Towards a Justice That Heals: Highlights From the National Skillshare Series

A community of practice for investigators, conduct officers, human rights services workers, administrators, lawyers, student leaders, researchers, student affairs professionals to explore promising practices regarding alternative resolutions.

With thanks to the Towards a Justice That Heals Community of Practice members: Bailey Reid, Chris Hackett, Imre Juurlink, Leah Martin, Samantha Bokma, Sam Pearson, Sarah Scanlon, Alana Robert, Brittany Rudyck, Stacey Alderwick, and Shakira Weatherdon.

With thanks to the Towards a Justice That Heals Community of Practice Project Consultants: Jessica Katwaroo-Green, and Deb Eerkes.

Tool: Essential Elements for Non-Punitive Accountability: a Workbook for Understanding Alternative Responses to Campus Gender-Based Violence

Despite significant interest in restorative justice practices across the country, there is simultaneously a lack of awareness around appropriate use of these practices in campus gender-based violence, and insufficient data to support formalized best practices. Essential Elements for Non-Punitive Accountability: a Workbook for Understanding Alternative Responses to Campus Gender-Based Violence provides a framework for non punitive (restorative, transformative, and community) accountability practices. Applying a principles-based approach adaptable to any size or type of PSI, the workbook lays out the essentials for ethical use of non-punitive accountability options, and provides resources, cases and reflection exercises to help PSIs move towards its use.

National Skillshare Presentation
Watch the presentation and download the full transcript below or on our Education page.


Download the transcript here.

Top Questions from the Skillshare Presentation:

1. Thank you for this important work. I too am excited by the possibilities and potential but also struggle to see how these processes can be done in a good way in the institutional context. Trust is so central to this work and  academic institutions, research, etc. have and continue to be sites of harm for so many. Many of the power relations that give rise to violence are deeply embedded within our PSIs. Can you say more about whether and how the workbook addresses these tensions?

As a working group, we’re also really wary of the ability of institutions that’ve been sites of violence for so many people to engage in non-punitive accountability in a good way. In fact, much of the impetus for creating the workbook in the way that we did was having witnessed firsthand the harm that many post-secondaries were causing by offering ill-considered or inappropriate resolution options that they were incorrectly referring to as ‘restorative’ in an effort to capitalize on important grassroots organizing without any sustainable investment. Often–if they were anything more than words in a policy–these approaches involved ignorantly repurposing pre-existing practices like mediation and ‘alternative dispute resolution’ instead of actively engaging with the important values work that is central to the implementation of non-punitive accountability. This is why two sections of the workbook are focused on ‘Institutional Commitments’ and ‘Facilitator Commitments’ that demand a deeper interrogation of those oppressive power relations that you mention above, as well as a significant engagement with key practical and ethical concerns. We thought this sort of framing was an important way of resisting the passive co-optation of social justice practices because, as we mentioned in our presentation, it means the guide is technically incomplete until an institution actively engages with it and makes it applicable to their campus community. At the end of the day, the guide ultimately posits that if you aren’t meeting the principles and commitments clearly defined within, then it’s incorrect and unethical to claim to be practicing non-punitive accountability. We hope this also better equips advocates and survivors within interested post-secondaries to hold their institutions accountable as they move forward on this path.

2. Can you talk a little about how to create conditions for accountability within these processes (given stigma, other potential consequences outside the institution, etc.) and if this is covered by the workbook?

This is a concept that is fundamental to the practice of non-punitive accountability, and features heavily throughout the workbook. Although it would be impossible to synthesize all of the content on this topic contained within, here is an excerpt from the Foundational Principles section on accountability:

“For many in our society, it is difficult to acknowledge that we cause harm while still holding onto our own humanity and worth. Those who have caused harm often refuse or are unable to examine their behaviours and be held accountable. In some cases where criminal charges are pending or possible, denying responsibility is a way to shield themselves from the harm of the criminal justice system.  It is critical for those who have caused harm to work with staff who have been trained on this dynamic.

Taking responsibility for causing harm is not the same as admitting to a policy breach or a violation of the law. The focus is not on the details of what a person did, but on how those actions affected others and what harm needs to be addressed as a result. However, it is important to recognize that when a person who has caused harm faces actual or potential charges under a criminal process or investigation of a policy breach, there may be additional risks involved in admitting harm.”

3. Can restorative justice help with culture change within colonial education systems?  Does this work intersect with the TRC calls to action?

Yes, we believe that if the roots of non-punitive accountability within Indigenous legal and cultural traditions specific to the land a post-secondary institution occupies are properly acknowledged and engaged, this approach can definitely be part of shifting the colonial culture endemic within the academy. This is largely because non-punitive accountability methods generally align with decolonial practice. For example, they are based in story-telling, encourage participants to acknowledge how different intersecting social identities may play a role in both accountability and the healing process, and strive to ensure the safety of marginalized groups by considering and validating how cultural, physical, psychological, emotional and other needs may appear differently in individuals, and addressing those needs effectively as part of the justice process. Although post-secondary conduct systems are distinct from the criminal legal system, this generally aligns with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action (#31) in the ‘Justice’ section that calls “upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to provide sufficient and stable funding to implement and evaluate community sanctions that will provide realistic alternatives to imprisonment for Aboriginal offenders and respond to the underlying causes of offending.” However, the adoption of non-punitive accountability approaches can also easily be co-opted and function as part of the larger colonial project when the necessary localized, sustainable, long-term engagement with Indigenous traditions of non-punitive accountability that is required to truly shift the culture is not adequately taken up by institutions and practitioners.


Suggested Citation: Towards a Justice That Heals. (2021, March). Towards a Justice That Heals Community of Practice: Highlights from the National Skillshare Series Presentation. Courage to Act.


Towards a Justice That Heals Community of Practice

Learn more about the Towards a Justice That Heals Community of Practice here.

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