Mediate BC Blog

The Role of Mediation in the "Clash" of Justice Systems

Posted by Walter.Brynjolfson

June is National Indigenous History Month, and today is #IndigenousPeoplesDay.

As the Honourable Steven L. Point has said, “we’re still living in the midst of a clash between systems.” On the one hand, we have the dominant justice system inherited by the British Empire, with its Western and post-industrial philosophical underpinnings; and on the other, a vast array of traditional Indigenous justice systems that span this entire country.

As an organization with a province-wide jurisdiction, Mediate BC has a mandate to protect and serve all diverse populations of British Columbia, including those who participate in both systems. Our role and our physical location on the unceded traditional territory of the Coast Salish Peoples—including that of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations—cause us to work with indigenous mediators and receive emails and calls from First Nations communities across the province.

With the position we—and indeed all Canadians—find ourselves in, we bear a degree of responsibility. Indigenous History Month, and #IndigenousPeoplesDay in particular, is a moment to reflect, to learn, and to consider how we might play a role in reconciling the clash of systems, as described by Mr. Point. The learning curve is steep, and we have a lifelong hike ahead of us.

As non-indigenous Canadians, we often find ourselves tempted to believe our country is just, fair, and equitable for all its citizens. Luckily, at the same time, as mediators and conflict resolution practitioners trained in the art of empathetic listening and curiosity, we are compelled to check those assumptions.

Countless men, women, and children have been—and continue to be—let down by the dominant justice system. You don’t have to go far in your Facebook or Twitter newsfeed to see news stories and heated debates over Aboriginal Title, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, or the recent news of the bureaucratically induced termination of Bill C-262 (for those who don’t know, Bill C-262 aimed to ensure federal laws are in line with the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples).

Luckily, anyone can practice the skills of listening and curiosity. Not just mediators. You can start by simply reading something like The Survivors Speak, the report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Or, reach out to Reconciliation Canada to organize a dialogue Workshop, speaking engagement, or lunch and learn.

We hope to be part of a change that will eventually reconcile—not just the peoples of this landscape—but the justice systems as well. Mediation has existed in one form or another in every indigenous and colonizing society. Maybe, as the western justice system humbly changes to adopt more mediation and non-litigation styles of dispute resolution (i.e. peace circles, restorative justice, and transformative mediation), the clash will subside. 


Image Credits:

Megan Hodges

Image by pixel2013 from Pixabay

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