Restorative justice may not be restorative or just: Maraleigh Short, Frontline Reflections of Restorative Justice in Winnipeg: Considering Settler Colonialism In Our Practice, MA dissertation, University of Manitoba, 2016


Abstract: Based on the reflections of frontline workers, this paper explores restorative justice programming in Winnipeg, Manitoba and critically raises questions around settler colonialism, the justice process, and the “participant” “worker” relationship. Within settler colonial theory, the criminal justice system is seen as a colonial project that continues to disproportionately control and confine Indigenous Peoples. In theory, restorative justice is an alternative to the criminal justice system because of its emphasis on addressing harms rather than doling out punishment, yet it too is constrained by an ongoing settler colonial system. Exploring how workers understand settler colonialism and the restorative justice difference in their work and in their relationship with participants, this thesis argues that, to its detriment, restorative justice theory has not adequately considered settler colonialism. Bringing together Peace and Conflict Studies theories of relationship building and emerging critical theories of settler colonialism, this project explores frontline hopes for and critiques of restorative justice programming in an urban setting. Grounded in a critical constructivist research paradigm, data was collected through one-on-one interviews and focus groups with ten frontline workers who are program coordinators, victim offender mediators, and community workers. Framed by the writer’s own experience as a frontline worker, the collected narratives offer critical, yet hopeful insight into restorative justice theory and practice, particularly within settler colonial contexts.

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