Restorying the Lives of Aboriginal People Connected with the Criminal Justice System
MetadataShow full item record
This participatory and community-based research project aims to foster hope and healing for Aboriginal people whose lives have been affected directly by the Criminal Justice System (CJS). In this project, I recorded the experiences, views, and stories shared by Aboriginal participants to shed new light on the conditions of power that inform their experiences and to create opportunities restory their histories in ways that might foster growth and healing. This restorying circle project is committed to three connected objectives: first, to enable Aboriginal people involved with the CJS to improve their lives; second, to create greater awareness of colonial impediments to justice for Aboriginal people by fostering counter-narratives to the prevailing political rhetoric that we need ‘more jails’ in Canada to lock up the ‘bad guys’; and third, to create new culturally safe models for politically engaged healing. The restorying circles designed for this project placed Aboriginal men impacted by the CJS in dialogue with other Aboriginal men who had endured similar experiences. The restorying circles adopted an approach similar to that of the sharing circles utilized in many cultural and spiritual ceremonies within Aboriginal communities. These restorying circles were adapted to serve the needs of Aboriginal former inmates who have varying levels of traditional knowledge, spiritual connection, and cultural experience. This project demonstrates the continued need for culturally supportive practices for Aboriginal people involved with the CJS, a need that is particularly acute in urban centers. The project also suggests that Aboriginal people involved with the CJS benefit from the spiritual connections and cultural support enabled within the restorying environment. Furthermore, the project shows how socio-economic factors played a significant role in the paths of these Aboriginal men towards the CJS. In this dissertation, I contend that restorying circles foreground the agency of participants, foster a sense of community that is often lacking for these individuals, and offer opportunities to imagine alternatives to the stories these men have often heard about themselves. The stories created and shared by the participants offer alternatives to disempowerment and criminalization, and they propose a healthier pathway for other Aboriginal people.