One Canadian First Nation Community’s Efforts to Achieve Aboriginal Justice

To demonstrate the ambiguous state of Aboriginal justice in Canada and the community based responses to restorative justice programmes, a case study of such an initiative in Canim Lake, British Columbia, Canim Lake Band and their supporters tell of the development and implementation of a Family Violence Programme (Pg. 168). Interviewing was the primary methodology used. A Shuswap Nation Tribal Council study revealed sexual, physical and emotional abuse and prompted Canim Lake’s decision to confront the issue of sexual abuse (Pg.

169). The community through the Chief and Council started the Community Oversight Committee to develop a programme for Canim Lake. A seven-phase programme was created, combining traditional and contemporary practices to treat sexual offenders and victims. Offenders, who volunteered to participate in the self-disclosure programmes were not prosecuted if they participated in the programme, were considered by the COC to be appropriate candidates after risk assessment, and if they fulfilled all the conditions of the programme.

In 1993, a community referendum gave the COC the authority to implement the FVP (Pg. 170-171). For the programme to succeed, political will, co-operative agreements and trusts were required and with the community’s support, funding and co-operation of related government agencies were sought (Pg. 172). Community members participating in the programme expressed concern about a situation where everyone in the community owned up about their experience with sexual abuse since the joint release of emotion would be suicidal in proportion (Pg. 173).

Conflict of confidentiality in circles where people knew each other or were related trust was an issue presented challenges. When the whole community did not participate, blame resulted where leaders and FVP staff who initiated the FVP but not the healing part, were questioned (Pg. 174-175). Community hesitation regarding the programme resulted in another survey which confirmed the community’s support of the programme. Positive changes were noted by most interviewees although usual success measures such as lowered crime rates were not applied (Pg.

177-179) Conclusion The FVL programme not only proved to be a tool for administering justice but it also showed that a crime is not just a violation of statute but of relationships in the community. The community overcame challenges to find justice while maintaining cohesion making the program a success.

References

Boyce, W. , Palys, T. & Warhaft, E. B. (1999). This is how we did it: one Canadian first national community’s efforts to achieve aboriginal justice. New Zealand journal of criminology, 23(2). Pp. 168-181.