KINDNESS AND RESPECT: At the heart of the Community Council must be a real, conscious feeling of
kindness and respect for both the offender and the victim. When the offender and victim realize that the
Council members actually care about them and respect them, then the message of the Council has a better
chance of getting through.
The most important characteristic of those serving as Council members should be a sense of kindness. Those
sitting on the Council also should, where possible, have a personal understanding and experience of the
problems and challenges faced by those who come before them. For example, if an offender comes before
the Council with a history of problems with alcohol, the Council members selected to serve on the pane would
ideally have personally dealt with this problem as well. In the same vein, where an individual comes from a
particular reserve, or speaks a Native language, then there should be someone from that reserve who speaks
that language on the Council panel.
SENTENCING: It must always be remembered that changing a person's lifestyle can only be done by the
person him/herself. While a person can be ordered to stop certain actions and to start doing other things,
whether or not the person will respond is in their hands alone. It may well take time for the important
messages from the Council members to reach an offender. Time in this sense could well be measured in
years, not just days or months. At the same time, even if a person is not yet ready to make the changes in
their life that are necessary, they may be taking steps in the right direction and those steps should be
encouraged. Council decisions therefore should be realistic and should motivate the person to look at their
life and re-examine it. For example, assume a man comes before the Council having broken a store window
while drunk. The Council might feel that what the person needs is to address their drinking problem - why is
he drinking? What can the person do to change what is ultimately a self-destructive path? However, the
Council cannot simply order a person to seek treatment at this or that agency or attend certain meetings. The
person has to want to change. This does not mean the Council is powerless. In such a case they may well
order the person to pay the store owner for the cost of replacing the window, or to perform community service
activities. At the same time, Council members would likely talk to the offender about what he could do to face
his problem. The important message - that the person should examine his life and seek to change it - might
not sink in for a while, but if the person has successfully made the restitution or performed the community
service and then gets in trouble again, he will likely listen more closely to the Council members the next time
around. And because he has successfully completed his decision, he will be able to come back to the Council
feeling that he has managed some degree of control in his life and perhaps more willing to take on other
In terms of community resources for offenders, the Council should always keep in mind that some of the most
important resources are the Elders and teachers of the community, either on a person's home reserve or in
Toronto itself. Professional agencies can help an offender but sometimes the most meaningful help an
offender can receive comes from a person who is spending time with them because they want to, not because
they are paid. This in fact is one of the strong points of the Council, the people hearing the cases will not be
judges pulling down large salaries, but members of the community volunteering their time.
SELECTION OF OFFENDERS TO COME BEFORE THE COUNCIL: It is the role of the Court Workers to
make the initial selection of those to go before the Council. In making these choices however, the Court
Workers cannot try to guess what offenders will be more likely than others to get something positive from the
program. It is not the Court Worker's job to judge who will likely benefit or not benefit from the Council. How
can anyone know the answer to such a question? The Council should be open to any offender. The only
restriction to offender participation in the Council should be the lack of resources in the community, either in
terms of the ability to help a certain number of people at any one time, or the ability to help that particular
PROCEDURE OF THE COUNCIL: A Community Council hearing will look very different from courtroom.
There will be four members on each Council panel. The Council will meet wherever is necessary and
appropriate, and if it can meet out doors and out of town on occasion, so much the better. The offenders and
victims who attend the Council should be made to feel welcome and to know that the Council members really
do care about their situation. Council hearings should be closed to the media.
Council members will reach their decisions by consensus. In some cases they may discuss the case in the presence of the accused and the victim, in others they may go into another room. There may be times when they wish to consider the case for a period of time and would thus ask that the parties return a few days later for the final decision.