Justice that is Healing: Responding to Domestic Violence in Aboriginal Communities
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All Aboriginal communities are dealing with the effects of domestic violence. This thesis includes an exploration of the magnitude, outcomes and conditions that have been exacerbated by domestic violence with the goal of discovering ways to cope, challenge and prevent abuse within family life in Aboriginal communities. After reading a book called Returning to the Teachings, Exploring Aboriginal Justice by Rupert Ross, many questions came to mind: How would restorative justice processes work for situations of domestic violence? Was it even an appropriate response for situations of such a complex nature, particularly in Aboriginal communities? This kind of research is extremely important to help decision makers understand the urgency of the situation. There is a need to change the way that the justice systems deal with situations of domestic violence within Aboriginal communities. The health and well-being of the ever increasing number of future generations of Aboriginal children and youth depend on these changes, as they grow and develop into contributing members of their communities. I conducted a literature review, participated in numerous workshops and interviewed four people who helped me to gain a better understanding of justice as healing processes. Domestic violence is a significant, complex challenge within Aboriginal communities that has its roots in decisions made by western governments and churches to assimilate Aboriginal people into mainstream society. The warehousing of children in residential schools (over a hundred year period) and the ‘scooping’ of Aboriginal children into the foster care system (in the 1960s) destroyed families, communities and nations and left parents to pick up the shattered pieces of their families' lives. So much harm has been created for Aboriginal families and communities as a result of decisions made by mainstream hierarchies that it will take an enormous amount of resources and changes in how social services and justice systems deal with situations of domestic violence within Aboriginal communities. It will require a paradigm shift that puts Aboriginal people, particularly Aboriginal women, in charge of programs and services that promote the healing and restoration of their families and communities.