Commffest 2017 has chosen the seemingly little known social and civil rights topic of Restorative Justice as focal point of its "bringing communities together" mandate.
This relatively unknown judicial alternative, also know and Victim-Offender Mediation, was implemented by Corrections Canada in 1996 to address offences that would ordinarily hamper the progression of the offender toward a lawful, positive and productive future.
The aim of Restorative Justice is to seek a form of justice that will satisfy the needs of the offended, make culpable the offender and maintain an equitable community status quo. It is an institutionalized, holistic approach that is based on age-old, time-tested traditions from First Nations and African practices.
The framework for our current justice system is Retributive Justice. In this framework, crime is viewed as a violation against the state, as defined as
"the lawbreaker" and "the guilty party", and the justice mechanism determines and assigns blame and metes out punishments pre-determined by systematic procedures.
The corrective methods adopted by the First Nations and African cultures integrate the victim, the offender, and the community to facilitate restoration and healing for all involved. The core principles of this traditional practice include:
Requiring the lawbreaker to take direct responsibility for their individual victimization and acknowledge the harm done to their community.
Providing a system wherein the victims assist in shaping the wrongdoers' restitution.
Encouragement of the community to become involved in supporting the victims, holding offenders accountable and providing offenders the opportunity to reintegrate back into society.
Commffest will be inviting community leaders, politicians, stakeholders and affected family members who have been involved the process and share their intimate experiences, furthering the notion of restorative justice's community engagement.
In keeping with ancient traditions, the conference, structured to examine the outcomes of Restorative Justice within communities, incarceration centres, schools, families and civil rights implications, aims to bring awareness of holistic measures adapted and revised to heal wounded modern communities.
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