|Gerald Hashey - Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission|
An alternative, formal investigation would focus information and power in the hands of one person, he said.
"A restorative approach is characterized by involving parties who are affected by the issue, it's characterized by being forward looking, it's characterized by thinking about the community needs in a broader perspective," Hashey said Thursday.
Hashey said the process has dealt with issues of racism, homophobia and gender discrimination. It brings together the two sides to discuss what an appropriate punishment should be.
"It's been our experience that we get better outcomes, people are better engaged, people are more willing to accept responsibility for their actions," he said.
"They're gaining insight into the impact of their actions, or their inactions in some cases."
Allows broader context
The restorative process brings in a broader context, he said, such as the early morning bikini video allegedly shown to students by a male professor.
Hashey said all the women involved should be contacted about the process. He said the upcoming Christmas break and approaching graduation dates make it hard to carry out a full restorative justice process.
"That's what we have to deal with. We can't hope for something else," he said.
Dalhousie University president Richard Florizone has stressed that even under restorative justice, the code of conduct still lists expulsion as a possible outcome from the process. It's not clear if the outcome of the process will ever be made public.
|Dalhousie University president Richard Florizone|
Pam Rubin, a lawyer and counsellor who has researched restorative justice, said she thinks this is the wrong way to deal with the students who posted on a Facebook page called the Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen.
She said Dalhousie University has a public responsibility not to hide the outcome of this process.
"We empower these institutions and give them a lot of public support and funding because they ensure that professional standards will be met and that the public is safe in trusting its members," said Rubin.
"Regardless of whatever restorative justice process takes place, these kind of questions must be answered by the university and other public institutions. They cannot be answered by a long, secretive victim-offender process."
|Pam Rubin, a lawyer, says Dalhousie University has a public responsibility |
not to hide the outcome of the restorative justice process.
Rubin said there is a very significant public interest involved in patients who use Dalhousie's dental clinic, which is served by fourth-year dental students.
"Right now, women are telling me — especially if they've had a history of sexual victimization which many women do have — that they are not going to be able, ever, to go back to that clinic."
Rubin said the restorative justice process has a history of being ineffective. She said in the U.S., victims are suing some schools and saying they have been retraumatized by the restorative process and were unable to continue their studies.
"I'm not sure what asking them to participate in a long, secretive, potentially retraumatizing and ineffective process with their abusers or harassers is going to accomplish that is better than that — which is simply accepting the fact that the harassment has occurred and it's had impacts, asking women what they need, now, and providing it," she said.
Rubin said these are not "theoretical or abstract questions" in Nova Scotia.
"We have one of the highest rates of sexual assault. A high proportion of those assaults are drug-facilitated, so these are not abstract questions," she said.
"This is something Nova Scotians are dealing with on an every day basis."
A fourth-year dentistry student at Dalhousie University in Halifax says the restorative justice solution is unacceptable, and she and her father want an investigation.
The 25-year-old woman, says, "It feels shocking to be asked to discipline my own peers. That's not my job. It's good that they're asking for our input but ... we don't know all the facts. How can we be asked to make a decision based on partial information about our peers? It's very, very hard,".
"We work with them every day; we've worked with them for four years. We just need someone who's impartial to maybe help us get through this, or figure it out."
She said the university is putting a lot on students at a crucial time at the end of term.
"I think as an institution it's Dalhousie's job to make a safe learning environment for all of its students regardless of what the issue is now. Take some leadership, take some initiative, prevent these issues from happening."
Health minister mulls options
Nova Scotia Health Minister Leo Glavine said he has confidence in the restorative justice process.
|Nova Scotia Health Minister Leo Glavine|
The province could move to block students from getting a licence to practice, as it controls seven of the 14 seats on the Dental Board of Nova Scotia, the province's licensing agency.
"That's a stage that I'm absolutely prepared to address as this unfolds in the coming weeks," Glavine said. "It really is premature to present to the board what I, as the minister, may see fit. I want to see first and foremost the restorative justice process run its course."
Smart man - must have read my blog yesterday, te he. What I would like to see is for those 'gentlemen' who behave much more like adolescents than men, gentle or otherwise, to be suspended for one year and so not be able to take their finals until December 2015. They might actually do some growing up in that time.
These pathetic immature comments made on Facebook is almost exactly the kind of thing that started the media looking at the 'culture of rape' in North American universities. It looks like we have a long way to go to overcome this extreme misogynistic attitude, if indeed it is possible at all.
I continue to blame much of it on the easy availability of pornography to adolescents on the internet. It shapes their attitude toward women and girls just as their minds are reorganizing through puberty. But there is no chance of putting that genie back in the bottle.
In one of the posts, male students in the group voted on which woman they'd like to have "hate" sex with and joked about using chloroform on women.
In a post dated May 2013, a member defines a penis as "the tool used to wean and convert lesbians and virgins into useful, productive members of society."
The woman says she was not consulted by the university’s administration before the restorative justice decision was made.
"I’m frustrated. It’s unacceptable. It’s not representative," she said.
Calling for a 3rd-party investigation
Her father is also upset. "I find the president’s response to this crisis in the Dal community to be absolutely inappropriate, ineffective, and not truthful. To my knowledge, he has spoken to two of the young dental female candidates — there are at least 20-plus to my knowledge, many of whom do not know the circumstances and the content of the offensive Facebook pages that are an issue," he said.
He said this puts the women in the program "in the very awkward position — being worried about their grades, about their exams, about their graduation, and about the repercussions that any active opposition to the president's proposed strategy will have on their specific and individual life and career."
The man says he’s outraged, and that the university has the responsibility to "take swift, decisive action to root out the apparent culture of disrespect for young women and provide a meaningful response."
"I’m just absolutely shocked at their strategy, at their response. From my perspective it’s ineffective, it’s inappropriate, and an independent, third-party, arm’s-length investigation needs to happen."
'Touchy-feely restorative justice ... not the answer'
The man said he sent a letter to Dalhousie president Richard Florizone on Wednesday, but has yet to hear a response.
He also said it’s not for him to say whether these men should be expelled. "I don’t have all the facts. I understand their careers are on the line, I understand they have a significant financial investment in their education and in their future careers," he said.
"I think, as I said, that procedural fairness has to not have a knee-jerk reaction to this, but something has to be done because school starts again in two weeks and the female students are going to be back in the clinic with the male perpetrators and that is not going to be a healthy learning environment."