NRCLC 2022 Final Report

Final Report from National Restorative Justice Collaborative Learning Conference (NRCLC)


The National Collaborative Learning Conference 2022 was held October 2022 in Halifax, NS. The NRCLC engaged delegations from provinces, territories and the Federal level in a collaborative process to identify key elements and commitments required to advance and realize the potential of restorative justice to transform the approach to justice in Canada.

The convenors and facilitators of the 2022 NRCLC prepared this report, which provides background and an overview of the 2022 conference and shares insights, ideas and recommendations that emerged from the NRCLC. 

Reimagining our Healthcare System: A Restorative Approach

Reimagining Our Healthcare System: A Restorative Approach was a presentation and panel event hosted by First Nations Health Authority, Interior Health, and UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing on October 5, 2022. The presentation by Professor Jennifer Llewellyn describes how a restorative approach to healthcare can transform systems and service delivery and create a shift in values and thinking, strengthening relationships between healthcare providers and the people and communities for whom they provide care.

Fellows and Associates Public Lecture Series | Emma Halpern

COVID-19’s Disorienting Impact on
Criminal Justice in Nova Scotia

Delivered by Emma Halpern on April 17, 2023 at 7:30 PM via Zoom.
Emma Halpern is the inaugural Graduate Fellow at the Restorative Lab. Emma is a lawyer, activist and advocate who has worked extensively on behalf of vulnerable and marginalized people in Nova Scotia.  She is also the Executive Director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia an organization that is devoted to improving the lives of women, trans and non- binary people through comprehensive housing supports, innovative programming initiatives, advocacy, justice system reform and through fostering and developing personal empowerment. In 2022, Emma joined PATH Legal as the Legal Director. Prior to this role Emma was the Equity and Access Officer at the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society. She was also a consultant on the provincial government restorative approaches in schools initiative and has conducted extensive research and project development around building a restorative approach to working with children and youth.  In 2011, Emma was named one of Chatelaine Magazine’s Women of the Year in the category of “Everyday Hero” for her work on this project. Emma enjoys spending time with her three fantastic sons and is completing her LLM at Dalhousie Schulich School of Law focusing on the transformative opportunities born out of the pandemic’s impact on criminal justice in Nova Scotia. In particular, her research interests are in decarceration and relational justice.
Learn more about PATH Legal here:
Learn more about Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia:

Public Lecture Series 2023: Donna Coker


Delivered on March 27, 2023 at 7pm at Dalhousie University in collaboration with the Criminal Justice Coalition of the Schulich School of Law. 

Donna Coker is Professor of Law at the University of Miami School of Law (Miami, Florida). She is a longtime advocate and researcher in the field of preventing and responding to intimate partner violence (IPV) and opposing racial and gender subordination in the criminal legal system. Donna began her career as a social worker in victim shelters and community-based programs. Her experiences assisting survivors convinced her that the increased reliance on the criminal legal system response to IPV that occurred in the 1980s-90s did not serve the needs of many survivors, particularly women of color and others most vulnerable to state control. Her interest in finding a different pathway led her to study the work of Navajo Peacemaking Courts. The empirical study that resulted has influenced work in the fields of restorative justice and IPV. Her more recent research has examined restorative responses to campus sexual assault and to building school-based support for girls of color. She served as an advisory board member for A National Portrait of Restorative Approaches to Intimate Partner Violence, a survey of U.S. programmes. She is the co-creator of a public education project, Reimagining the Movement to End Gender Violence, consisting of interviews with leading activists and scholars regarding the need to refocus anti-violence activism to addressing the structural inequalities that maintain violence.  In 2015, she was a co-investigator for Responses from the Field, a U.S. survey of service providers regarding their experiences with policing, domestic violence, and sexual assault. She served as an expert consultant and advisory board member for a project of the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women, Ending Mass Incarceration, Centralising Racial Justice, and Developing Alternatives. Donna holds an M.S.W. from the University of Arkansas and a J.D. from Stanford Law School.

Read more of Donna’s work:

Public Lecture Series 2023: Allison Kooijman


Delivered on March 13, 2022 by Allison Kooijman.

Ali is a PhD Student in the School of Nursing at UBC Okanagan where she studies the contributions that a Restorative Approach stands to make in the healthcare context. Ali experienced harm as a patient which ended her career as a Licensed Practical Nurse. This experience, both as a former healthcare provider and patient, provides her with a unique lens that she brings to this space. Ali believes that transformation and reimagining of our healthcare system requires a collaborative effort and identifying a principled approach to serve as a foundation for doing so. Ali lives on the lands of the Syilx peoples in beautiful Coldstream, British Columbia

Read more of Ali’s work:

Follow Ali on twitter:

Listening and Learning from the Past

Listening and Learning from the Past:
The Restorative Process and the Home for Colored Children

Written by Roisin Boyle
Photos by Fiona Yang

On October 26th, 2022, I had the opportunity to see a preview of the upcoming exhibit “Journey to Light” at The Black Cultural Centre (“the BCC”). This experience was doubly exciting for me because Angela Davis and Margaret Burnham were also in attendance.  

The exhibit, which is set to be revealed in 2023, is focused on the history and impact of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children and the former residents’ journey for justice. The exhibit is based, in part, on the lessons gathered during the Restorative Inquiry into the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children (“the RI”) and the work of a collaborative project called Digital Oral History for Reconciliation (“DOHR”). 500 sqft on the second floor will be devoted to shining a light on systemic racism through the history of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children (“the Home”) and the experiences and journeys of its former residents.

The Home opened in 1921 and was hailed as a success for decades; however, the real stories of those who lived and worked there were not being heard. These stories reveal childhoods of abuse and suffering, experiences the former residents kept to themselves for decades because of a lingering sense of shame. In 2012, however, former residents gathered, shared their stories, and began to break the silence.

The upcoming exhibit will feature these stories. The DOHR project, which is based out of the University of Waterloo, was developed in partnership with the former residents’ organization VOICES (Victims of Institutional Child Exploitation Society), the RI, and other organizational and community partners. DOHR developed a curriculum for high school classes, including a virtual storytelling experience aiming to help participants understand what residents went through at the Home. The exhibit at the BCC will include multiple virtual reality stations that will allow visitors to hear former residents recount memories of their time in the Home while immersed in a 3D visual representation of the Home. As Jennifer Llewellyn pointed out at the preview event, it is not designed to be an “empathy machine”; instead, it is a means of helping us learn from experiences of harm and resilience by travelling alongside former residents as they share their stories. The exhibit invites us all to be a part of the former residents’ journey to light by learning and considering what we might do to contribute to a better future.


As a summer intern at the Restorative Lab, I was fortunate to take part in a workshop focused on how haptics (technology that brings the sense of touch) may be incorporated into the DOHR project and the museum exhibit’s virtual experience to enhance the experience and its social justice focus. I found the process to be impressively respectful and collaborative. The voices of former residents were central. While there could have been an instinct to use haptics wherever possible (after all, immersive technology is very cool), a presiding sentiment was that any digital experience must first and foremost be respectful of the lived experiences of the former residents, and not pretend to replicate them nor trivialize them by making the technology the focus of the experience. There was also a remarkable sensitivity to trauma and the need for safety.

The announcement and preview of the upcoming exhibit was led by three former residents of the Home and participants in the RI, namely Tony Smith, Gerry Morrison, and Tracey Dorrington-Skinner. They offered insights and accounts of their experiences with the restorative process. I had met a couple of these speakers before and heard them present in other contexts, as they are committed to sharing their stories widely and helping people understand the legacy and impacts of the Home. Indeed, Tony Smith spoke in a course in my sister’s Bachelor of Education program, where he emphasized the importance of education and of engaging upcoming generations, a value he reiterated at the BCC event. The former residents’ openness in recounting their stories both at the BCC event and elsewhere contributes to ongoing work against systemic racism in the form of education and the creation of a foundation of understanding.

It was refreshing to listen to people who, like me, believe there is a better way to do justice. I feel some of my friends think I am naïve in this belief. It can be hard, I understand, to break out of the assumption that retributive justice is the only way of doing justice, and that there is no way for people to move forward together when there has been so much harm. The RI and the former residents’ resolute commitment to breaking the silence, though, teaches that it is ok to inquire into our shared past to construct a meaningful future. Indeed, Angela Davis picked up on the sense of optimism and left attendees with a message of hope. Through the restorative process, it became possible to glimpse the potential for justice in something as massive as the Home and the systemic racism that created and sustained it. This hope in the potential for fuller justice and a better future allows us to continue to move forward together.

angela and margaret

Disorienting Dilemma Podcast

Jake MacIsaac, one of the Restorative Lab’s Associates, hosts this podcast reflecting on issues in society and spreading a restorative perspective. He and his co-host, Chris Jarvis, describe the podcast as:

Two longtime friends, both Canadian – one black, one white, and both men – explore what it looks like to adopt the mindset of an inclusive society. Instead of asking, ”How do we get there?”, Jake and Chris discuss what does it look like to act as if we’re there already.

You can learn more here and listen to some recent episodes below:


Listen to the podcast version on CBC Ideas!!

This special event brings together three remarkable leaders who are beacons for racial justice in the US and around the world. Their advocacy and work for justice transformation has shaped a generation and seeded a vision of a better future. Their journeys for racial justice began together in Birmingham, Alabama, and continued to be interwoven through the height of the civil rights movement. Their relationship and connected experiences have rooted each panelist’s unique work for racial justice shared commitment to transformation through restorative justice. 

The Restorative Research, Innovation and Education Lab is hosting this event together with a number of organizations including: the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia, the Indigenous Blacks and Mi’kmaw Initiative at the Schulich School of Law, VOICES (Victims of Institutional Child Exploitation Society), the Criminal Justice Coalition – Schulich School of Law, the Black Cultural Centre, and Dalhousie University. We are grateful for the support from Sobeys Inc. that has made the event possible.

Summer Student Experience

Early Days

I am about to start my third year at the Schulich School of law, and I spent the summer interning at the Restorative Research, Innovation, and Education Lab (“the Lab”). I had taken Public Law in first year with the Director of the Lab, Jennifer Llewellyn, so I knew that the Lab existed. I knew it did “restorative things.” What I wasn’t clear on, however, was what “restorative” really meant.

I understood that people charged with criminal offences could be referred to restorative justice. However, limiting the potential of restorative principles to criminal law does not do them justice, as it turns out that restorative principles can apply pretty much anywhere there are people.

Indeed, I learned early on that there is a linguistic distinction between restorative justice and a restorative approach. My impression is that restorative justice connotes a response to conflict or harm, typically in the criminal context. A restorative approach, although closely related to restorative justice, is broader and speaks more generally to strengthening relationships and supporting healthy communities. It is about living restoratively.

This post will touch on two things I discovered in my time at the Lab: how broad restorative principles are in terms of where they can be applied, as mentioned; and the depth of restorative justice with respect to what it can uncover in individual instances of harm.

Roisin Boyle

“Restorative Communities” and Just How BIG Restorative Justice Can Be

The internship job description mentioned “restorative communities” as one of the main projects to which the intern would be assigned. There’s a page about it on the Lab’s website, which I read in preparation for my interview. Still confused, I also Googled “restorative communities.” I didn’t come across anything that helped me understand what they actually were.

I weighed the options when I was doing the interview: do I ask what a “restorative community” is at the risk of sounding unprepared or foolish? Can I use the old “tell me more about X” trick, deftly transforming apparent ignorance into innocent curiosity and eagerness to learn?

I ended up asking, and I nodded along as the interviewers gave me a helpful answer that still left me wondering (as I would later learn when I tried to explain what I was working on to others, the “restorative community” is not the easiest concept to convey in a few short sentences). Thankfully, my colleagues gave me a detailed set of instructions at the start of my internship that included key words, so I had a research anchor.

In my reading, I started to see that the concept of a “restorative community” doesn’t lend itself particularly well to a formula, which makes it quite difficult to explain. What’s required for a community to be restorative depends so much on the particularities of the community in question. One of the best ways to learn about restorative communities is probably to do exactly what I did—read tons of articles and webpages about it (or, I discovered, just talk to Professor Llewellyn for five minutes).

Here’s roughly my sense of what a “restorative community” is:

It’s easy to say a “restorative community” is about a culture shift grounded in relationships, rather than about a bunch of discrete restorative initiatives. It is harder to think about how that can work in practice. Some cities around the world have called themselves “restorative cities” and have put immense effort into training as many people as possible in key sectors (schools, social services, etc.). The tricky part is that, while knowledge-sharing of some kind is surely required so people understand what a restorative approach is, a restorative approach is not about learning a set of rules or procedures to use in given situations. It is about seeing things differently, which is a higher hurdle. Restorative work is about just relations, rather than about any particular practices.

My sense is that a restorative community is therefore not about achieving some discrete goal, but rather about the process of striving for a sense of inclusive community and healthy relationships, of living well by each other. A restorative community is something that grows and spreads as people see it in action. They see the positive results and start to think about how the principles could be transferred. They look at their own organizations, workplaces, or families, and think: what can be done to strengthen these relationships, to make this a healthier and happier place to be? 

In this way, a restorative approach is proactive rather than reactive. It is about what can be put in place so that conflicts are less likely to arise, and so people have the tools to resolve them in a healthy way when they do. It is about creating the circumstances for people and communities to thrive and understanding the contexts that might lead to conflict.

When conflicts do arise, restorative responses can tackle them deeply and holistically, as will be described in the next section.

Restorative Justice as a Different—Not Weaker—Form of Justice

Significant misconception surrounds restorative justice. In particular, there is often a sense that restorative justice is a slap on the wrist for a wrongdoer, that it is a way for people to avoid taking responsibility for the harm they have caused; however, accountability for one’s actions is essential to restorative justice. The emphasis just shifts from the individuals (who broke what rule, and what punishment do they deserve?) to the harms (who was harmed, and what needs to happen to repair that harm?).

A restorative approach to harm seems better equipped than more traditional, punitive models to address systemic issues. The “Report from the Restorative Justice Process at the Dalhousie University Faculty of Dentistry” offers a strong example. In that case, women in the dentistry program at Dalhousie discovered offensive comments about them on a Facebook group made up of their male colleagues. Dentistry students—both most of the men involved as well as women in the program—voluntarily took part in a restorative process. There was a strong reaction from students and the wider community. Many thought the men should have been expelled.

I read the report as part of some research into restorative policies and practices on university campuses. The whole report was fascinating to read because of the harmful and misogynistic culture that this one set of complaints revealed in the dentistry school. The process identified contextual factors that contributed to an environment where comments like those made in the Facebook group seemed acceptable (although, of course, they never were acceptable). These factors included structural problems in the program itself that created a stressful and competitive environment, rumours of favouritism, poor processes for dealing with discriminatory behaviours, and inconsistent standards for professionalism.

Importantly, the report is clear that these environmental factors do not excuse the men’s behaviour, and the men themselves took responsibility for the harms they caused. However, deconstructing the culture around the Facebook comments was crucial for understanding what would need to change in the Faculty of Dentistry in order to prevent similar behaviours in future, strengthen relationships, and create a more robust sense of community and collegiality. Similarly, the restorative process had the men in the Facebook group put in the work to understand the harm they caused and try to make things right. This sort of deep analysis and reflection would never have happened if the men had simply been expelled. Restorative justice, therefore, holds great potential for positive change.  

Wrapping Up

 I finished this blog post on the last day of my internship, and it helped me reflect on what I learned and what I will carry with me. I’d be interested in doing work in the future around restorative justice, but even if I don’t, how I think has shifted. There were times in law school where I felt like there were gaps, and this may help fill in some of those gaps. At the very least, now I know there are other ways of doing things. I am grateful for the experience.

I want to wrap up with a huge thank you to the others who work at the Lab. They have created a welcoming and inclusive workplace, and that is encouraging as I head into my final year of law school.

The 2020 International Journal of Restorative Justice Annual Lecture

A Restorative Approach for Social and System Transformation by Prof. Jennifer Llewellyn