Restorative Opportunities Program
Restorative Opportunities (RO) is a Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) program that offers people who have been harmed by a crime, either directly or indirectly, a chance to communicate with the offender who caused the harm.
RO is a post-sentence program in which participation is voluntary for everyone concerned. The program explores opportunities to use various victim-offender mediation models that best suit the needs of the participants, as defined by the participants, with the help of a professional mediator.
Victim-offender mediation is a process through which a trained community-based mediator prepares interested victims and offenders to communicate and provides them with the opportunity to meet in a safe, structured setting. During these meetings, participants can tell their story, explain to the offender the crime's physical, emotional and financial impact on their lives, explore unanswered questions about the crime and the offender, and participate directly in developing options to try to address the harms caused, where possible. Offenders are afforded opportunities to provide information and to gain insights that contribute to their accountability and personal growth.
This approach differs from conventional mediation in that the parties are not "disputants" in the usual sense; one is an admitted offender and the other is the victim or person(s) who experienced the harm. Furthermore, the process is not focused on reaching a settlement, but rather on open communication. This approach is in line with the values and principles of restorative justice that emphasize recognition of harm, choice, inclusion, facilitated dialogue, accountability, safety and truth.
Program models may vary, but they all have certain features in common: voluntary participation at all stages of the process, extensive preparatory work, confidentiality so as to avoid influencing National Parole Board decisions, and highly trained mediators who are perceived as neutral by both parties. Many encounters are face to face, but other options, such as exchanging letters or video messages, are also available. Alternatively, a mediator can act as a go-between, relaying messages between victims and offenders. The choice of model is guided by the participants' needs.
The goal of the RO program is to meet the needs of participants and to address the harms caused, while protecting against re-victimisation. Forgiveness is not a goal or expected result of a victim-offender mediation process and is not required in order to achieve a meaningful interaction. It may be a by-product in some cases; however it is not explored unless it is raised as a need by the participants.
The reasons for which a person may choose to participate in victim-offender mediation are very unique and individual. The decision to participate may stem from many months or years of thought and reflection. This process is not an easy one and is not for every victim; nor is it for every offender.
Accessing Services through the Restorative Opportunities Program
Participation in the RO program is available to people harmed by the offence requesting to communicate with the offender who caused the harm. Services provided by the RO program are available to registered victims, victim representatives acting on behalf of registered victims, and non-registered victims impacted by the crime.
Victims interested in Restorative Opportunities may contact the Restorative Justice Division at 1-877-730-9673 or by email. Victims can also call CSC's Victim Services Division toll-free at 1-866-806-2275 where the call will be directed to the appropriate Victim Services Officer.
Federal offenders serving a sentence under the jurisdiction of the Correctional Service Canada and who have taken responsibility for their actions may express their interest to participate in the RO program to a CSC staff person, (ex. Parole Officer, Chaplain, Psychologist, etc.). The request will then be forwarded to the RO program for further consideration. Requests made directly by an offender to the RO program administration will not be accepted.
CSC's Commissioner's Directive 785 provides additional details regarding victim-initiated, institutional and community requests for victim-offender mediation services through the RO program.
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