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Issue 35.1



By Dr. John Winterdyk (Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta)


Current Debates and Controversies Surrounding Restorative Justice
By Mateya S. Selders
Bachelor of Arts – Criminal Justice (Honours) – Class of 2020, Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta.

In many cultures, restorative justice is becoming more widely understood and accepted, especially in academia, due to the increased research and literature on the topic. However, many express skepticism and doubt over the proposition of restorative justice. An outline of some of the root sentiments and arguments informing the debates and controversies around restorative justice, such as, it ‘is an easy way out’; ‘it can’t be implemented in instances of violent crimes’; or, ‘restorative justice practices produce no positive outcomes’. Until such reservations are addressed formally and sufficiently, implementation of RJ within traditional justice systems is likely to meet with varying degrees of resistance.


Indigenous Restorative Justice: Practices, Laws, and Healing
By Emily (Weglo) Ridley
Bachelor of Arts – Criminal Justice (Honours) – Class of 2020, Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta.

Indigenous understandings of harm, healing and justice are one of the principal sources of contemporary restorative justice practices. While mainstream criminal justice focuses on offender blameworthiness and appropriate punishment, traditional Indigenous approaches focus on the shared harm caused by an individual’s actions and the shared responsibility in healing the social causes and consequences of the harm. Restorative justice approaches are influencing, albeit slowly, the mainstream Canadian criminal justice system. Of particular note is the development and success of Indigenous circle sentences initiated in the Yukon in 1992.


Mediation: A Restorative Justice Approach
By Chalsea Heck
Bachelor of Arts – Criminal Justice (Honours) – Class of 2019, Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta.

Victim-offender mediation is a restorative justice approach increasingly popular as an alternative method of obtaining justice in contemporary criminal justice systems. This article defines restorative justice, illustrates the victim-offender mediation process, examines programs offered in Canada, and explores how victim-offender mediation can be utilized in existing justice systems. Heck uses a case study to demonstrate victim-offender mediation, where the offender had participated in a religiously motivated hate crime against the Muslim community on September 11th, 2001. The author also addresses challenges in the Canadian criminal justice system and how victim-offender mediation aids are increasingly being used in the pursuit of justice.


Restorative Justice: Conferencing
By Samantha Barlage
Bachelor of Arts – Criminal Justice (Honours) – Class of 2019. Mount Royal University (Calgary, Alberta).

Restorative conferencing has been introduced slowly into the Western ‘mainstream justice system’ over the past few decades. Many of the existing programs are for youth, with New Zealand and Northern Ireland in particular mandating youth in conflict with the law to participate in pre-sentencing restorative conferencing. Adult offenders remain on the periphery of restorative justice in New Zealand but in some cases do qualify for conferences. There have been successful outcomes in this regard and even cautious optimism around the use of RJ in relation to serious interpersonal crime. While victim satisfaction is significantly higher with conferencing than a court process, the forms currently in practice may be limited in scope. Concerns include the limitations on the range of crimes conferencing can address, as well as structural considerations vis-a-vis the potential for power imbalances related to gender and, at a broader level, deficient language competencies of the potentially marginalized youth offender.


Restorative Justice: History and Principles
By Tina Olyslager
Bachelor of Arts – Criminal Justice – Class of 2019. Mount Royal University (Calgary, Alberta).

While restorative justice is a relatively new form of justice initiated in Elmira (ON) Canada starting in 1974, its roots are found in the cultures and history of many Indigenous groups around the world, including New Zealand’s Maori. Many theorists/researchers and criminal justice systems of countries around the world have since taken up the challenge. Howard Zehr is considered by many to have advanced the understanding of restorative justice by contrasting its underlying assumptions and principles with mainstream retributive justice. Today, restorative justice options exists at every stage of the criminal justice process. By infusing more restorative justice into current retributive/adversarial justice systems, we begin to work towards raising the bar on criminal justice.


Restorative Justice Circles
By Brynn Weinkauf & Allison Stasser
Bachelor of Arts – Criminal Justice – Class of 2020, Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta.

Restorative justice alternatives to the mainstream adversarial justice system of justice are taking many forms and expressions in contemporary justice systems around the world. In Canada, the three main RJ practices adopted so far are victim-offender mediation, conferencing, and circles (Government of Canada, Department of Justice, 2019; Correctional Service Canada, 2018; Bazemore & Umbreit, 1998). While all three involve open dialogue and mediation between victim and offender and sometimes other stakeholders such as friends, family or community members, the concept of the circle is useful in exploring the holistic nature of RJ and its aim of bringing the victim, offender and the community back into balance following a crime. Three specific forms of restorative circles have been applied within the Canadian CJS : sentencing circles, healing circles, and peacemaking circles, and have a number of interesting similarities and differences.


Teaching Restorative Justice
By Doug King
Professor of Justice Studies at Mount Royal University, Calgary (Alberta).

After over a decade hiatus, the Restorative Justice (RJ) option course in the Bachelor of Arts – Criminal Justice degree at Mount Royal University was relaunched in the 2019 winter term. Student interest was immediate, and enrollment quickly reached full capacity. The relaunch proved to be a significant task as curriculum and course resources had to be revisited and refreshed, but the rewards in developing and teaching an undergraduate restorative justice course made it worthwhile. Developing and teaching this undergraduate course was a uniquely rewarding experience. If MRU students are an example, it seems that many future criminal justice practitioners are keenly interested in what RJ is (and isn’t) and how it works (or doesn’t). Restorative justice practitioners demonstrated unbridled enthusiasm, eager to come in to share their experiences and passion and to reinforce student learning. A number of interesting challenges in delivering an undergraduate restorative justice course also arose, such as helping students to understand restorative justice’s redefinition of harm and the tenuous theoretical explanations on why restorative justice works (or not). Yet, perhaps the most unexpected challenge was reconciling the strong emotional response this course of study triggered – in both students and teacher. We thank the Canadian Criminal Justice Association (CCJA) for this wonderful opportunity to showcase some undergraduate-student learning in restorative justice.

Opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the Association’s views, but are included to encourage reflection and action on the criminal justice system throughout Canada.

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