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Law professor who pioneered restorative justice draws donation for new centre

Law Professor Llewellyn is shown in this undated handout image. Llewellyn says she hopes a $750,000 donation by the Sobey family to create a restorative justice "lab'' at Dalhousie University will demonstrate it's far more than "soft justice'' where people sit in a circle trying to work out long-standing grievances. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dalhousie University

A law professor says she hopes the creation of a research lab aimed at promoting restorative justice will help institutions start tackling racial discrimination and other social problems in a lasting way.

Jennifer Llewellyn said that protests against anti-Black racism have made her announcement Wednesday of the new centre at Dalhousie University particularly “timely.”

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The International Restorative Research, Innovation and Education Lab has attracted $750,000 from the Donald R. Sobey Foundation as an initial investment.

In an era of harsh debate on social media, Llewellyn – who will chair the centre at the Schulich school of law – argues restorative justice is an alternative approach where people who are harmed and people responsible for harm talk to one another with the goal of creating solutions.

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She says a method best known for its role in the criminal justice system and as an alternative approach in school discipline can also create ways to correct “big, complex problems.”

The professor says there’s a public misconception that restorative justice is focused on “calming down” angry situations, rather than on changing systems.

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