Canada needs more Restora­tive Jus­tice

Winnipeg Sun - - SHOWBIZ - ART EGGLETON Guest Colum­nist RAYMONDE SAINT-GER­MAIN Guest Colum­nist

The Depart­ment of Jus­tice con­ducted a sur­vey ear­lier this year and dis­cov­ered that over half of Cana­di­ans (52%) have lit­tle fa­mil­iar­ity with what’s known as “Restora­tive Jus­tice” de­spite its use in our crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem for over 40 years.

So what is Restora­tive Jus­tice ex­actly? And can it pro­vide bet­ter jus­tice for vic­tims, of­fend­ers and so­ci­ety as a whole? The re­search says yes.

Restora­tive Jus­tice fo­cuses more on the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the offender of a crime, and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with the vic­tims, and less on pun­ish­ment. It fo­cuses on re­pair­ing harm, the po­ten­tial for heal­ing in vic­tims, mean­ing­ful ac­count­abil­ity of of­fend­ers and pre­vent­ing fur­ther crime.

It is a vol­un­tary process for both the vic­tim and the offender. Typ­i­cally, the offender is re­quired to ac­knowl­edge or ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity for their ac­tions in or­der to ac­cess the pro­gram.

Restora­tive Jus­tice can take many forms and varies widely from com­mu­nity to com­mu­nity, but it can in­clude me­di­a­tion pro­grams and resti­tu­tions agree­ments, in­clud­ing com­mu­nity ser­vice, fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion and ser­vice to the vic­tim. Re­search shows Restora­tive Jus­tice tends to be more ef­fi­cient and cost-ef­fec­tive than the tra­di­tional jus­tice sys­tem. And it re­duces re­peat of­fences.

There are cur­rently al­most 500 dif­fer­ent such pro­grams run­ning in com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try, pri­mar­ily for youth of­fend­ers.

We re­cently held a Se­nate Open Cau­cus fo­rum on the is­sue and ex­perts from across the coun­try em­pha­sized the need for Canada to fur­ther ex­plore Restora­tive Jus­tice.

“It’s much more than a dif­fer­ent way of get­ting jus­tice done, but a dif­fer­ent way of un­der­stand­ing what do­ing jus­tice ac­tu­ally re­quires,” Dr. Jen­nifer Llewellyn, Pro­fes­sor at the Schulich School of Law at Dal­housie Univer­sity told the fo­rum.

Chantell Barker, the Jus­tice De­vel­op­ment Co­or­di­na­tor at the South­ern Chiefs’ Or­ga­ni­za­tion, which rep­re­sents 34 south­ern First

Na­tion com­mu­ni­ties in Man­i­toba, told the fo­rum that Restora­tive Jus­tice is more in line with tra­di­tional In­dige­nous mod­els of jus­tice that have an em­pha­sis on heal­ing the root causes and the restor­ing of har­mony, al­low­ing an offender to learn from their mis­takes and to make amends for their be­haviour. When Ryan Beardy spoke, the room sat in quiet at­ten­tion.

Eigh­teen months ago, Beardy was re­leased from pri­son on pa­role. Prior to that, he had spent the last two decades in and out of the pri­son sys­tem, spend­ing sev­eral years be­hind bars. Now he’s a sec­ond-year Univer­sity stu­dent study­ing po­lit­i­cal sci­ence and con­flict res­o­lu­tion and sits on many non-profit Boards, is a stu­dent men­tor and a fa­ther.

How did he turn his life around? He cred­its Restora­tive Jus­tice.

“Restora­tive Jus­tice prac­tices changed my life,” Beardy said. “I didn’t want to keep go­ing back to pri­son and I didn’t want to cre­ate any more vic­tims. I wanted to change.”

So he asked to par­tic­i­pate in a ther­a­peu­tic pro­gram, to learn from el­ders, to con­nect with his cul­ture; he learned to re­ject past neg­a­tive val­ues and be­lief sys­tems and to be­gin the jour­ney of heal­ing his men­tal, phys­i­cal, emo­tional and spir­i­tual health. “Imag­ine what so­ci­ety would look like with more em­pow­ered, re­stored in­di­vid­u­als, giv­ing back like I am, chang­ing like I did.” he added.

The fo­rum also learned that vic­tims can ex­press their suf­fer­ing di­rectly to of­fend­ers (of­ten through videos), feel heard and work through their fears and be­gin the process of re­claim­ing their lives.

So what needs to hap­pen now to make Restora­tive Jus­tice ap­proaches more ef­fec­tive across Canada?

We need a na­tional frame­work for im­ple­ment­ing Restora­tive Jus­tice, in part­ner­ship with the prov­inces.

We need to sup­port Restora­tive Jus­tice pro­grams be­yond in­di­vid­ual suc­cess sto­ries to sys­tem-wide ap­proaches, in­clud­ing, as Dr. Llewellyn stated, “leg­isla­tive changes to sup­port in­creased use and ac­cess” and ad­e­quate fund­ing that in­volves gov­ern­ment and com­mu­nity col­lab­o­ra­tion.

We also need to ed­u­cate Cana­di­ans about Restora­tive Jus­tice op­tions, par­tic­u­larly those stake­hold­ers work­ing in the jus­tice sys­tem and com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions.

And it’s time, as Jo­hanne Val­lée, Am­bas­sador for the Cen­tre de ser­vices de jus­tice ré­para­trice said, to bring the hu­man­ity back to our crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. Restora­tive Jus­tice is the pos­i­tive path for­ward.


Eggleton has re­cently re­tired from the Cana­dian Se­nate. He was past chair of the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on So­cial Af­fairs, Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy and was co-chair of the Open Cau­cus dis­cus­sion on Restora­tive Jus­tice. Sen­a­tor Saint-ger­main is deputy fa­cil­i­ta­tor of the In­de­pen­dent Sen­a­tors Group. She was ap­pointed to the Se­nate in 2016, af­ter two terms as the Québec om­buds­man and a distin­guished ca­reer in the pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion

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