Daubney’s interest in restorative justice began twenty five years ago when he was a Member of Parliament. He had become concerned about the growing public frustration with criminal justice reflected in increasing demands for the death penalty.
"Rather than assume that he knew what those frustrations were, said Van Ness, "he launched public hearings of the House Standing Committee on Justice. It was in the course of those hearings that he heard about a new approach called restorative justice.
The Canadian innovators who started victim offender reconciliation programs described their work and introduced the Committee to crime victims who had experienced healing and a profound sense of justice being done from their participation in restorative justice.
They heard from grassroots organizations operating victim offender reconciliation programs in Canada and from crime victims who spoke about the personal healing they had received from their involvement in these programs.
"In most countries, this would have been treated as an interesting idea and have gotten a footnote in the Committee's report," noted Van Ness. "But Daubney and the Committee recognized that they were witnessing something important, and its 1987 report “Taking Responsibility” – known to many as the Daubney Report – called for incorporation of restorative values and principles into the Canadian Criminal Code as a way of expanding alternatives to prison, particularly for Aboriginal offenders who were heavily over-represented in prison.
The Daubney Report led to a major revision of the Canadian sentencing code in 1996, which among other things explicitly included restorative principles and objectives, perhaps the first time restorative justice was included by name in the sentencing laws of any nation.
The provisions were so innovative that they were challenged and the legislation was eventually reviewed by the Supreme Court of Canada.
By that time Daubney had left the legislature and joined the office of the Attorney General of Canada. It was he who prepared the initial draft of the Government’s pleadings supporting the legislation. In the end, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the legislation and its intent to reduce the use of imprisonment, and strongly endorsed the restorative justice provisions. Several years later, Parliament adopted juvenile justice reforms with similar restorative provisions for young people.
For the past 15 years, Daubney has been the federal co-chair of the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Restorative Justice Working Group, which reports on developments in restorative justice and coordinates research across jurisdictions in Canada.
David Daubney’s influence has extended well beyond Canadian borders. He led the Canadian delegation to the United Nations in the multi-year effort for endorsement of the UN Declaration of Basic Principles on the Use of Restorative Justice in Criminal Matters.
"Prison Fellowship was heavily involved in this process as an NGO," said Van Ness, "which gave us a first-hand opportunity to watch David as he guided the Basic Principles through two critical meetings of the UN Crime Commission, in 2000 and 2002. His political skills and perseverance in the face of strong opposition were the reason the Basic Principles were ultimately endorsed by the UN in 2002. They are now used by Governments around the world as they formulate restorative justice public policies.
"We need successful programs, adequate funding, and effective evaluation to advance restorative justice. But we also need people who can translate the principles and values of restorative justice into public policy. David Daubney has been one of its most influential public policy advocates in the world."
Note: The International Prize for Restorative Justice was created eight years ago to honor those who have significantly advanced the use of restorative justice around the world. The $5,000 Prize is awarded by PFI’s Centre for Justice and Reconciliation and made possible in part by Prison Fellowship Canada.
In 2003 the Prize was presented to Dr Howard Zehr, in 2005 to Kim Workman and Jackie Katounis of Prison Fellowship New Zealand, and in 2007 to the Peace Foundation Melanesia for its peacemaking work in Bougainville.
Last year PFI announced that the 2011 award would be presented to a public official who had significantly contributed to significant advances in restorative justice. Twenty one people were nominated.
Because of the high caliber of the nominees, PFI is also presenting Certificates of Recognition to five additional nominees: Judges Fred McElrea and Stan Thorburn of New Zealand, Chaplain Shawn Verhey of England, Chad Marchand of the State of Arizona, and Juvenile Court Administrator Ernie Veach-White of Washington State.