• Frequently Asked Questions

    About the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program

    How do people get referred to restorative justice?


    Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances Act matters are eligible to be considered for referral by police, Crown, courts, Corrections, and victim-serving agencies. Police, Crown, and Corrections must consider all matters for referral, except where:

    • A provincial hold or moratorium is in place (there has been a moratorium in place on referrals to the NSRJP for intimate partner violence and sexual offences since 2000)
    • Referral is otherwise barred by law

    All matters can be referred at any stage in the criminal justice process. However, some will generally only be referred by the courts unless a case can be made (consistent with the principles, goals and objectives of the program) for earlier referral by the police or Crown. These matters include cases involving death, offences involving the abuse of a minor child, or serious crimes against the administration of justice.


    Referrals can only be made where:

    • the person referred fully and freely consents to participate
    • the person has been advised of the right to be represented by counsel before consenting to participate
    • the person accepts responsibility for the act or omission that forms the basis of the offence the person is alleged to have committed
    • there is, in the opinion of the attorney general or the attorney general’s agent, sufficient evidence to proceed with the prosecution of the offence, and the prosecution of the offence is not in any way barred at law

    And if the following factors apply:

    • Opportunity for more culturally appropriate, meaningful, and effective justice process
    • Reduction of harm for direct parties (trauma informed)
    • Potential for victim participation
    • Enhanced opportunity for access to justice for affected communities— increased confidence in the administration of justice
    • Opportunity to understand and consider root causes or systemic issues connected to the parties or offence
    • Reduce over-representation in the justice system for individuals from vulnerable and marginalized communities/groups
    • Access to better supports and wrap-around responses to parties’ needs

    Do victims/persons impacted or harmed have to participate?

    There is no obligation for victims/persons harmed to participate. A caseworker or volunteer can provide you with support and information to help you determine the extent of your involvement or participation (if any).


    The facilitator will help you make an informed decision about participation, with attention to your safety and wellbeing. It is okay if you are unsure if or how you want to participate, or to change your mind. You have the option to withdraw at any time.


    Some examples of how persons harmed can be included in the restorative justice process are:

    • Receive monthly updates
    • Learn about additional resources in your community
    • Suggest ideas regarding the plan or outcome, highlighting what you need to move forward from the incident
    • Select another individual (NSRJP staff, support person, volunteer, etc.) to share your experience or ask questions on your behalf at a session with the person in conflict with the law
    • Write down or document your experience to be shared on your behalf at a session
    • Engage in indirect dialogue with the individual responsible, through a facilitator

    What happens in a session/ circle?

    Restorative circles are flexible in nature and participants can include those who have been harmed or affected, those responsible for those harms and those who can offer support to the process. Trained facilitators guide the process and create a safe space for respectful, collaborative and non-adversarial dialogue.


    The goal of a session is to come together to understand and talk about what happened, what matters about what happened and what needs to happen to ensure a just outcome and healthy relations in the future. This involves the individual who caused harm taking responsibility and accountability for their actions. Circles generally result in plans or agreements in which those responsible agree to take actions to address the harm caused by the crime.

    What goes on the plan?

    Plans or agreements set goals for the future that aim to address the issues, harms and needs of those involved. These plans often include commitments or actions to be completed by individuals responsible for harm and/or other participants.


    Generally, restorative plans can include:

    • meaningful consequences or actions to repair the harm done to those impacted or the community
    • plans for those who have offended to make measurable life changes
    • plans to support the individual responsible to carry out those obligations.

    Plans vary depending on the circumstances of each case and are developed collaboratively through meaningful input from all impacted parties and those who can support the way forward.

    What happens when the plan is completed?

    When plans are successfully completed, criminal charges are withdrawn, leaving no criminal record on file.


    Should referred persons not complete their agreements, the file will be returned to its referral source for further legal action.