• Aboriginal restorative justice
Dec 05, 2018

A culture-based community strategy for crime prevention

 

Restorative justice, an approach based on the traditional practices of First Nations and Inuit, seeks to involve the victim, the transgressor and the community in the healing process in an effort to improve the community’s well-being. This approach considers criminality and conflicts primarily in the light of wrongdoings against people and relationships, and is meant to be non-conflictual and non-punitive. It places the focus on helping victims recover, ensuring delinquents take responsibility for their actions and promoting citizen participation, with a view to creating healthier and safer communities. The objective is to achieve significant, satisfactory and fair results by placing the emphasis on inclusion, open communication and truth.

 

In Quebec, there are currently 28 active Aboriginal restorative justice programs. A program exists in 10 Inuit villages, 9 Cree communities, in the communities of Akwesasne, Kahnawake, Kawawachikamach, Kitigan Zibi, Listuguj, Manawan, Opitciwan and Wemotaci, as well as in Montréal (First Peoples Justice Centre of Montréal). Each justice committee consists in one coordinator and an average of 5-10 people from the community. The committees should include both men and women, young people (18 years and over, due to the nature of the topics addressed), adults and elders—essentially, people who represent the make-up of the community and who are committed to its well-being.

 

These restorative justice programs aim to address the root causes of a conflict and remedy the resulting harm. It is important to note that restorative justice is a voluntary process that requires the full commitment of all participants. For this reason, restorative justice is often seen as a more difficult route than the conventional justice process (incarceration, fines, probation conditions, etc.). However, it also brings the parties to feel a greater sense of belonging and satisfaction, and reduces the rate of repeated offences.

 

Restorative justice programs can be incorporated at different levels of the justice process. Program functions can include community prevention work, training (e.g. conflict resolution in schools), assistance in dejudicializing a case that would have normally been processed through the conventional justice system, recommendations on sentencing, support for the offender applying for parole, the implementation of conditions of probation, and assistance for the offender to reintegrate the community following his or her incarceration. Restorative justice programs must work closely with other services in order to ensure comprehensive support (e.g. addiction services, mental health, child-family).

 

For more information, please contact Cedric Gray-Lehoux, Justice Initiatives Advisor, at 418-842-1540, ext. 2805, or Cedric.Gray-Lehoux@cssspnql.com.