UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Verbatim

‘The women who came forward’

By Katie Ingram


Jennifer Llewellyn is a United Church member, a law professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax and a restorative justice expert. She has consulted on many cases, including the 2014 incident in which male Dalhousie dentistry students posted misogynistic comments about female classmates to a Facebook page.

On restorative justice: Restorative justice is an idea that says that justice is fundamentally about securing relationships where people can enjoy respect, dignity and mutual care and concern for one another. It tends to not only be concerned with a particular incident, but with understanding what that breach of the law means. We need to be addressing underlying and broader issues that have brought people into conflict and created conditions for harm.

On the influence of the United Church:
Both of my parents were ministers who focused on social justice. They helped me to understand justice, what’s required, what we owe to one another and how we can ensure just relationships. From peace groups and nuclear disarmaments to the Nestlé boycott and anti-apartheid activism, I learned at an early age that justice is not only about legal systems and the law.

Photo by Todd Arsenault
Photo by Todd Arsenault

On criminal justice versus restorative justice: Our criminal justice system does one thing particularly well: it incapacitates people from doing further harm, often for a relatively short period of time. It doesn’t do very well on meeting the needs of victims, addressing the harms. Incarceration is a pretty blunt instrument. It hasn’t shown itself to be particularly good at rehabilitating or changing people’s minds, behaviours or the circumstances that caused them to behave in ways that made other people unsafe. In reforms that are inspired by a restorative approach, we’ve seen a deeper understanding of the needs and harms experienced by victims, but also the circumstances of crime and criminal behaviour.

On sexual assault cases: The Jian Ghomeshi case [a former CBC radio broadcaster who was charged with multiple counts of sexual assault, and acquitted last spring] raised a lot of questions about our current criminal justice processes in meeting the needs of sexual assault victims. Sexual assault cannot continue to be understood purely as incidents between individuals. In order to respond adequately, to ensure justice and safety for women in our society, we need justice processes that are much more robust in terms of understanding the root social causes of sexual assault and seeing those as systemic issues. We need a system that can generate better solutions.

On the Dalhousie dentistry school incident: The women who came forward asked for a different process, which told us this was not just an issue of a few bad apples who said harmful things. They saw what was reflected on that Facebook page as being about those men, but also about the dental school in which they were being educated, the society in which they were living and, more importantly, the profession they were about to enter.

A restorative approach was better able to meet their needs and to address the issue as they understood it: it wasn’t just one of individual harm, but one of systemic discrimination. 

This interview has been condensed and edited.



Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image

Society

July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots

World

June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.

Justice

June 2017

Undocumented

by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.

World

June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.

Society

April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Society

March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image