Tracey Davidson is the executive director of Volunteer Terrace and also volunteers as a facilitator for the Restorative Justice program in Terrace. (Binny Paul/Terrace Standard)

Tracey Davidson is the executive director of Volunteer Terrace and also volunteers as a facilitator for the Restorative Justice program in Terrace. (Binny Paul/Terrace Standard)

Skeena Voices | Tracey Davidson shares her experience with the restorative justice system

‘It’s not about blaming or shaming anyone in the process’

Tracey Davidson never thought that her love for volunteering activities would one day see her leading a volunteering organization.

When she moved to Terrace from North Vancouver in 2011, she joined Volunteer Terrace (VT) as a volunteer community engagement coordinator.

She found herself enjoying volunteer work more and more, and it even helped her through the grieving process when her husband passed away.

Eventually she took up a paid position with the organization and was soon offered the role of interim executive director.

Back then, with a background in human resources and retail management, Davidson says she had “no idea,” how to go about things at the non-profit organization.

“Running Volunteer Terrace is quite different for managing women’s fashion in Sears,” Davidson said.

But seven years later, Davidson is still steering the ship at the place and is also one of the board of directors at Volunteer BC.

The organization gradually branched out to include more programs for seniors, youth volunteers and also runs a restorative justice program where Davidson has been one of the long-term facilitators.

Davidson’s interest in restorative justice began when she was doing a project on criminology at Capilano University. She remembers visiting Prince Rupert to interview people who were working on the Indigenous restorative program there.

“I went and interviewed the person who ran the program in Prince Rupert and little did I know that a few years later, I will be sitting here with my own restorative justice program or our own research.”

Before the restorative justice program was officially brought under the umbrella of VT, Davidson says, “for the longest time I doing it off the side of my desk.”

Davidson has been a facilitator for over a decade now after she received her training to be a facilitator and peacemaking circle training, from James ‘Jim’ Cooley, who was one of the first in Canada to be officially certified as a Community Justice Forum facilitator. (Cooley who is Tsimshian, also served with the Terrace RCMP detachment in 1998).

As part of restorative justice, select files from Terrace and Kitimat RCMP are dealt differently in a circle where offenders, victims, family members come together with police and facilitators to have a dialogue.

“When we talk about youth, the RCMP has a mandate that alternative measures have to be looked at first, before there’s any sort of criminal charges,” she says.

Davidson gives full credit to the Terrace RCMP detachment’s Const. Angela Rabut for setting up the restorative justice program and getting it to where it is at now.

Case files consist of offences like vandalism, shoplifting, defacing or tagging properties among others.

As part of the program, they have worked on case files together with the RCMP, School District 82, Department of Fisheries & Ocean Canada (DFO) and others.

Davidson is an staunch advocate for restorative programs and is of the opinion that more cases can be (and should be) resolved through such processes. For one, she says, the rate of recidivism drops dramatically.

“When people are sitting in a circle, and they have, their family and friends supporting them, whether they’re the offender or the victim, it can be extremely powerful,” she says.

This process, she says, comes down to that minute of understanding, when people are sitting in that circle, and it dawns on them how their actions have affected human human beings emotionally and financially.

Doing restorative justice, gives the victim and the offender to be part of the dialogue.

“It’s not about blaming or shaming anyone in the process…. as things evolve you start to feel an understanding.”

The concept of restorative justice has existed in societies since ancient times, even before there were any kind of formal justice systems in place, she explains.”That’s how criminality was dealt with by communities.”

Looking back, Davidson says the journey was an extremely fulfilling one.

Of course there are elements that she is still learning along the way, even today, like the importance of self-care.

“You need to know how to decompress, and not take things with you when you leave the room.”

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