The province of Nova Scotia is the first in Canada to have a restorative justice program available province-wide for both youth and adults, after an expansion to the program was announced Monday.
Beginning at the end of November, the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice program will be offered to adult offenders.
Justice Minister Diana Whalen said Monday the expansion came after successful pilot programs in Cape Breton, East Hants and Colchester County.
“Restorative justice has proven to be a good option for communities, victims and offenders,” Whalen said in a release. “That’s why we’re expanding the program and offering it across the province.”
Meghan Peters is the co-owner of the Tall and Small Cafe in Antigonish, which was broken into and robbed in December 2015.
“I was very obviously upset by it, but even more upsetting than that was the reaction that came from the community. People were very upset about it and up in arms,” Peters said. “It made me think I wanted to meet the woman who broke in.”
Peters said she wanted to get answers and decided to get in touch with the police officer involved in her case to ask if there was anything he could do to facilitate that. That was when she learned about the restorative justice program that eventually put her face to face with the person who did her wrong.
“We’re all told to look the person in the eye that we wronged and say sorry … and mean it. And I was given that opportunity” said Carolyn Stewart, who was a varsity athlete and student at St. FX university when she was charged with break, enter and theft last year.
“And as terrifying as it is to look somebody in the eye and say ‘I did this to you’, I really appreciate the opportunity and I think that it was needed.”
The two women are now working together to heal from the experience and are planning a community dinner in an effort to rebuild the public’s trust.
“We’re going to work on making sure the community is okay with this situation and kind of redeem ourselves, or let her redeem herself I guess, and show the community she is remorseful and it was a mistake and she will probably never do anything like this again,” Peters said.
“Once you get to know the person and know they’re a person, they made a mistake and they’re remorseful, there’s definitely a need to move on.”
The Justice Department says the expansion will take the place of the Adult Diversion Program.