Moving Toward Justice: Legal Traditions and Aboriginal Justice.
David Mardiros is a lawyer and anthropological consultant in Kars,
In his introduction to this edited volume John Whyte points out that dysfunction in Aboriginal communities and the overrepresentation of Aboriginal peoples in the criminal justice system are frequent topics of discussion and academic comment. As news items, the statistics presented have a depressing similarity throughout the country, as does the lack of success with ameliorative efforts, usually measured by the amount of money the federal government spends on Aboriginal affairs without regard to what these monies are spent on or if, in fact, Aboriginal communities actually receive the funds. As the contributors argue, however, the changes that have been made to date to try and reduce the number of people of Aboriginal ancestry in jail rarely focus on the root causes that have resulted in the alienation of Aboriginal peoples from mainstream society (and their own communities) and lead to incarceration rates that are much higher than any other group in Canada.
The first part of this book looks at a developing legal framework designed to enable First Nations groups to engage in a process of self-determination and self-government that will assist them in preventing social dysfunction. The processes described are complex and involve not only reconciliation, political devolution, resource sharing, and local control over economic development but also an increasing, and perhaps more difficult, recognition of legal pluralism and merged sovereignty. Nevertheless, the authors see these as vital commitments to justice as required under our Constitution.
The second half of the book focuses on some specific challenges faced by Aboriginal peoples in response to existing initiatives. The studies examine a variety of communities throughout Canada, the impact of existing justice initiatives on Aboriginal women, as well as a comparative study from Kenya looking at indigenous justice systems as avenues for the delivery of justice. While the case analyses certainly identify flaws in the models developed and/or their implementation, useful recommendations are also provided to improve them.
While the first part of the book will be of interest largely to academic observers, the case studies presented in the second half of the book will appeal to a wider audience of scholars and practitioners as well as to readers with a general interest in doing justice in societies with diverse cultural and legal traditions.