Access our Restorative Justice reading list here.
Elections offer an opportunity to put your faith and values into action. With a 2015 federal election campaign underway the Church Council on Justice and Corrections encourages all Canadians to take the time to carefully consider the many important issue facing our communities.
CCJC has contributed to the Canadian Council of Churches 2015 Election Resource: Click here to view. Also, please scroll to the bottom of this page to view election resources from our member denominations.
As people of faith, we are called to be healers and to be voices of compassion. This election provides an opportunity to bear witness to our faith by calling on our political parties to direct our criminal justice system in ways that honour God’s vision of restorative justice and respects the human dignity of all.
Is Prison our only answer?
Incarceration is an important issue for faith communities as we consider how we respond to those who are marginalized and in need. Many inmates in Canada are serving sentences for a non-violent offence (76% of prisoners in provincial jails and 33% of those in federal penitentiaries). Many repeat offenders are mentally ill, cognitively challenged and/or addicted. To become good neighbours and productive citizens, they need treatment, health services, education, housing, employment, and support.
Canada’s crime rate has been declining steadily for more than 20 years. Yet changes to criminal justice policy in the past decade have resulted in more people going to prison for longer periods of time. The increasing use of incarceration costs us as families, communities and as taxpayers, reducing our ability to care for victims. It also means fewer resources given to other supports that have been shown to create safer communities- such as restorative justice programs, direct services for victims, and reintegration programs such as Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA).
 For more information about CoSA: https://ccjc.ca/evaluation-of-cosa-national-demonstration-project/
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Positions of Federal parties on criminal justice issues: http://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/crime-primer/
Quaker UK resource on prisons: http://www.quaker.org.uk/files/CCJS-Why-Prison-April-2013.pdf
Truth and Reconciliation
A recent Macleans article noted that 73 % of aboriginal inmates reported a family history of involvement with residential schools. In June 2015 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its 94 Calls to Action. Of these, 17 these relate to justice. Any efforts at addressing the harms needs to will a close examination of the connection between aboriginal people and the justice system. A restorative approach to harm is one that takes a holistic view of both people and the relationships that connect us and our communities. Therefore any discussions about the relationship between aboriginal people and justice system must also account for the legacy of harm and trauma left by the residential school system. The current restorative justice movement and the legal options that exist within our justice system should therefore offer a space within the justice process to incorporate culturally appropriate responses to crime.
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Kairos Canada offers a number of resources related to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: http://www.kairoscanada.org/take-action/truth-equity-reconciliation/
In recent years, we have seen a great deal of discussion about terrorism as a public safety concern in Canada. Many critics of new terrorism legislation argue the legislation risks infringing on the civil liberties of Canadians by providing government agencies with sweeping access to individuals’ private information and by providing new powers for monitoring and intervention by the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS). The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) has compiled a full list of briefs and responses to the bill as it makes its way through Parliament. This list provides a good overview of the range of stakeholders who are voicing concerns with the bill. Click here to view the ICLMG list of submissions.
There is also widespread concern that new legislation, and the fear-based rhetoric surrounding it, may stigmatize and marginalize particular religious groups because it consistently links certain groups with risks of ‘radical ideology’ that is alleged to promote violence. Some voices from within security agencies have criticized this approach, pointing out that monitoring the thinking and speech of ‘potential radicalized’ individuals has not proven to be an effective way to predict or stop terrorism (Click here to view for an overview of this issue)
As people of faith and as citizens concerned with the protection of civil liberties, we encourage approaches to the problem of political violence that focus on encouraging dialogue. It is safer and more respectful of our fellow citizens to preserve spaces for free expression and exchange of ideas (for instance, on the Internet) than it is to make discussion of ‘radical ideas’ illegal. We know that in order to understand violence and to respond to it, we must look at the wider context in which violence takes place and in which those who have committed violence can be brought back into our communities safely. We are led by the principles of restorative justice, and by the example of Jesus Christ, to consider the causes of violence in order to properly address the problem of terrorism. A restorative approach would encourage a more holistic approach that seeks to help people explore the grey areas and find an approach that balances the fundamental rights of Canadians with those of safety and security.
We are similarly led to not to exclude ‘radicals’ from our communities. Indeed, the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth were considered radical by many of his contemporaries, and led to his coming into conflict with authorities and to his execution. We are wary of hastily condemning those among who challenge authorities and put forward radical ideas. A recent article from Christian Week provides an excellent summary of this issue. (Click here to view the Christian week article)
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MCC Canada has created a resource offering Non-Violent Alternatives to Terrorism:
Elections Resources from our Member Denominations:
The CCJC partners with organizations and communities across Canada to promote the principles and practices of restorative justice.
Click the following link to access our RJ-related resources (including CCJC’s RJ workshop).
Restorative justice is founded on a vision of justice that heals and restores. It is based on an understanding that crime is a violation of people and relationships and that justice is served when those most directly involved in an offence are given opportunities to redress the harm caused. The values of restorative justice include caring and compassion, equality, healing, responsibility, truth and honesty, inclusion, trust, safety, respect, non-judgmentalism, self-awareness, integrity, flexibility, and empathy.
In conferences, trainings and symposia, CCJC explores ways to use our voices for justice and true peacemaking. Alliances and partnerships formed across Canada provided opportunities to introduce restorative justice principles, values, and initiatives to citizens and institutions such as schools, businesses and social service providers. While our practice evolves, our values and principles remain constant; we all thrive by staying connected and growing from our experiences.
Over the years, CCJC has produced a number of valuable resources on restorative justice. We are also involved in ‘RJ Week’ events across Canada.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.
2 Cor. 5:18-20
Please click here to download a pdf version of CCJC’s forgiveness booklet. You are encouraged to reproduce this booklet for use in your parish.
Click here to download CCJC’s 2012 Victims Pastoral Care Resource Guide.
The Justice Storytelling Quilt was a CCJC-sponsored project by multi-media artist, Meagan O’Shea.
Meagan O’Shea and Susie Shantz sewed a quilt made from 40 patches of symbolic descriptive images produced by victims and offenders from across Canada. A touch on any patch activates a two minute audio testimony by its designer, describing the sorrowful event that took place in his/her life – fifteen stories in French and twenty-five in English.
A quilt reminds us of comfort, warmth and security. It protects us from the cold and hostile elements. There was a time when quilts were made from the scraps of material left over from sewing dresses and shirts. There was also the delight of seeing how these pieces could be put together to make a beautiful artistic design.
These concepts are also found in this quilt. It tells the stories of forty very sorrowful and horrifying events and has a way of bringing us together as a community. Since quilts represent a safe place, we find courage to listen to people share the details of the murder of a family member. The artistic image helps to portray the violence in an unthreatening manner. Just as the scraps have purpose and meaning when they are pieced together, so the wounded bits and shattered pieces of our lives can also be brought together to project a powerful message of peace.
The purpose of the quilt is not primarily to sensitize us to the pain of victims and offenders which could make us very angry and vindictive. It is designed rather, to bring us together so that we may empathize with the suffering, hope and courage of victims and offenders.
Please contact our office to discuss bringing the Justice Story-telling Quilt to your community.
CCJC created a promotional movie about the Justice Storytelling Quilt. Please click here to read the DVD’s insert (pdf – 5.8mb).
View the Stitched Together Video
Click here to stream the video.
What has been said about the Quilt experience
“Not Just Black And White” CCJC’s Justice Storytelling Quilt Featured In St. John’s Art Show – read more
Touring the Quilt in Manitoba (By Margot Lavoie, CCJC’s past-president, in 2007-2008) – read more (pdf)
The Justice Storytelling Quilt (Niagara Anglican, December 2006) – read more (pdf)
Victims and offenders share stories with talking quilt (Kitchener-Waterloo Record, May 2nd, 2006) – read more (pdf)
Quilt speaks pain and courage: Stories of horror, loss and compassion are sewn together in talking art (The Ottawa Citizen, November 14th, 2005) –read more (pdf)