3.0 Key Panel Discussion Themes

3.1 Concepts and Terminology

There is a need for greater awareness and understanding of the following terms as there is often confusion.

3.2 Understanding What is Meant by “Justice”

3.2.1 Justice is much broader than the criminal justice system

Indigenous knowledge includes a holistic view of justice, and of life, whereby justice is not separate from all other aspects of culture, traditions, and ways of being. Justice is not based on punitive measures or approaches, but on restoration, harmony, and the goal of achieving balance in all aspects of life.

The word “justice” needs to encompass the need to put right the many societal harms imposed on Indigenous peoples for centuries, including by the Indian Residential School system, the 60’s Scoop, and the tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Indigenous Justice processes exist outside of Canada’s justice systems.

Indigenous nations and communities continue to exercise sovereignty by implementing traditional and customary law practices that have been passed down for millennia. These practices are rooted in the teachings of specific nations and communities. They are grounded in Indigenous principles that reflect distinctive values and traditions. Examples include:

3.2.2 Restorative Justice programs operate within a colonial justice system

RJ programs that are funded by governments and administered by many Indigenous groups across Canada exist within the context of “a colonial imposed justice system” (Chartrand 2022), within the parameters of Canada’s Constitution, laws, and government structures. They incorporate Indigenous or traditional justice concepts but are implemented within a western CJS.

3.2.3 Compatibility of restorative Indigenous justice principles

Although RJ and Indigenous justice are not the same, restorative and Indigenous justice principles share many common goals. The Mi’kmaw teaching from Elder Albert Marshall on Etuaptmumk or “Two-Eyed Seeing” is illustrative of such compatibility. It refers to “learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledge and ways of knowing... and learning to use both these eyes together, for the benefit of all.” That two-eyed seeing is possible in justice through the teachings of the Customary Law program.

3.3 Need for further education and awareness

It is important for lawyers, legal professionals, and others working in Canada’s criminal justice system to increase their knowledge, awareness, and education about Indigenous peoples. This includes:

Recognizing the impacts of intergenerational trauma on Indigenous peoples, and applying a trauma-informed lens on restorative justice processes and Indigenous peoples that are involved in Canada’s criminal justice system.