Restorative justice seeks to create community harmony

Bert Pitzel works to build harmony between criminals and victims.


Bert Pitzel works to build harmony between criminals and victims.

November 25, 2013

A place where you matter, a place where you belong.

That, says Bert Pitzel, is the essence of a satisfied soul. Pitzel, social justice co-ordinator for the Regina Archdiocese, spoke to the WCR prior to his Nov. 18 visit to Edmonton to speak about restorative justice.

But for one to have a satisfied soul, we must "ultimately be engaged in a meaningful life. We have to be appreciated for the gifts that we are.

"Our society has to be structured in such a way that in our giving, we are given to so we can be supported."

This can come from having a good job, a network of support, community.

Pitzel came to this wisdom the hard way. Born in Saskatchewan into a family of 17 children, he and the family made their living from children helping on the dirt poor quarter section mixed farm. Father was a teacher whose wages depended on the decision of the local school board. And they were not of the generous sort.

But Pitzel recognizes that the strengths he now uses in restorative justice work were gleaned from "coming from a large family and the relationships formed in there, modeling of my parents, living on dirt poor farm."

A smile fills his voice as he says, "It puts my heart in a place to love the poor."

Restorative justice incorporates both criminal, victim and community's needs. Through meetings and negotiation with the victim and or community, the criminal accepts the impact of their actions.

Often some reparation is made and/or apologies made. Often the impacted community is involved. This way, a healing of all sides can take place and wounds are healed.

Pitzel takes part in two restorative justice groups, Circles of Support and Accountability, and Friends on the Outside.

The umbrella groups minister to people who have a family member incarcerated and support a coffee group for those on the outside. "But they also have a connection with those on the inside and those who come out."

Most participants are aboriginal. Pitzel explains, "I have always had a heart-felt connection to the aboriginal people because I think that I felt like they felt."

It is through action such as these two groups, Pitzel, explains "The Church in its action has to be about restoration; it can't be legalistic, guilt-driven.''

Asked about society's major problem, his answer is swift.

"Bullying. The biggest bully is the economic system that seems to be devoid of humanity and has taken over our political system."


So what can we do?

"The only thing we can do is become informed," says Pitzel. "We can gather in groups. We can believe in the power of small, the yeast, the mustard seed, the salt and the light. We have to believe that's powerful."

To get rid of that empty feeling that too many of us have, Pitzel says, "We must live as people who value people in the circle in which we are in. Look after one another and problem solve. Take one step that is there for our taking and take it."

No matter how hard the times, he says, "we have to be restored to our true self."