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Restorative Peacekeeping – Healing vs. Punishment

December 19, 2020

Treaty 2 Territory – On December 7, 2020, I woke up in a great mood and was ready to start my work week. I grabbed my coffee with milk, sat down, and watched the morning news. Immediately, my morning was disrupted when I heard the verdict for the murder of Barbara Kentner would be later that day. On Jan. 28, 2017, Ms. Kentner was purposely struck by the trailer hitch by Braydon Bushby and later died as a result of her injuries. Braydon Bushby, a Caucasian man, was charged with second-degree murder but later the charges were downgraded to manslaughter and aggravated assault. Having worked in the justice system for 10 years as a Probation Officer, I knew that the downgrade in charges was another privilege they are often granted because of their western laws and policies. I come to know that Justice means “Just Us”.

My emotions were triggered by this announcement as I feared the repercussions this would have on my own wellbeing as an Indigenous woman. The verdict was not only justice for Barbra, but justice for all Indigenous women. I reflected on my own situations when I as discriminated against or feared for my safety. As an Indigenous woman, especially one who is 5’2, I have to be aware of my surrounding at all times. I must be careful when walking alone, be prepared for mistreatment when I enter a taxicab, turn a blind eye to security following me in stores or being yelled at for crossing the street when I had the right of way. Sadly, my experience is not unique as this is reality of many indigenous women because the justice system has failed us.

During my time with Manitoba Justice, I had the opportunity to provide programming in every correctional centre and youth centre across Manitoba. When I was inside, I witnessed firsthand the over-representation of our people in the jails. It was especially disheartening when I toured The Pas Correctional Centre (TPCC) where the inmate population was 100% Indigenous. I lived in the Pas for 30 years and I did not realize that little brick building on 7th street had so many of our people locked up inside. I recall one day working at TPCC, I peaked into a holding range and witnessed the overcrowding. As I looked, I seen my cousin, my old classmate, my old friends, and my clients. My heart broke.

People who have been harmed may feel that people that commit crimes need to be punished. As someone who has been a victim and lost an aunt to murder, I understand your pain. However, the justice system has failed to restore my sense of safety and I do not feel justice was served. I seen people who harmed me move on the harm others. As a Probation Officer, I witnessed my previous clients going to jail and coming out angrier and more self-destructive.  Ernest Man states, “If a system is making people sick, do we cure the people and put them back in the system? Or do we cure the system?” The justice system is sick.

Later that day, I learned that Superior Court Justice Helen Pierce delivered a guilty verdict to Braydon Bushby for manslaughter. I felt some relief but not enough regain my trust in their system or feel safe. To restore safety and belonging, we need our own peacemaking system that is based on Anishinabek values, customs, and teachings. First Nations in Treaty 2 Territory will address this sick system by creating our own peacemaking system that focuses on healing rather then punishment.

On December 7, 2020, I woke up in a great mood and was ready to start my work week. I grabbed my coffee with milk, sat down, and watched the morning news. Immediately, my morning was disrupted when I heard the verdict for the murder of Barbara Kentner would be later that day. On Jan. 28, 2017, Ms. Kentner was purposely struck by the trailer hitch by Braydon Bushby and later died as a result of her injuries. Braydon Bushby, a Caucasian man, was charged with second-degree murder but later the charges were downgraded to manslaughter and aggravated assault. Having worked in the justice system for 10 years as a Probation Officer, I knew that the downgrade in charges was another privilege they are often granted because of their western laws and policies. I come to know that Justice means “Just Us”.

My emotions were triggered by this announcement as I feared the repercussions this would have on my own wellbeing as an Indigenous woman. The verdict was not only justice for Barbra, but justice for all Indigenous women. I reflected on my own situations when I as discriminated against or feared for my safety. As an Indigenous woman, especially one who is 5’2, I have to be aware of my surrounding at all times. I must be careful when walking alone, be prepared for mistreatment when I enter a taxicab, turn a blind eye to security following me in stores or being yelled at for crossing the street when I had the right of way. Sadly, my experience is not unique as this is reality of many indigenous women because the justice system has failed us.

During my time with Manitoba Justice, I had the opportunity to provide programming in every correctional centre and youth centre across Manitoba. When I was inside, I witnessed firsthand the over-representation of our people in the jails. It was especially disheartening when I toured The Pas Correctional Centre (TPCC) where the inmate population was 100% Indigenous. I lived in the Pas for 30 years and I did not realize that little brick building on 7th street had so many of our people locked up inside. I recall one day working at TPCC, I peaked into a holding range and witnessed the overcrowding. As I looked, I seen my cousin, my old classmate, my old friends, and my clients. My heart broke.

People who have been harmed may feel that people that commit crimes need to be punished. As someone who has been a victim and lost an aunt to murder, I understand your pain. However, the justice system has failed to restore my sense of safety and I do not feel justice was served. I seen people who harmed me move on the harm others. As a Probation Officer, I witnessed my previous clients going to jail and coming out angrier and more self-destructive.  Ernest Man states, “If a system is making people sick, do we cure the people and put them back in the system? Or do we cure the system?” The justice system is sick.

Later that day, I learned that Superior Court Justice Helen Pierce delivered a guilty verdict to Braydon Bushby for manslaughter. I felt some relief but not enough regain my trust in their system or feel safe. To restore safety and belonging, we need our own peacemaking system that is based on Anishinabek values, customs, and teachings. First Nations in Treaty 2 Territory will address this sick system by creating our own peacemaking system that focuses on healing rather then punishment.

Submitted by Chantell Barker, Restorative Peacekeeping Operations Keeper

Last modified: December 19, 2020

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