By Cindy Filipenko
They weren’t on the Village of Pemberton council’s agenda Tuesday, but their presence was welcomed.
Nine teenage boys involved in two pre-Halloween explosions in the Pemberton community appeared before mayor and council to apologize as part of a restorative justice process.
Cpl. Paul Vadik accompanied the youth to the Dec. 5 meeting.
He explained that the Restorative Justice Process was being used instead of going before the courts for the offense because the perpetrators were all “good kids who had exercised poor judgment.”
The boys had used fireworks to construct homemade bombs that destroyed community property.
Calling it the “what if factor” the officer pointed out a number of scenarios where serious injury or death could have been a reality given the force of the explosion that sent metal shrapnel flying. Cpl. Vadik stated that the unlawful discharge of explosives was a serious offense and this case would have likely seen the additional charge of mischief endangering life.
“They would have easily been looking at jail time,” said Vadik.
By applying the Restorative Justice Process to the crime, the community receives a quick and effective resolution that includes restitution, formal apologies and community service.
“Had we gone the Criminal Code route we would have been looking at a court date 18 months to two years from now,” said the RCMP officer. “The boys would have faced criminal records. With a criminal record focusing on explosives try getting across the border these days.”
The two explosions, which resulted in the destruction of a port-a-potty at the Pemberton Skate Park and a bear proof garbage can, caused $2,050 worth of damage. Each of the youth was responsible for paying $235 towards that bill. Since Carney’s Waste Management has donated a new port-a-potty to the skate park, the extra funds will be given towards other skateboard projects.
In their apologies to Mayor Jordan Sturdy and council, several of the youth expressed remorse for wasting everyone’s time in the matter. The investigation into the incidents took five days of police time; time that the corporal said could have been used investigating crimes of a more serious nature.
“I want to thank you guys for stepping up and accepting responsibility,” said Mayor Sturdy.
While no names or numbers were specified, other youth in the community were also involved in the incident.
The mayor cited the need for something positive to come from the experience before detailing the boys’ community service assignment. The youth will be responsible for cleaning up and reforesting the trail adjacent to the Arn Canal with approximately 2,000 seedling conifers.
“This will help with the maintenance of the grounds, enhance the fish habitat and beautify the area,” said the mayor.
The community service work will be carried out in the spring.
After council’s remarks thanking the boys for their appearance, parents who had accompanied their sons to the meeting expressed their concerns.
One woman wanted clarification that the police knew who the other involved parties were and whether they would be subjected to community service.
Vadik assured her that the RCMP were aware of others involved and that they would be called on to complete the community service aspect of the process.
Asked about criminal charges and records the boys could be facing, Vadik said once the community service was completed the file would be concluded and kept on record at the detachment,
What that file constituted raised other questions from the floor. One man stated, “It’s not fair for my son to be on file as a bomb builder.”
Cpl. Vadik invited all concerned parties to make an appointment outside the council meeting to meet with him to discuss the issues.
The restorative justice process as an alternative to court proceedings has been on the books in Canada since 2000. The basic principles of restorative justice are that crime is a violation of relationships between people; all those affected by crime have roles and responsibilities and need to deal with its impacts and consequences; and that restoration, problem-solving and the prevention of future harm should be emphasized.