Aboriginal Women and Political Pursuit in Canadian Sentencing Circles: At Crossroads or Cross purposes?

Publication Date


Document Type

Book Chapter

Organizational Units

Sturm College of Law


Restorative justice, Aboriginal communities, Sentencing, Domestic abuse


This chapter addresses Canadian sentencing circles in domestic violence situations. It is argued that Aboriginal communities expect sentencing circles to serve certain political goals in addition to the traditional restorative justice goals—such as educating the broader society about historical and social contributors to criminality, promoting Aboriginal self-governance and incorporating Aboriginal dispute resolution into mainstream dispute resolution. The tension between these political goals and the traditional restorative justice goal limits the effectiveness of sentencing circles. Aboriginal victims of domestic abuse might not criticize the sentencing circles’ failure to address their harms as victims because this might undermine the legitimacy of Aboriginal dispute resolution methods. However, if this tension is recognized, better methods can be devised, to improve the effectiveness of sentencing circles, and minimize domestic abuse in Aboriginal families.