Paying tribute to Restorative Justice Week

On Wednesday, 18 November Yukon NDP Justice Critic Lois Moorcroft made the following statement in the Yukon Legislature to mark Restorative Justice Week:

I rise on behalf of the Official Opposition and the Third Party in recognition of Restorative Justice Week. I will speak about the work of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, which is in fact restorative justice in nature. We are at a crossroads in the history of this country where as part of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work we now have an opportunity to forge new and positive relationships between indigenous peoples in Yukon and the settler society. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission created a space for survivors to tell their stories and thoroughly investigated church and historical records. Reflecting on these truths of history, the commission made 95 calls to action to recommend a way through to a future marked by new, reconciled relationships within aboriginal communities and between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls for reconciling the relationship between aboriginal people and the Crown. That is restorative justice. Restorative justice is a theory of justice that sees justice as concerned with the harms to people and relationships resulting from wrongdoing. It owes much to the insights of aboriginal concepts of justice. At its core, restorative justice is about building new relationships, relationships built on mutual recognition and respect. I am speaking about social relationships, not intimate relationships. The goal of restorative justice is the creation of a different future founded on relationships of equal concern, respect and dignity. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls for progress on reducing the overrepresentation of aboriginal people in the justice and correctional systems. It calls, as part of reconciliation, for education to public servants on the histories of aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools; the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; treaties and aboriginal rights; indigenous law; and aboriginal-Crown relations.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls for implementing and evaluating community sanctions that will provide realistic alternatives to imprisonment for aboriginal offenders and respond to the underlying causes of offending. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls for contributions to reconciliation that has Indian residential school survivors producing art, including survivors of the Indian residential schools who are in correctional systems and who often succeed in arts programs. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls for action to address and prevent fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and to reform the criminal justice system to better address the needs of offenders with FASD.

Reconciliation is a practice of restorative justice. Reconciliation is the restorative justice challenge that we must take up today. Restorative justice efforts in Yukon have opened many doors for innovative and successful practices here in Yukon and outside our borders in the rest of Canada — and indeed internationally.

Community justice committees in the Yukon, as the minister mentioned in his tribute, have offered diversion programs and treatment options, and this work has led to the growth of on-the-land addictions treatment programs. First Nation leaders and elders have said that language and culture programs are vital to instilling in today’s youth and adults pride in their history. These are resulting in the cultural resurgence of drumming and dancing troupes across Yukon, including the success of the award-winning Dakhká Khwáan Dancers. I want to use this opportunity to encourage the Minister of Justice to reflect on how restorative justice practices can be used to build community. I also request that the minister work with his department officials to implement alternative measures in corrections. Corrections regulations provide for diversion of disciplinary hearings at Whitehorse Correctional Centre to an alternative measures panel. But to date, we are not aware that any alternative measures panel has been appointed where diversion may be appropriate.

A restorative justice approach would also see an increase in correctional services programs that help to rehabilitate offenders. Sports, dance, music and arts help people to heal and allow them to be in a position to form healthy relationships when they return to their communities. All of that is restorative justice.

Finally, the Yukon Human Rights Commission and Yukon College are hosting an evening dedicated to the advancement of reconciliation in Yukon on December 10, International Human Rights Day. They are inviting the public to get together to listen, learn and share the ways that our community is taking action and making reconciliation a reality in Yukon.

This event will address the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation informed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action. I encourage the public and all members of this Assembly to take part in that innovative restorative justice event.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.