Sentencing Circles in Saskatchewan

by Orchard, Bonnie E.

Abstract (Summary)
This Thesis attempts to develop an understanding of the problems that Aboriginal offenders encounter in the Canadian justice system and examines why Euro-Canadian justice philosophy and mechanisms are not appropriate or effective. It is often very difficult for non-Aboriginal persons to understand that there is a difference between being Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. This difference impacts offenders as they interact with the criminal justice system.

The sentencing circle is one process by which the sentencing judge can obtain a clearer picture of the offender and consider sentencing options other than the `usual punishment'. It is an opportunity for the offender to address the consequences of his or her actions and to seek the help of community and family. It is also an opportunity for the victim to be heard and to seek redress.

Current sentencing practices and theory are briefly examined as they bear on sentencing circles. Issues which have arisen as a result of the implementation of sentencing circles in Saskatchewan are examined (where possible, within the context of Saskatchewan case law).

The use of sentencing circles has raised questions about the current approach to sentencing as contrasted with the restorative approach of the circle. The restorative approach to justice is a recurring theme throughout the Thesis. The different approach of the sentencing circle to the offender and the involvement of the community in the sentencing process have raised questions about incarcerating offenders, about disparity in sentences, about the protection of the public, and about the role of the community, the family and victims in the sentencing and rehabilitative processes. These issues are examined.

This Thesis has also attempted to draw some conclusions about the larger issue of where sentencing circles may be leading the justice system and the Canadian public. Is the sentencing circle merely an innovation within the justice system that can provide a more effective sentencing mechanism than the sentencing hearing? Or, is the sentencing circle leading Aboriginal peoples towards their own justice systems?

The sentencing circle has forced an examination of current sentencing practices. This, in turn, has opened a window of opportunity to do some serious re-evaluation of the existing sentencing process.

Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Levy, Chris; Youngblood, James; Zlotkin, Norman; Quigley, Tim

School:University of Saskatchewan

School Location:Canada - Saskatchewan

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:criminal justice systems resorative saskatchewan aboriginal offenders sentencing circles community based corrections


Date of Publication:04/14/2008

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