Below is the latest offering to the Smart Justice Network Canada. Though Canadian in context, I suspect that it has some very powerful and visionary potential for a US audience as well. Though the video is 2 hours long it is extremely succinct and flows very well, it can be divided up for short presentation and discussion, individually or in a series. â€” Michael Maher
Under the co-chairmanship of Retiring Senator Art Eggleton, and Senator Raymonde St. Germain, the Senate of Canada sponsored an open forum to help define the government role in the expansion of restorative justice in both the criminal justice system and the broader general population. The video of the forum can be found at https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRlP0kv8Xdw and what follows the introduction by Senator Eggleton is nothing short of quite extraordinary for its visionary impact, especially those of us struggling with the â€˜bits and piecesâ€™ approach. The video is just over two hours long. The structure of the forum consists of five individual speakers for about 10-12 minutes each followed by a Q/A directed by the Senators assembled to the various panelists. The video is well worth a pot of coffee or a glass of wine and the two hours to view it! Excellent for a series breaking down the contributors one-by-one as well since the five individual panelists each speak to a different pre-occupation. First, the participating Senators: Eggleton, St. Germain, Munson, Joyal, Christmas, Pate, Bernard, Sinclair, Mercer, Woo, Bellemare.
The five presenting panelists were:
- Jennifer Llewellyn, Professor at the Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie, NS: Her contribution is powerfully succinct and most visionary; it begins at the 7 minute mark and continues to 18 minutes; Llewellyn is also a powerful contributor to the answers to questions posed by the senators, passim along the video. Her presentation casts an RJ net as a model of relationship within all social agencies, including the family.
- Chantell Barker, Deer Clan, Southern Manitoba Chiefsâ€™ Justice Development Officer: Chantell is a 10 year former parole officer who speaks to RJ practices in the system. She established a RJ program for the Southern Chiefs following a decision that she could no longer work in a system harming her Indigenous people, drawing a strong distinction between punishment and healing. Her presentation starts at minute 18 until 33.
- Ryan Beardy is a young Cree and a university student in political science. Ryan acknowledges a lifetime involvement in the criminal justice system as an inmate and youth offender. He attributes RJ principles for his turn around and offers ten ways to improve what he experienced and to make it easier for inmates to find a way back to balance and wholeness. His presentation starts at minute 34 until 47.
- Johanne ValÃ©e is a former deputy commissioner for Corrections Canada in Quebec who is now an Ambassador of the Restorative Justice Services Centre (Centre de services de justice rÃ©paratrice). Johanne speaks to the six conditions to pursue for greater restorative justice public education. Her presentation begins at minute 47 until 61.
- Jo-Anne Wemmers is a professor of criminology at the University of Montreal who specializes in victimology and reparational justice â€“ justice centered on victim reparation from a Human Rights perspective.
Collectively, these five (note four ladies, one man) offer an opportunity to switch onto a new track for the development of restorative and reparational justice. The Indigenous people have two reps, academia two reps and one rep who life has deeply touched the worst of the system. But the question / answer session is also very helpful in clarifying the parameters of both the role of government and the potential for broader visionary social development.
So says Lorraine Berzins of Smart Justice Network:
Questions from some Senators and from the floor led to an emphasis on a broad approach and support for the notion that Restorative Justice is not just the work of the criminal justice system, it requires collaboration with other systems, and some deliberate choices by a country around how people in conflict with the law are perceived.
Much thanks to all whose wisdom and pain has brought us to this perspective.