The practical application of traditional Aboriginal healing practices as a restorative justice process, a case study of the Helen Betty Osborne story
Restorative justice is a process whereby criminal actions are dealt with in a manner that attempts to reduce the harm caused to the victim and community. The principles and concepts of restorative justice share many similarities with traditional Aboriginal teachings, and as such, the two processes can be jointly applied to address the needs of victims, offenders, and communities. This qualitative case study explores the application of traditional Aboriginal healing practices as a restorative justice process using the Helen Betty Osborne case as an example. Primary data are from interviews conducted with several key participants during November 1998 and January 1999, and from informal discussions between October 1997 and May 1999. The thesis focuses on how participants were affected by the restorative process and the potential for this process to be incorporated into the Canadian correctional system. The restorative process in the Helen Betty Osborne case affected those involved in a variety of ways. Many indicated it was a powerful and positive experience for them; while others found it to be emotionally difficult and of more benefit to the offender than the victim. Most felt that this process, with increased supports for the victim, could be successfully incorporated into the justice system. There is a role for social workers as part of the restorative justice process in the community, in the institutions, and in the development of policy and programs. Future research should focus on how this process can be incorporated into the justice system, its effect on the victim and offender, and its effect on successful community reintegration. As well, a means of evaluating this process should be developed.