Interviewer: Greg Labrosse
Language of interview: English and French
Country of practice: Canada
Profession: Informal Conflict Resolution practitioner with the Government of Canada. Teaches mediation in the Faculty of Law at the Université de Sherbrooke.
William Henriques works as an Informal Conflict Resolution practitioner with the government of Canada, and teaches mediation at the University of Sherbrooke. During the last few years, he has been a board member at the Centre de services de justice réparatrice (CSJR), in Montreal. The centre’s mission is to create safe dialogue spaces between survivors and offenders of violent acts, to recognize the damage caused, and transform society by strengthening its social fabric. According to Henriques, restorative justice is an alternative practice that complements the traditional legal system, by taking into account the psychological needs and mental health of individuals, and focusing on repairs rather than only a punitive approach.
During our conversation, Henriques explains how restorative justice spaces are designed to foster dialogue, which facilitates authenticity and accountability. He describes different types of restorative encounters both in communal spaces in prison settings and in CSJR office spaces. During CSJR processes, survivors are invited to arrange the seating configuration and choose how close participants will be to each other. Henriques recognises that although certain adaptations are possible, there are several constraints in terms of spatial conditions such as size, furniture, lighting, and room availability.
Further, Henriques talks about how CSJR current spaces feel a little impersonal, as they have not been fully adapted for a restorative purpose. However, he explains how they are now trying to be mindful about spatial qualities such as the colour of the room, the material of the furniture, the presence of plants and books, and the position of windows and doors. In addition, he explains the importance of not having too many distractions present in the room. For Henriques participants should be the ones bringing any pieces to the process, which could foster dialogue and healing, and give them a sense of agency and co-creation.