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Occupy Nova Scotia to Create Tribunal for Restorative Justice

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
When the four colours get together... [Photo: Miles Howe]
When the four colours get together... [Photo: Miles Howe]

K'jipuktuk (Halifax) – In a general assembly held yesterday, May 19th, Occupy Nova Scotia determined that it while it would continue to explore all legal avenues available to it in regards to last Remembrance Day's eviction, it would focus the crux of its energies on holding a tribunal to mete out restorative justice.

There continue to be numerous unresolved traumas in relation to the brutality and underhandedness by which the occupation, which had moved itself from Grand Parade Square to Victoria Park in deference to veterans and Remembrance Day ceremonies, was dealt with. These traumas run the gamut of physical, psychological, and material, and in many cases have not dissipated with the passage of time. Instead, unresolved angers have sat simmering, and in the case of this writer, have erupted at inopportune times.

Consensus among those in attendance yesterday pointed to the notion that the skewed, colonial, legal system is not the prime means by which to seek redress from the various arms of the exact system - ostensibly meant to serve the citizenry - that had so clearly failed its citizenry.

From secretive, in-camera sessions undertaken by the municipal government of the Halifax Regional Municipality; to the manner by which the Halifax Regional Police destroyed and dismantled private property, and brutally attacked the taxpayers whom they serve; the entire process seems so sadly broken and entangled upon itself as to encourage one to simply walk away from it. Seeking so-called justice from such a dysfunctional system only gives a dysfunctional brand of justice, if at all.

Speaking as one who has had the privilege in this case to attempt to wade through the legal system, I can say that the process is severely slanted against the individual who thinks they have been wronged. In many cases it requires money, and at the very least it requires an immense amount of time.

When complaints are issued, police investigate police. Months of extensions are issued; interviews are lost; and officers in question, over seven months after the fact, maintain a cloak of anonymity, still only identified as John and James Doe. The complainant has no such fortune, and in some cases is followed, harassed, and issued tickets by the very officers against whom they are complaining.

Documents wrestled from the claws of municipal government through Freedom of Information requests come back heavily censored with black ink, so that the information given is not done freely, and is largely uninformative. Again the wagons circle, and those who would seek out justice in this manner are left feeling foolish, angry, or that the entire process is a waste of time.

I do not believe this is accidental in the least.

Yet again, the trauma does not dissipate. It only festers, all the while manifesting itself in a deep distrust of the systems meant to serve. It is little wonder that trust of police, and any level of government, really, is reserved for the naive and blissfully ignorant.

These are lessons, of course, that many have already learned under circumstances infinitely more dire than those experienced at Occupy Nova Scotia. We are young, often white, and while no one can ever represent the movement, certainly not myself, might I offer a heartfelt apology for our collective ignorance and sense of entitlement.

With yesterday's decision however, Occupy Nova Scotia takes a strong step towards recognizing its own position of entitlement. And if it took the lesson of being dragged through the mud, having a home destroyed, and thrown in a cage for some to get it, so be it. And while it is impossible to outright turn one's back on this capitalist system under which we are all yoked, to request the alternative is to throw oneself at the feet of a more traditional means of seeking justice (so fleeting a term) that still exists all around us, now buried under so many feet of concrete, and has since time immemorial.

“It's a tribunal,” says Mi'kmaw elder Billy Lewis. “It's to give everyone a voice. So if a policeman wants to come and have a voice...it's a way for everyone to have a say, which is what a traditional circle does. And out of that circle, not the individual opinions around that circle, will come not a resolution, but a direction. This is quite different from a traditional court which says you're either guilty or innocent.

“It will be a way of bringing out all the things that we are here discussing, that will allow for a full and open discussion, and airing, of the grievances, the challenges, the possibilities, everything we need to do can come out of such a circle which could not come out of a combative court system. We're not talking here about 'Let's get the latest pig', or 'Let's challenge this cop or that cop.' We're talking about what can restore a balance to the thing that was thrown off balance when they came and scooped everybody there [on November 11th].

"I'm giving a biased perspective here, but it's a way of bringing all that stuff out, and no other process can do that. I'm saying that emphatically. We'd be setting a precedent for how that should occur. There's many examples of how it could be done, although we would be doing it, I would argue, as have others who have been supportive, for an Indigenous way of doing it.

“I think it would be great, and whether it works or whether it doesn't, the purpose I see of it would be to raise awareness, of not only what occurred, but where we should go, and what we should be doing, and how we should be dealing with stuff like this. Because it came up in discussion, people were saying 'I want to sue them. I want to get my property back.' And it doesn't exclude any of that, but the focus should not be [that]. As an organization, as Occupy, we should be looking at another way of doing things.”

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