March 21, 2019 — In its most recent issue, the jesuit magazine Relations (french) focuses on alternatives to punitive and coercive justice. It also gives a prominent place to Indigenous peoples’ legal traditions, in the wake of the Gladue report and the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
Court overcrowding, judicialization and overincarceration of marginalized, racialized and Indigenous peoples... the punitive approach at the heart of our justice system regularly faces its limitations and abuses. In recent decades, however, different approaches, including rehabilitation and restorative justice, have developed. The 1999 Gladue decision opened a breach in this regard with respect to Indigenous peoples’ litigants. Twenty years later, what is the outcome? Beyond limited alternative justice programs, should indigenous legal traditions not rather be recognized as sources of law in their own right? This issue addresses these and other issues to make our justice system more humane... and fairer.
This dossier is in line with the central place of mercy in Pope Francis' pontificate. Let us think here of his many visits to penitentiaries, his support for restorative justice, his commitment to the abolition of the death penalty, his position in favour of forgiveness and reconciliation, his call for the humanization of prisons and the rehabilitation of prisoners, and his commitment to reconciliation with indigenous peoples by Jesuits in Canada.
"As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process has taught us, we believe that an authentic reconciliation is not possible without real justice. The first step towards establishing just relations between First Nations and Non-Indigenous Canadians is the recognition of the perverse effect of colonialism that remains hidden but active inside our social, legal, political and religious institutions", noted the Jesuit provincials of English and French Canada on March 2, 2018, following the Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine cases, and the Val-d'Or Indigenous Friendship Centre is holding a Forum on Indigenous Alternative Justice this week.