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The Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program

The Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program (NSRJP) is the most comprehensive restorative justice initiative in Canada.  In 1997, the Provincial Department of Justice struck a multidisciplinary committee to develop a system-wide restorative justice program for Nova Scotia.  Initially limited to four communities, the Program was subsequently expanded province-wide. 

The NSRJP affords a unique opportunity to explore issues that arise in the sustained operation of a comprehensive restorative justice program.  Currently focused on youth, it contemplates ultimate expansion to adult criminal justice as well.  It purports, when fully realized, to implement restorative justice throughout the criminal justice system; that is, some form of restorative justice would be possible for all offences, all offenders and all victims.  This ambition differentiates the Nova Scotia Program from other initiatives in Canada, which are more limited in scope and application.  NSRJP is also unique in its integration into the existing criminal justice system with four distinct possible entry points to the NSRJP, representing all stages of the criminal justice process: pre-charge (police entry), post-charge (crown entry), post-conviction/pre-sentence (judicial entry), and post-sentence (corrections entry).

The NSRJP is a partnership between government and community.  The Program is fundamentally committed to community ownership of the development and implementation of restorative justice processes while maintaining a key role for government as overseer of the Program.  In this role government ensures an adequate legal framework, consistent operational standards and ongoing monitoring of implementation. Community agencies are, however, responsible for animating and operationalizing the Program through their delivery of it within specific communities.  Through this community/government partnership the Program aims to ensure flexibility in its application so that it might be tailored to respond to the needs and demands arising out of different community contexts.  This commitment of both government and community to the success and development of the Program, coupled with the comprehensiveness and sophistication of the NSRJP, make it a prime and potentially fruitful subject for research.