Healing and understanding through Restorative Justice

Emotional presentation by parents of murder victim at TRU's Restorative Justice Symposium

Marlyn and Ian Ferguson spoke at the Restorative Justice Symposium on Nov. 13. (Carli Berry/The Omega)

Marlyn and Ian Ferguson spoke at the Restorative Justice Symposium on Nov. 13. (Carli Berry/The Omega)

Forgiveness is not easy, but TRU’s Restorative Justice Symposium guest speakers managed to do it when they met one of the perpetrators of their own son’s murder.

Ian and Marlyn Ferguson shared the story of their son, Graeme Andrew Ferguson, and how he was brutally murdered just ten days after the family had assembled for a wedding.

Two years after the murder, the Fergusons got the chance to meet with one of the seven perpetrators. “The only thing we wanted to know was what actually happened,” Ian said.

Upon walking through the door, Ian decided to give the young perpetrator a hug. “When he walked in the door he was petrified… the first thing I [did], I hugged him,” Ian said.

“You really have to have a face-to-face meeting. If you don’t get that opportunity, resentment and hatred will build up in you,” Ian said.

Ian recommended taking the opportunity to use the restorative justice system to be able to forgive.

“A lot of people say ‘how could you forgive somebody for something like that,’ and I say that’s where your healing starts.”

Marlyn said that after meeting with the young offender and finding out where he came from, “it was like a load was taken off of our shoulders.”

By the end of the heartfelt presentation, the majority of the audience was in tears.

“I actually forgave him [the offender] for what he had done,” Ian said. The Fergusons said that they also want to meet with the other offenders eventually.

After Graeme’s death, Marlyn started the first support group for homicide in B.C. at the Valley View Funeral Home in Surrey. She is also a member of the Advisory Committee for B.C. Victims of Homicide.

“It’s never too late to mend your ways,” Marlyn said while recounting her visits to jails to perform healing projects with offenders.

Alana Abramson, a TRU faculty member who gave the symposium’s keynote address, said Restorative Justice is “justice [that] is more than a prison sentence,” it’s an opportunity to “tell each other how you were affected.” Abramson said this way of thinking can be applied to both small and large conflicts, and those involving criminal activity.

The symposium took place on Nov. 13. Features included keynote speakers from faculty, presentations from students, guest speakers and circle discussions. It is the second time the event has been held at TRU and Camilla Sears, assistant professor at TRU, said that the turnout was roughly the same as last year.

“It’s nice to see a mixture of faces – students, staff and community,” she said.

A Restorative Justice class is offered at TRU in the summer semester and has been running for the past two years.