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Will the circle be unbroken? : Aboriginal communities, restorative justice and the challenges of conflict and change.

Dickson-Gilmore, E J
June 4, 2015

Source: (2005) Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

The circle has profound cultural significance for many First Nations. It symbolizes the interconnectedness of all things and the importance of considering the impact on all participants in decision-making. In terms of values, it represents balance, openness, and a holistic approach to life. Therefore, write Jane Dickson-Gilmore and Carol La Prairie, it is not surprising to find that the circle and the cultures which embrace it are closely linked with the restorative justice movement. Dickson-Gilmore and La Prairie even refer to the perspective of some that restorative justice is synonymous with Aboriginal justice – that restorative justice is essentially a modern restatement of traditional values. In this context, the authors note an irony. Many Western criminal justice systems are drawing on traditional values and practices in developing restorative justice reforms and approaches. Then they are applying those programs among the very people and communities which have had their traditional values and practices eroded and suppressed by those Western systems and cultures – which erosion and suppression have led to many of the problems of crime among those colonized people and communities. In that restorative justice is in many ways not a top-down but bottom-up (or, grassroots) response to conflict and crime, this dynamic begs the question of the capacity of Aboriginal communities impaired by a colonial legacy to realize restorative justice truly and effectively. Hence, in this book Dickson-Gilmore and La Prairie critique many of the extant assumptions about the Aboriginal community in Canada. Their aim is to introduce greater complexity into debates about the imperative of community in restorative justice. They organize their book around the following parts: defining the challenges of communities and justice; restorative justice theory and practice in Aboriginal communities; and completing the circle and advancing the dialogue.


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