Saturday, 28 March 2015


Yesterday, I received an email from a woman who has been following my journey with Sawbonna, often sharing with me her views about Sawbonna/Restorative Justice. She was particularly concerned about the Dalhousie crisis asking me why I supported the school's call for Restorative Justice. After reading that yesterday was the anniversary of the day my Father, Theodore Van Sluytman, and Glen Flett shared encounter with two bullets, and that Glen and his wife Sherry and I have become dear friends, she emailed me to say that she found this distressing. She told me that her response, had she had the experience of a loved one being killed, would be to simply let it go. Let it flow down the river. I was deeply moved by her words, which pointed to what both victims/survivors and offenders find distressing. Their distress coming from the fact that our society, our communities are hesitant (an understatement) to step into the river, with and for each other. I emailed her back telling her that we are the river we are the flow. And I wished her increased joy and decreased pain. She emailed me and thanked me for my kindness. This last email from her, thanking me for my kindness, spoke to me in a potent and poignant way. And how did it do so? It did so for it was in keeping with Sawbonna's meaning contextualized in the precious crucible of, respect, responsibility, relationship, and wonder, she and I saw each other. Yes! With our words, choosing to connect, to express, to explain, to Sawbonna, we engaged NOT in us vs. them, but in us with us. She did not ask or demand of me to do or to be else, nor did I demand these things of her. This was an expression of the transformative power of words; writing and sharing them, speaking them. These choices mean that even as we do not agree with every idea or thought, we can still hear, we can still listen, we can still see, we can still be seen. And in so doing, we come to embrace our voice and that of others. And we come to fine-tune our own necessary relationships with how and what justice as a lived and living expression speaks to and from.


  1. Listening, hearing, being the other... so important.

    1. Yes! This is the purview of Sawbonna/Restorative Justice.

  2. NOTE: One of my students and a victim/survivor of crime who is as well a dear friend of mine, asked me if I did not feel anger towards the woman who told me that she found my friendship with Glen and Sherry distressing. My answer to them was, "I did." I felt deep anger. I thought about what my Mom continues to speak about, which is exactly what my friend, whose son was murdered, said, "No one can know what s/he would do until s/he walks in the shoes or has a similar experience." Further, I believe that a direct statement such as the one I received, which often feels like and is 'finger-pointing and judgment is a sign, a signal, a nudge to remember that every single time someone "lashes out" and judges, which we each do from time to time, a trigger has been touched. AND this is one of the most important reasons whey Circle, Mediation, and stepping into Sawbonna, which resides in the crucible of: respect, responsibility, and relationship, matters, and proves a gift to and for and with each other.

    When Circle or Mediation are not possible, available, or wanted, I do the work myself in the intellect of my heart and soul. The work of asking what triggered a particular response and what triggered my anger. My answer is contoured in the fact that our very shared-humanity and humanness not only inspires all emotions, they inspire us to trust the time it takes to sit with our emotions and to be, to be still, to walk, to create, and find the places, spaces, books, articles, people, and abundant gifts of Nature to know our truths. To Sawbonna our very self.