....“Just the other day I was asked to assist with a ‘Restorative Conference’ at a school where The Salvation Army serves,” says Matt Delaney, restorative justice facilitator for The Salvation Army in Richmond Hill. “My role was to be a ‘co-facilitator’ for the conference. I was to assist in the interviewing process, and before the conference began I made sure all parties agreed to the parameters of the conference dialogue.

“The happenings that brought this conference into being were hostile in nature. There were some concerns as to how this conference would flesh itself out as the hostilities with all offenders have run deep for some time now. The situation involved fighting on school grounds and verbal threats made to students, parents and others outside the school. The conference conversation itself involved a number of girls, their parents, siblings, faculty members and two facilitators. The conference itself took two hours.

The dialogue started with parents and students displaying emotions of sadness, anger, hostility, and notions of ‘payback’… in the end in repentance, resolution, tears and embrace was shared throughout the group. Some moments were tense to say the least. I have never been so moved during a Restorative Conference. I truly believe this is a result of careful attention to details and a dedication to a painstaking shift in our justice efforts from punitive practices to restorative ones. It was physically obvious, in our conversation and in goals resulting from the conference that all the students had been deeply moved and have dedicated themselves to a ‘mind shift’ as it pertains to justice.

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