Students restoring true justice 

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In this picture from left to right are Sophie Daschuk, Co-President; Ashley Layman, Vice President/Social Media Coordinator; Aidan McMartin, Vice President/ Director of Promotions; Dr. Muhammad Asadullah; Kaitlyn Stadnyk, Co-President; and Nicole Mah, Director of Communications/Club Secretary. Missing from photo: Zoë Goetz, Director of Outreach and Joshua Mendoza, Director of Programming"
In this picture from left to right are Sophie Daschuk, Ashley Layman, Aidan McMartin, Dr. Muhammad Asadullah, Kaitlyn Stadnyk, and Nicole Mah. Mohamed_hassan via Pixabay, manipulated by Lee Lim

Our university’s Restorative Justice Club may be young, but their impact cannot be understated 

Can justice truly be achieved without healing, rehabilitation, and reconciliation? Well, the University of Regina’s very own Restorative Justice (RJ) Club which originated in the Department of Justice Studies believes otherwise. This club stands as a beacon of hope and is actively dedicated to promoting restorative justice principles within and beyond the campus. 

With a commitment to fostering healing and providing support for Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities and organizations, the UR Restorative Justice Club (URRJC) is home to an inspiring initiative that recognizes the needs of those affected by crime. Restorative justice, at its core, is a platform where victims, offenders, and communities unite, nurturing a safe place for open and honest dialogue. 

In the words of URRJC President and sixth-year Human Justice student Kaitlyn Stadnyk, “The URRJC is dedicated to providing programs, services, and support for all communities, organizations, and schools in the Treaty 4 area. Through valued collaborations, the URRJC embraces an approach to justice that encourages meaningful community engagement on the causes, circumstances, and impacts of crimes while providing an opportunity for healing, reparation of relationships harmed, and reintegration.”  

To gain deeper insights into the club’s mission, services, and impact on the student body, the Carillon had the privilege of speaking with a key advocate figure of the URRJC, Dr. Muhammad Asadullah. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Justice Studies at the U of R, and he is also a pillar of the club. With an impressive tenure of over a decade in this field, his deep passion for restorative justice shines through, particularly through his teaching of the Justice Studies 318: Restorative and Community Justice course.  

Reflecting on the origins of the URRJC, Dr. Asadullah explains that this club emerged from a group project undertaken by his students during the 2020-21 academic year. As part of this project, students went beyond the classroom to promote the concept of restorative justice. Some visited local high schools while others engaged with the community and initiated activities on campus themed around restorative justice. 

Within this motivated group of students inspired by Dr. Asadullah’s vision, a clear outcome arose: the establishment of a formal Restorative Justice Club on campus. The club thus emerged as a collective of Dr. Asadullah’s students, all driven by their shared passion for restorative justice. Sophie Daschuk, a fifth-year anthropology student as well as co-president of URRJC, explained that they “strive to give university students the opportunity to become responsible community members by providing volunteer opportunities and various training opportunities such as naloxone training to help keep the community safe.” 

“With our monthly meetups, known as RJ cafes,” Daschuk continued, “we welcome community leaders, activists, and restorative justice practitioners to share their experience and knowledge with us. We hope to better understand what our role as a responsible community member is, and what it means to use a restorative justice approach within the criminal justice system and in our relationships.” 

When asked about the club’s most significant impact to date, Dr. Asadullah spoke proudly of the remarkable community dialogue held at the University of Regina in collaboration with the John Howard Society of Saskatchewan during the 2022 Restorative Justice (RJ) Week. The RJ Week is usually held in the third week of November annually on national and international levels to honour and promote the ethos of restorative justice.

For offenders, it offers an opportunity to take responsibility for the harm they have caused, while for the victims it aims to reduce the feelings of anger and powerlessness. Held in the Multipurpose Room of the Riddell Centre, this community dialogue event brought together restorative justice organizations and programs from across the province to share and learn about diverse restorative justice practices. In Dr. Asadullah’s own words: “We had folks from Saskatoon Police Services and practitioners from Prince Albert, Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, and Regina where they shared amazing restorative justice practices. In my opinion, that event is of the highest achievements of the club as of now. We are hoping to celebrate the Restorative Justice Week once again on campus this year.” 

Moreover, it is worth noting that the AIDS Program South SK, a Regina-based non-profit harm reduction organization, conducted a comprehensive Narcan training session for members of the URRJC. Narcan, also known as naloxone, is a medication known for its ability to bind the brain’s opioid receptors and rapidly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. This year, AIDS Program South SK’s dedicated team shared invaluable knowledge and practical skills during the training session held in the Education Building on campus. Following this, all executive team members of the URRJC are equipped with the expertise to administer naloxone effectively. This ensures their readiness to respond swiftly in emergency situations, thereby being a crucial lifeline for individuals experiencing an overdose. 

The URRJC also frequently volunteers with the White Pony Lodge (WPL) Community Patrol whose efforts to enhance the cleanliness and safety of the North Central neighbourhood are ongoing. The primary focus of WPL during their Friday and Saturday weekly patrols is to remove hazardous items such as needles, syringes, pill bottles, baggies, and weapons from the streets and alleys where they can potentially be harmful to residents. The volunteers also hand out warm clothes and food to those in need during their patrols. 

Zoe Goetz, Director of Outreach with URRJC and a fourth-year Psychology student, highlights that “WPL demonstrates to patrol volunteers the values of RJ when they are acting within their community; they encompass respect, integrity, compassion, active listening, and restoration of relationships. […] It is fundamental that we as a community have the opportunity to voice what we had seen on patrols, and support SHRIP’s [Students for Harm Reduction and Informed Policy’s] initiative.” 

In the same vein, Joshua Mendoza – Director of Programming for URRJC and a student in Police Studies – declared “After volunteering once with the White Pony Lodge Inc., I not only enjoyed the company of the executive members, but I found myself sharing the same passion for restorative justice. Prior to volunteering at White Pont, I volunteered with the Regina Alternative Measure Program (RAMP) for two years. RAMP has given me the opportunity to learn more about restorative justice over the years. […] I believe that as the only university restorative justice club in Canada, we can advocate for this passion of ours nationally.” 

Envisioning the future, Dr. Asadullah said “Conflict is neither good nor bad. It is an opportunity for growth as seen in the restorative justice paradigm. Conflict in RJ worldview is seen as a symptom to address underlying needs. […] We hope to apply the restorative justice principles at all levels on campus.” 

The club aims to uphold that hope, and to integrate restorative justice processes both on and off campus. Their vision extends beyond individual incidents, as the club aspires to apply these practices to different scenarios. Whether it’s addressing conflicts among campus residents, tackling academic misconduct, or resolving disputes between faculty members, students, or individuals in the community at large, the club champions the application of restorative justice at all levels.  

Dr. Asadullah ended on a note of encouragement for students from all disciplines. “Students from any discipline can join UR Restorative Justice Club as the notion of justice affects all of us. Students from other disciplines will gain valuable experience and find ways to apply restorative justice principles in their own lives.”

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