Aboriginal Antecedents and Contemporary Practices of Restorative Justice: Canada and United States Comparisons


  • Larry French Justiceworks Institute University of New Hampshire


Canada and United States share the same American Indian and Inuit/Alaska Natives groups with many native groups cut off by the artificial border separating not only Canada and the United States but Mexico and the U.S. as well.  In pre-Columbian times these peoples moved freely across these artificial borders that later demarcating the United States from both and Canada (formerly British North America) and Mexico (Spanish America). This work focuses on the U.S./Canadian divide. The First Nations subscribed to a harmonious lifestyle where the restoration of balance was the basis for justice.  The Euro-American sense of adversarial justice was a foreign concept forced upon them.  In the 1980s attempts were made in both Canada and the United States to implement some semblance of restorative justice among the recognized tribes.  In Canada, the foundation of these programs emerged from the sentencing circles while in the Unites States peacemaker courts reemerged among their largest tribe – the Navajo (Dine).  This article looks at these programs including their similarities and differences – important factors for American Indians caught up in cross-border judicial issues.


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