Expanding understandings of access to justice through restorative justice and alternative philosophies of justice

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Jordan, Will
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With definitions of access to justice encompassing a wide range of practices, there has been a growing interest to include increased availability to alternative practices and philosophies of justice among the list of practices included in understandings of access to justice. This is especially true with respect to restorative justice (RJ) in the context of the Canadian legal framework. The following study examines several significant pieces of Canadian legislation such as the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), and the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR) to highlight provisions which support RJ as an important means of accessing justice. Analysis of these pieces of legislation with provisions concerning the use of RJ, the comments of Members of Parliament regarding the importance of RJ and the decisions of Supreme Court justices supporting the application of RJ in Canada’s justice framework, it is clear that access to RJ practices is an important aspect of access to justice. Despite these considerations, several barriers prevent access to quality RJ programs or access to RJ altogether. These barriers include co-option of restorative programs through government policy and the institutionalization of restorative practices which results in the “sanitization” of restorative values through penal policy. In order to expand access to justice to include access to alternative practices and philosophies of justice, advocates and practitioners must emphasize these legal provisions as avenues for expanding understandings of access to justice while being cognisant of not allowing RJ processes to succumb to various phenomenon that create barriers to accessing RJ.
Access to Justice, Restorative Justice, Alternative Philosophies of Justice, Co-option