SASKATOON — Is Our Community Safe? was the title of a restorative justice evening hosted by St. Anne’s Parish Dec. 10 and facilitated by community reintegration chaplain Peter Oliver of the Micah Mission.
Some 150 people attended to hear about the topic from the perspective of an ex-offender, a victim, and the chief of police.
Paul and Laureen Millette spoke from the perspective of the victim of a crime.
In September of 2012, Paul was the victim of an incident of road rage. He was coming back from a late dinner with his daughter when a truck travelling very quickly cut him off in the parking lot.
Paul honked at the man and the other driver responded by making an obscene gesture.
Paul began to drive out of the parking lot to go home when about half a block later the man cut him off and wedged him into the sidewalk so he could drive no further.
“I was scared and got more scared when I saw the driver, who was six-foot three and 230 pounds, had jumped out of his car and started screaming profanities while kicking my car,” recounted Millette.
When the light turned green, Paul managed to manoeuvre his vehicle out of the bottleneck but within a few blocks the man blocked him in again.
“When (the enraged driver) got out of his truck a second time, in a panic I reached over to hit the door lock button but accidentally hit the unlock button,” Paul said.
It was at that moment when the man tried to pull him out of the car. Again, though, when the light turned green, Paul made his escape by driving away.
“Luckily, witnesses provided a description of the vehicle and even license plate number,” Paul remembered gratefully.
The Millettes were pleased with the way they were treated by the Saskatoon and Regina City Police.
Paul said he felt that once the police were involved he would have a team of people behind him to legally exact revenge for the fear and pain he had experienced.
“This guy is in trouble,” Paul thought to himself. “Now, I’m in control.”
The offending driver was arrested a few months later and Paul was invited by Regina City Police to come identify the man.
Laureen briefly recounted how Paul started to lose sleep and becoming focused on the event, to the point of Googling the other driver to find out more about him.
“I wanted the book thrown at him,” Paul admitted. “I never thought that I’d participate in a restorative justice experience.”
The Millettes were approached by a group known by the acronym, RAMP, the Regina Alternative Measures Program.
RAMP is a First Nations-based organization where Aboriginal elders facilitate a process of mutual healing between the offender and the offended.
Paul was not sure if he should participate. He initially felt it would be letting the offender off the hook. He was convinced by a friend on his hockey team, who was a police officer, to give it a shot, and in July 2013 Paul met in a room with the man who had chased him down and threatened him only months before.
Paul had no idea what was going to happen. He remembered saying and then nearly yelling, “I feared you. I feared for my family. I’m old enough to be your dad!”
For two hours, the two men spoke. Paul shared his feelings, how he was not sleeping well and feeling nervous about interacting with strangers. The offender, who Paul gave the pseudonym, Alan, read a letter that revealed a history of concussions from hockey, and alcoholism. He also shared that he was working on getting his journeyman ticket.
The whole discussion was overseen by Elder Murray Keewatin, who Laureen described as a “formidable facilitator.”
“Over the course of time, the mood in the room changed from anger to listening,” she explained.
In the end, the two men came up with an agreement involving six steps Alan would take in order to show Paul that he was serious about his desire to change. The list included community service and a monthly donation to the Salvation Army.
“It was only after that conversation that I started to feel safe again,” admitted Paul. “I saw that it wasn’t about ‘victims and criminals’ or ‘good guys and bad guys,’ but that we are all just humans on a journey.”
Oliver lauded the Millettes for sharing their story in such a public way as well as for their decision to take steps to achieve restoration rather than revenge.
“Being willing and courageous enough to go out and meet with the person who committed a crime against you is a powerful faith statement,” Oliver stated. “Faith in the humanity of other people . . . and hope about what is possible.”
Paul concluded by stating that Alan was still with the same employer and that at the end of their last conversation they had wished each other a Merry Christmas.