PEOPLES AND THE
Restorative justice is a response to crime that
focuses on restoring the losses suffered by victims,
holding offenders accountable for the harm they have
caused, and building peace within communities.
It is a different way of thinking about crime and our
response to crime
It focuses on the harm caused by crime: repairing
the harm done to victims and reducing future harm
by preventing crime It is achieved through a co-
operative effort by both government and the
It requires offenders to take responsibility for their
actions and for the crime that they have caused.
Benefits of Restorative Justice
It views criminal acts more comprehensively: rather
than defining crime only as lawbreaking, it
recognizes that offenders harm victims.
It involves more parties: rather than giving key roles
to government and offender it involves the victim
It measures success differently: rather than
measuring how much punishment has been inflicted
it measures how much harm has been repaired or
It recognizes the importance of community
involvement and initiative rather than leaving the
problem of crime alone to the government.
Aboriginal Peoples and The Justice
1991 Aboriginal people made up about 3% of the
Canadian population but made up 11% of the federal
prison population and 15% of the provincial prison
In 1996 in Manitoba they made up 49% of those in
In Saskatchewan they made up 72%
Studies suggest that these high numbers are the
result of Systematic Discrimination
Critics say that because the system was set up
without Aboriginal input it does not appreciate the
circumstances facing many Aboriginal people
Evidence of Systematic
Aboriginal people are more likely to be placed under
surveillance or arrested
Minor offences committed in public by Aboriginal
people are treated more harshly
Lawyers spend less time consulting with Aboriginal
Aboriginal people plead guilty more often, which
leads to prison sentences (Most Aboriginal cultures
believe in accepting responsibility; even if you didn’t
Aboriginal people are less likely to participate in
prison rehabilitation programs leading to more time
spent behind bars
Evidence of Systematic
Aboriginal people have difficulty obtaining parole,
because their communities are too small to avoid
coming into contact with people with criminal records
Almost 25% of Aboriginal people are unemployed
Areas with high levels of unemployment and poverty
usually have problems with criminal activity
What is a Sentencing Circle?
It is an attempt to rediscover the traditional
Aboriginal method of dealing with members of the
community who have broken the law.
When the person has been found guilty or has
pleaded guilty they can ask for the judge to refer
him/her to a sentencing circle.
The aim of the circle is to shift the process of
sentencing from punishment to rehabilitation and
Offender is faced with the impact of their actions in
front of respected community members, Elders,
peers, family, the victim and their family, creating an
opportunity for real change.
Who should sit in a sentencing circle?
The victim and members of the victim’s
The accused and members of his/her family.
Elder or appropriate community
A chief or councilor from the areas where the
victim and accused have resided or where
the offense occurred.
A judge, defense lawyer or prosecutor and/or
police officer may also sit in the circle.
Several Factors to Consider
The accused must agree to be referred to the
The accused must have deep roots in the
The Elders are willing to participate.
The victim is willing to participate under
voluntary circumstances (no pressure to
The court is willing to take a risk and depart
from the usual method of sentencing.
What happens at a sentencing circle?
It is usually held in a Band hall, school
gym or outdoors.
Chairs are arranged in a circle.
Tape recorder is placed in the center of
People take their places and the judge
asks one of the Elders to say a prayer or
perform a sacred Sweet Grass ceremony.
What happens at a sentencing circle?
Everyone will have a chance to speak.
Only one person speaks at a time.
The discussion continues until all
members agree on a sentence.
The judge decides whether or not the
proposed sentence is within the
boundaries of the law and formally
imposes the sentence.
Sentencing circle exclusions
Repeat offenders or the offense is
If incarceration may exceed 2 years.
The attitude of the offender prohibits
Community is not prepared to be involved
in the circle.
Not all parties agree to participate in a
Sentencing circle rules
There are no special powers or
privileges for anyone in the circle.
There are no interruptions while a
person is speaking.
Decisions are made on the basis of
John has just had one really bad day.
Anything that could go wrong did. He
failed a major test, his project was
deleted from the computer, he forgot his
lunch and to top it off he had forgotten
the keys to his house so he was locked
out after school. Later that night after
things had settled and he was starting to
unwind he decided he would finish up his
term project for his history class. He
looks at the clock and it is 12:30am.
He is finally finished his project that has
taken several weeks to complete. John
gets ready for bed, returning to his room
to discover his sisters cat licking and
pawing at spilled coffee all over his
project. In a mad rage he lunges towards
the cat and begins to strangle it. Not
knowing his own strength he
unintentionally has killed the cat. This is
not normal behavior for John and he is
very remorseful but this incident was the
straw that broke the camels back!
Member’s of the class will hold a
sentencing circle to determine a sentence
Keep in mind that the sentence must also
help rehabilitate John.
Be sure to follow the rules that apply to a
Members of the Circle
Offender – abused the cat
Victim – owner of the cat
3 Elders and 3 community members
Mother of the offender and the victim
In groups of four come up with a
scenario where someone would be
using a sentencing circle.
Write out the scenario and include
all those who would play a part in it
Include a description/script foe each
of the members