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What is Justice?

 

Our understanding of restorative justice within Saskatoon Community Mediation Services continues to evolve. 

The current philosophy of restorative justice as adopted by our Board of Directors on January 15, 1998 is based on the following tenets: 

Criminal behaviour happens in a social context. In our society, criminal behaviour is rooted in poverty, racism, sexism, alienation, violence and other forms of social injustice. 

Criminal behaviour is defined by society. What is considered criminal or dangerous varies from one culture to another and from one era to another. 

Crime may be defined as an offence against human relationships but it must be noted that all offences against human relationships are not considered crimes. 

The offender and the victim must be treated with equal respect. Who is the offender and who is the victim in a criminal offence is often unclear. While the victim may have been victimized by the incident related to the offence, the offender may be the victim in other circumstances or of many social injustices. We also acknowledge that there is a victim and offender part to each of us. 

Both the victim and the offender require a healing process in a holistic sense and both require a supportive community of people in order that all those involved might get on with their lives. 

One of the biggest challenges which offenders and victims face in a restorative justice process is assessing what they are responsible for. The lines of responsibility are not always clear, sometimes it is shared responsibility. The assessment of responsibility process may be painful but in no way should the approach to accountability be punitive, cause further harm or revictimize. 

When offenders are not able or ready to participate in a restorative approach to offences they have committed, they should still be treated with respect. Where they pose safety risks to others, they should be placed in secure settings where the emphasis is on learning values, responsibility, empathy and social skills. They should continuously be invited to participate with the community in a co-operative manner as a means of resolving matters related to criminal behaviour. 

Our approach will take great care not to challenge people's behaviour unless we are prepared to walk with them through the pain and healing and ensure that they have adequate emotional support. In situations where reconciliation may not happen, care must be taken not to needlessly open wounds. 

Reconciliation and forgiveness cannot be demanded or circumscribed. They can only happen when all the individuals involved are able to hear, understand and accept the hurt as named by each person and thus fully recognize the impact of what has happened. 

Restoring relationships between individuals and within a community may be the goal for some restorative justice processes but it must be acknowledged that, in many circumstances, there was no pre-existing relationship. Many people in our society have not known positive relationships and are alienated from any form of community. In these circumstances, the goal should be to create new, caring and healing relationships for the people involved. 

We accept to continue with the term restorative justice with the proviso that our understanding of the term includes recognition of social injustice and the need to transform society. 

When organizing for restorative justice we aim to be very intentional in connecting with the community in the present and about having long roots into the past and the future. 

Restorative justice is an approach which requires community involvement. Outside agencies should not be determining how a community will respond to crime. Such intervention is inconsistent with restorative justice. Communities must be involved in assessing the causes of crime in their context and in determining a community response. This raises questions about how restorative justice works when there is no community involvement or when people feel they don't have or belong to a community. These questions are particularly pertinent in an urban setting where defining community is difficult. 

Communities might be involved in analysis, education, planning and prevention and in response to specific criminal offences. They could offer or arrange the caring, healing resources to support victims and offenders. 

Restorative justice philosophy offers the possibility of many approaches or methods which might include mediation, family group conferences, circles of support, one to one counselling, awareness programs, preventative measures and other demonstrations of ongoing care. 

Any planning for restorative justice must include input from people with the lived experience of being offender or victim. 

We honour the wisdom which aboriginal peoples bring to discussions and practices of restorative justice. We respect their right to name their beliefs in their own way so do not presume to add here what we might believe to be aboriginal ways. We hope to learn from aboriginal peoples so that we might be enriched by their wisdom, traditions and experience

 

 

For further information, membership or donations, contact our office at:  #200, 245 - 3rd Avenue South, Saskatoon, SK S7K 1M4 
Tel: (306) 244-0440 Fax: (306) 244-0512 

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