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What are the Implications of Restorative Justice’s Use of Indigenous Traditions?

Cunneen, Chris
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) In, Howard Zehr and Barb Toews, eds., Critical Issues in Restorative Justice. Monsey, New York and Cullompton, Devon, UK: Criminal Justice Press and Willan Publishing. Pp. 341-349.

Restorative justice, writes Chris Cunneen, is often seen as drawing on justice processes of indigenous peoples, such as Aboriginal people in Australia, Maori in New Zealand, and First Nations and Native Americans in North America. Indeed, many restorative justice advocates claim an indigenous “authenticityâ€? for its roots – an authenticity that distinguishes it from Western justice processes. Cunneen finds much of this thinking problematic for various reasons: some of the linking of restorative justice and indigenous peoples is trivializing and patronizing; and some reduces the complexity of and variations in indigenous dispute resolution processes. Moreover, he questions two assumptions, whether implicit or explicit: one, that indigenous peoples of Australia, New Zealand, and North America represent all indigenous people; and two, that restorative justice advocates and indigenous peoples have the same vision of justice. With all of this in mind, Cunneen discusses similarities and differences between restorative justice and indigenous justice, with particular reference to problems associated with state-sponsored restorative justice programs.


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