Organizing team for the STC Justice Symposium. Crystal Laplante standing in the back. Photo by Joel Willick.

A conference in Saskatoon this week is taking a look at how mental health and addictions play out in restorative justice.

The Saskatoon Tribal Council Justice Symposium has been looking at Indigenous justice ideologies in the approach to restorative justice.

The conference began on Tuesday and will finish on Friday.

Crystal Laplante is the Director of Justice for the Saskatoon Tribal Council, and for her, the conference is especially important. In her experience, pretty much every client she has in the legal system is struggling with some sort of mental health or addiction issue.

“We have do something with that because we can’t keep our people in the system,” says Laplante.

She says any changes that will occur need to come from the community.

“Restorative justice is a very community driven process, the community needs to step up and help our youth and their families,” says Laplante. “Whether it be way of healing circles, sentencing circles, it is a very community driven process.”

As the STC Director of Justice, Laplante says She hopes people will leave the conference with an appreciation of the importance of justice in other areas.

“Justice is not a silo department,” she says. “Justice needs to work hand in hand with mental health, addictions, employment and training and housing. It’s all there and we all need to come full circle.”

The conference saw presentations from a wide range of national experts.

Dr. Gabor Mate, a physician and best-selling author, spoke on his work in childhood trauma and the treatment of mental health and addictions.

Another presentation was from J.R. LaRose, a Grey Cup winning football player. LaRose spoke about being raised in the home of a mother who was a Residential School survivor.

He spoke about being able to rise above his home life in which he watched his mother struggle with substance abuse as a result of her experience.

The conference drew participants from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta.