Spiritual elements in pursuit of justice

 — Nov. 11, 200611 nov. 2006

It is significant that the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism will be host Wednesday to the fifth annual conference on restorative justice.

Fr. Bill Bernard, chair of the preparation committee, observes the conference goal is to bring together as many people as possible who work in the area of restorative justice.

“We hope to create dialogue among these people and through the dialogue, to explain the philosophy of restorative justice and articulate how to put it into practise.” The conference coincides with Restorative Justice Week, Nov. 12-18, designated by the federal government to draw attention to alternative ways of dealing with crime and repairing its damage in society.

Among those presenting at the conference are representatives from Saskatoon City Police Service, Saskatchewan Justice On-Reserve Program, and Corrections and Public Safety. Doug Derkson, who works at White Buffalo Lodge will contribute, as will a representative from Mount Royal Collegiate, speaking on the in-school program that operates there.

The conference at Mount Royal Mennonite Church, 610 Ave. O North, beginning at 1 p.m. will take the form of three afternoon panel discussions and an evening lecture.

Guest speaker will be Wanda McCaslin, who teaches at the U of S and recently published a book on Aboriginal justice.

Her theme will be: Remedying Injustice: Indigenous peoples and the way of being good neighbours.

The first panel deals with gangs, “a serious problem in Saskatoon,” says Bernard.

The second panel is on youth and schools, and will discuss various programs already in place in some schools to deal with conflicts and create an atmosphere where disputes can be solved in a peaceable way.

The third panel will address community justice circle initiatives which aim at dealing with offenders and victims after the crime has happened.

“Basically, it looks for more constructive alternatives to jailing offenders,” Bernard says. “Mediation services, for example, brings together victim and offender in dialogue to achieve some settlement between them that both can see as a helpful response to the harm done.

Let’s say someone has been robbed.

Under restorative justice, the victim may ask to speak to the offender face to face, or request that the offender demonstrate remorse by doing a certain amount of community service.” Derksen works with young offenders who are referred to him by the court system. He supervises offenders in the woodworking shop at White Buffalo Lodge where they can earn money to reimburse the damage done by their crime.

“Doing that helps the offender recognize the consequence of his actions and understand that the victim is not some abstract thing, but a person who was hurt by their crime,” Bernard says. “By setting things right, they learn responsibility, and hopefully realize that there is a future for them because they won’t have to live with the guilt of the crime for the rest of their life.” Invitations to the conference have been issued to all crown prosecutors, as well as to churches and schools.

Bernard says while the issue of justice and corrections is essentially a secular one, there is a spiritual component.

“After all, this is an issue of living harmoniously as members of the same society,” he says. “Church is not just about what happens within church walls. It concerns the well-being and harmony of society and all that contributes to that.

“Restorative justice initiatives are in harmony with the Christian perspective in that we are reacting constructively to wrongdoing.”

Posted: Nov. 11, 2006 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=6115
Categories: NewsIn this article: justice, Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, restorative justice, Saskatoon, workshop
Transmis : 11 nov. 2006 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=6115
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