HISTORY OF ARJAA
Through the initiative and leadership of Uultsje De Jong, a steering committee of concerned citizens and community leaders drew together the first Board of Directors of the Abbotsford Restorative Justice and Advocacy Association (ARJAA) in the year 2001. Including founding board chair Joanne Field, Delaine Millette, Uultsje De Jong , Gertie Pool, Carl Veerman, Des McKay, Terry Hackett, and Simon Gibson.
To ensure balanced perspective and broadly-based support, ARJAA’s Constitution and Bylaws expresses that the Association should be guided by a Board drawn from a wide and representative group of stakeholders including representatives from City Hall, the Abbotsford Police, Abbotsford School District 34, Victim Services and victim advocates, Correctional Services Canada, the Chamber of Commerce, legal representatives, the Christian Leaders Network, and other concerned community members.
ARJAA’s vision was to work in partnership with the Abbotsford Police Department to handle referrals primarily for first-time young offenders, to assist them in taking responsibility for their actions through repairing harm done to victims and other affected parties. In addition, support and assistance would be provided by ARJAA volunteers to the youths responsible, as a positive intervention to reduce the chance that they would re-offend, and to encourage learning from their actions, changed behaviour and an increased sense of connection to their community. Along with volunteer support, ARJAA would also facilitate referrals to other agencies and connection to other resources that could help victims dealing with the aftermath of crime, and for offenders and their families needing other kinds of support and assistance.
ARJAA was incorporated as a non-profit society by the Province of British Columbia on July 3, 2001. It achieved recognition as a Community Accountability Program by the Ministry of Public Safety and the Solicitor General of BC in September 2003.
In April 2003 the City of Abbotsford provided municipal funding, enabling the ARJAA Board to hire an Executive Director to oversee the development of internal processes, procedures, policies and infrastructure as well as to build the profile of the organization within the community. A training program for volunteer mediators was developed and 15 mediators were trained. This paved the way for the launch of the community-based Restorative Justice program for police referrals in April of 2004.
In September of 2004, the school-based program Restorative Action was launched, in partnership with School District 34. Designed to provide ways of dealing with school-based conflicts and problems such as bullying, harassment, vandalism, and fighting, Restorative Action provides training in conflict resolution for staff, students and parents, as well as mediation for cases. Designated schools have become Restorative Action project sites, in which full program implementation has been developed over several years. Restorative Action encourages the development of respectful, positive, caring school communities.
In 2007, ARJAA launched "Restorative Action through Mentoring", which was designed to provide follow-up support to young people being held responsible through restorative processes. Applying learning from other well-established mentoring programs, ARJAA's mentoring program provides friendship, positive role models, and support to help ensure that the Restorative Justice mediated agreement is successfully fulfilled.
ARJAA is an established organization, vitally concerned with finding innovative ways to impart restorative values and practices to our community. Our vision is to: “Repair the harm…restore relationships… rebuild community.” At the heart of what we do is a core of values, including respect, empathy, and reconciliation, accountability to community, listening, care and concern. These values are expressed through processes which allow people who have been affected by conflict or wrongdoing to meet together with those who have harmed them, in a safe and guided context designed to protect the safety, respect and dignity of all participants. Restorative Justice strives to resolve conflict through restorative means: striving not to punish but to repair the harm done; to work toward reconciliation, peace-making and restoration of broken relationships; and to rebuild and heal the community harmed by the event.