Serge Charbonneau
Interviewer: Vanessa Sicotte
Language of interview: French
Country of practice: Canada
Profession: Director Équijustice (Québec)

Serge Charbonneau is a mediator for Correctional Services Canada and the general director of ÉquiJustice, a provincial organisation in Quebec that has facilitated restorative justice and citizen mediation programs for more than forty years. ÉquiJustice provides assistance in legal cases with law professionals, training and consultations, restorative justice for adults and teenagers, as well as “citizen meditations” for conflicts between members of a community. The program includes processes with participants that are connected by a crime, as well as practices in which people share a similar experience, but do not know each other prior to the encounter.

During our conversation, Charbonneau explains that the spaces for restorative practices in ÉquiJustice seek to provide an environment of neutrality. He describes how most sites have an office atmosphere, using shades of brown and artificial plant decorations. He analyses that recently, spatial conditions have been rethought, producing workplaces with adequate light, sound and room flexibility. According to Charbonneau, the spatial conditions of a restorative practice are only important at the beginning and end of the meetings, because during the encounters people concentrate on the conversation more than on their surrounding environment.

Moreover, he highlights confidentiality as being the most important aspect to consider during the encounters. Accordingly, the use of materials and spatial design should allow for total privacy throughout the process. He illustrates this situation with an example from the ÉquiJustice Montreal office. He then talks about the restorative work in virtual spaces, in which he highlights the importance of different conditions such as the background of the videoconference, the quality of the sound, the tone of the voice, and the importance of eye contact to ensure the best connection between the participants. To conclude, Charbonneau clarifies that the purpose of restorative justice is not always to heal the bonds between two individuals, but rather that both parts find emotional healing.