What our criminal justice system needs is not mere fixes that further entrench the status quo and the adversarial, punishment-oriented and individualistic process we have now, but true transformational change.
The current system has tremendous shortcomings -- it abandons victims, leaving them to heal alone, at times powerless, and without any meaningful answers. There is a better way to help victims heal and to hold offenders accountable for their acts while empowering them to improve their lives. That alternative is restorative justice.
In a moment of boredom, two teens in Lanark County, Ont., smash their way into a hardware store and help themselves to the goods. Police nabbed the pair soon after. But instead of going before judge and jury, the teens faced their victims in a citizen-run "restorative justice" forum. It's an approach that's gaining popularity across Canada, showing there's more than one way to be tough on crime.
Ten-year-old Hannah used to love going to school but now the Ontario fourth grader is too scared to return and her mother Nicola can't blame her. On Monday, Hannah experienced the second of two incidents of bullying with a disturbingly sexual tone. Hannah's mother spoke to the school principal, and although the boy admitted to the incident, as far as she knows no further action was taken by the school. As of Wednesday, Nicola's calls to the superintendent and her school trustee had not been returned, and the principal did not respond to a request for comment for this post.
Being a dentist is not a right. If someone is not appropriate to be a professional, society is not obligated towards them in some way. I hope these men do recognize how they have damaged their classmates and their community. Until the university gets how this entire thing was about privilege -- men feeling entitled to women's bodies, men feeling insulated by their position, men counting on lack of consequence -- they cannot create the necessary changes to their structures nor recognize and mitigate harm. If they are still puzzled by why women are so angry how can they help guide healing?
In the debate around what to do about the Dalhousie dental students' infamous Facebook page, there are a lot of misconceptions and ignorant statements being thrown around about restorative justice which sorely need to be addressed. While I do not consider myself an expert on restorative justice, I do feel qualified to comment on some of the most egregious of these. To say that restorative justice is an "easy way out", that it minimizes the significance of the offences or that it is unsuitable due to the inherent power dynamic in place reflects a striking lack of understanding of this process.
The University of Dalhousie is currently facing a scandal regarding some fourth-year male dentistry students who have been caught posting sexually violent and misogynistic comments on a Facebook page. It was announced last night that the University will proceed with a restorative justice process. While some may think it might be an appropriate response to join together both parties in order to come to a mutual agreement on an appropriate punishment, in this particular case -- and in all cases of violence against women -- this route is likely to favour the perpetrators and disappoint or further victimize the female victims.
I volunteer at a federal prison for men. Last week, instead of the usual circle with a facilitator, it was a "social." Some of the treats on offer had been bought at the prison shop, but inmates also brought desserts they had made. Naturally, conversation turned to the delectables on offer, especially the ones baked by the inmates. Most of the inmates refrained from indulging.
Who needs to pay $200.00 a ticket to see Les Misérables in theatres, when we can get free, premium seats in our own courtrooms? Unreasonable fines and the threat of jail for a person's inability to pay a court-imposed fee affronts the spirit of our sentencing principles, is immoral and unconstitutional.
On Tuesday, officer James Forcillo surrendered to the Special Investigations Unit, was taken into custody, and by the afternoon, was already out on bail. While the decision to release Forcillo pending his trial is, indeed, a sensible one, the injustice of the release stems from the fact that other accused persons are rarely offered the same rational, compassionate treatment.
The Ontario government should not be afraid to resist Harper's misguided crime agenda. Instead of selling out another generation for political expediency, Ontario should commit the crime that Harper fears the most: sociology.
Our current federal government's approach to dealing with crime and helping victims has been simple and simply wrong: keep people in jail longer, increase sentences, expand mandatory minimums and focus on punishment, not prevention or rehabilitation.