We were fortunate to have Fr. Philippe Landenne SJ, from the French Belgian Province, spend some time with us recently. Fr. Philippe has worked in prison ministry in Belgium for 25 years. He also founded a community, “Catacombs”, that welcomes former inmates who have just left prison.
This was not the first time in Canada for Philippe. In 2005, he spent six months in Ottawa. There, he met Pierre Allard, who was then the Director of Chaplaincy for the Correctional Service of Canada. It was through Mr. Allard that Philippe was introduced to restorative justice, and Philippe has been working in that field ever since.
While he was with us, Philippe presented an evening on this topic of restorative justice. He showed us an excellent documentary about the Hollow Water Native band in Manitoba, which has adopted a community-based healing circle with a restorative justice approach. He explained the difference between restorative and punitive justice. He challenged us to question our society`s punitive system, and suggested that Christianity, with its rich tradition of reconciliation, has something to contribute to this claimed Native tradition of community justice and healing circles. We were inspired to want to learn more, and Philippe offered this work to us as a possible area to focus on here at the Centre.
Philippe also visited with some local Native groups who practise alternative forms of justice. He visited them in the company of the new director of the Centre, Fr. David Shulist. Philippe and David also had time to enjoy the natural beauty of the area, going on a couple of canoe trips. It was Philippe’s first time canoeing, and he proved himself well. We hope he is able to return for further work in restorative justice, and also no doubt for more canoeing and swimming.