Can restorative justice work when communities confront polluters?

Take a look at Environment Canada‘s enforcement page and a pattern emerges: many companies, a handful of individuals, a lot of fines, very little jail time.

But in a week when an Edmonton, Alberta dry-cleaner was imprisoned for improper storage of a toxic chemical, within days of a B.C. provincial court judge fining mining giant Teck $3.4 million for discharging heavy metals into the Columbia River, you have to wonder which punishment will have greater lasting effect.

British Columbia has already been experimenting with the use of an unorthodox — if ancient — solution: restorative justice.

Restorative justice dates back thousands of years and is often associated with aboriginal tradition.

The practice took root in the modern Canadian justice system in 1974 after a probation officer in Elmira, Ontario, asked a judge to consider forcing a pair of vandals to meet their victims and own up to their crimes.

According to the B.C. Ministry of Environment‘s violations database, the province has sent seven environmental cases to restorative justice since 2010.

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