a community place where everyone gathers and spends lots of time and everyone kind of feels like it’s theirs a little bit so when this happened, everyone felt like it was happening to them.
We read a lot of posts on different social media sites that were just terrible and understandably but some of the things were just completely unnecessary. Most of it was completely unnecessary. So, we posted a little post on Facebook and just said, you know, please remember that this is a person and try and treat her kindly. So, I spoke to Adam Merchant and I said, Adam, if there’s any way I could meet this woman, I think it would make me feel a lot better about this situation. So, Adam, Constable Merchant I should call him, went and spoke with the Crown and the Crown called me. They assessed the situation and said there is something called Restorative Justice and it is a program that could possibly be available to you. So, they spoke with Carolyn and she was willing to do it and so we went from there.
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There are more than 400 RJ programs in the Department of Justice’s newly launched Directory http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/rj-jr/sch-rch.aspx
Research shows that victims are more satisfied in cases that are resolved using restorative justice compared to those that do not go through restorative justice.
The person who was harmed gets to decide kind of what they, within reason of course, what they think would be a good thing for the person to do. So, we decided to have a community dinner and Carolyn and I cooked for over 130 people. It was a really positive experience and the community got to see that she’s actually an amazing person and that she just made a mistake and kind of restored that hurt that happened within the community as well.
Sandy, Barista, Antigonish resident:
I went to the community dinner that they put on and I met her and got to know her a little bit and so, I think that was important for the community to move on.
It’s not easier. It’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card. It’s scary and it shows me the impact that I have really had on a real person and a real community and a real family rather than just never putting a face to it. So, it’s not easier, it’s just better for everyone.
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Many victims have experienced decreased fear, anger and anxiety after resolving their case through restorative justice.
Research also shows that offenders are less likely to re-offend after restorative justice
Had things gone differently and I had gone down the regular path of going through the legal system and everything, I never would have been able to come out of the dark place or that negative place. I would have probably spiralled further down in my own mental health and I can’t even imagine how different things would be right now. I mean, for me, I cherish this relationship now. Meghan has been, she’ a real role model and she’s the type of person that I wish that I can be and strive for and just a great person.
And I admire Carolyn’s courage and her willingness to make things right. This is a hard, it’s a hard thing to do. Very courageous.
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How can we transform the criminal justice system to use more restorative justice programs?
Join the discussion on this page and share your ideas.
To learn more, go to justicetransformation.ca
Canada thanks the Government of Nova Scotia for permission to use this video