CCJC president Laurent Champagne said members should continue to stress the importance of restorative justice Photo courtesy of Erin Morawetz

Church Council on Justice and Corrections making a difference for 40 years

  • September 28, 2012

OTTAWA - At the 40th anniversary of the Church Council on Justice and Corrections (CCJC), a message rang out loud and clear: “CCJC, the mission, the motto, the vision, serves as a shining light for restorative practices in justice and in corrections,” said Rev. Dr. Pierre Allard.

Allard, professor of restorative justice at Queen’s University’s school of religion in Kingston, Ont., was the keynote speaker at the anniversary celebration on Sept. 27, an evening spent looking back at past achievements and forward toward a bright future for CCJC, a multi-denominational, faith-based organization.

CCJC was founded in September 1972. It formed as a coalition of multiple Christian groups, including the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the United Church of Canada and the Anglican Church of Canada.  

Over the last 40 years, the council has been an active voice lobbying for a more community based, restorative process of justice that welcomes ex-inmates back into society. It opposed the death penalty in the 1980s, and more recently, the tough-on-crime Bill C-10.  

A recent landmark project for the council is “Circles of Support and Accountability” (CoSA), a five-year program funded in large part by the federal government.
Jill Bench, CoSA’s current national project manager, said the program helps former inmates, including sex offenders, find housing and employment, but its main purpose is to provide them with friendship.

“Nobody wants them back into the community,” she said. “It’s difficult enough. We provide support, we provide friendship.”

The program has met with great success since its implementation in 2009, with research showing a reduction in re-offending rates by up to 80 per cent for male participants.
Still, Nancy Steeves, the council's incoming president, said she worries about how much government funding the project — and CCJC in general — will have in the near future, with so many budget cuts.

Bench, however, is hopeful the government will see the benefit of programs like CoSA, and continue with even more consistent funding.

“I’m hoping … the evaluation (will) show that the concept of CoSA makes a difference,” she said.

And making a difference was certainly the theme of the evening.

Outgoing president Laurent Champagne, whose two-year term ended at the board’s annual general meeting the same night, said members should continue to stress the importance of restorative justice.

“I hope that we will continue not only surviving, but be a light — be a light for all these people who don’t really understand what the justice system is, what reintegration is, what restorative justice means, because they just believe in vengeance,” he said. “They are not seeing the people — the man, the woman — behind the crime.”

He urged of his fellow board members, “Be spokespeople for us in your place, in your community.”

(Morawetz is a freelance writer in Ottawa.)

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