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Stepping toward restorative justice: Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission

September 13, 2009

With an entirely new set of commissioners, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is ready, once again, to move toward its goals. These include acknowledging the lasting impacts of residential schools, providing a forum for survivors to share their stories and making that information accessible to the public. There is a sense of urgency to move the Commission forward, as more than 1,400 survivors die each year as the population ages.

The Commission is based on the model of restorative justice (as opposed to the penal retributive justice method of standard court systems) that is victim-focused. Its goal is to give more power to survivors by creating a long-lasting account of their experience and its consequences on native culture and society.

“The restorative justice model requires that you take a look at the problem and you determine a solution that will restore balance to the people who are involved,” said Sinclair in an interview with CBC radio.

While healing circles and victim-focused reprisal have been used in certain cases in Canada and in countries like South Africa to come to terms with apartheid, this is the first time this model is being tested on the scale of multiple generations suffering for more than 100 years. Sinclair called the task “daunting and scary.”

The process can only work if survivors and the rest of Canada participate. “I want the survivors to be able to say that they were heard. I want the public to say that they heard them. I want the general society, the Canadian society, to be able to say that now they know what they can do about it,” Sinclair said.

Read the whole article.


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