Re: Aboriginal education or victim studies? May 20 BC Views column.
Foremost in ‘aboriginal education’ should be such peoples’ cultural heritage in the form of their traditional justice system.
At least as important as having a voice on task-force committees, all aboriginal nations and communities deserve a strong voice in what kind of justice system will maintain the laws by which they live – most notably their traditional healing/sentencing circle.
As a white man, when I many years ago had to stand before a criminal-trial judge, seated way up upon a wood bench, my chronic anxiety turned what was a fairly minor infraction into an ordeal.
Thus, when I heard about the aboriginal healing circle, I thought that our non-aboriginal society should realize how beneficial it would be to allow all aboriginal peoples to practise their healing/sentencing circle for aboriginal-based crimes – i.e., aboriginal perpetrators against aboriginal victims.
The healing/sentencing circle should be utilized because our criminal-court system can be unproductive and even destructive.
The aboriginal healing/sentencing circle, on the contrary, has all of those involved with a crime – the offender, the victim and their families, etc. – sitting in a circle and facing one another apparently with equal status. Further, instead of just shipping an offender off to jail where he can become a worse person upon his eventual release, he is made to answer directly to those he has hurt to possibly bring about healing resolution; he hears and responds to his victim’s pain, perhaps expressing his own painful past which may have corrupted him.
Our current, often-pompous adversarial justice system could very well learn a positive thing or two from the healing/sentencing circle, especially when dealing with those accused who are already enduring a life affected by mental illness and/or substance abuse.
Frank Sterle Jr., White Rock