In this case, many questions arise about the guarantee of
access to a fair and equitable resolution process. How will oral
evidence play a role in the road to resolution? What stories will
get marginalized by the process? And does marginalizing them
completely deny the experience of a person or group of people?
IN SEARCH OF RESOLUTION
While resolution for the Inuit case has not been entirely
effective, as the Canadian government has yet to acknowledge the issue, the provincial government of Québec agreed
to a public inquiry. A retired superior court judge was appointed
to investigate. Throughout the investigation, the judge placed
oral evidence on an equal footing with the types of evidence
that courts are familiar with. He listened to the testimonies in
addition to flying across the fourteen communities to gather
his own interviews. In the end, his findings concluded that the
incident did happen and Inuit people were negatively affected
by it. In 2010, the Québec government responded with an apology and compensation.1 Taking a cue from the judge’s handling
of the investigation, perhaps there are a few ways conflict resolution practitioners could bring about change when dealing
with the cultural realities of conflict:
1Be Mindful Of Standards. As Noted in Article 40 of the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
“Indigenous peoples have the right to access to and
prompt decision through just and fair procedures for the
resolution of conflicts and disputes with States or other
parties, as well as to effective remedies for all infringe-
ments of their individual and collective rights. Such a
decision shall give due consideration to the customs,
traditions, rules, and legal systems of the indigenous
peoples concerned and international human rights.”
Practitioners have the power to set an example by un-
packing the intersection of cultures in conflict to make the
role of Indigenous people visible in resolution processes.
2Respect the voices of all parties involved in the conflict resolu- tion process. The judge broke protocol. He restored value in the
oral evidence, providing an opportunity for the Inuit to voice their
truth and their pain. Effectively, he showed that what we needed to
learn about the dog slaughter could not be found in written documents. His example shows that oral testimony can transcend
its perceived limitations. Practitioners have a responsibility to
see that the stories that hold the truth of an experience for
people get told. This can be achieved by treating their stories
as an equal part of the rich mixture of material that must be
3Capture the most common cultural dynamics and address them. Consider language, the meaning of words, styles of
communication, and beyond. Be prepared to discuss the past.
As in the Inuit-RCMP case, historical experiences affected every
step of the conflict and way forward to resolution. It is okay to
acknowledge the historical and cultural mistreatment of others.
Cross-cultural interaction from all parties, including the practitioner’s role, will affect ways of working together to understand a
conflict and find ways to resolve it.
4Adopt conflict resolution processes that see Indigenous people as stakeholders rather than victims of injustice.
‘Western’ legal and political language privileges non-Indigenous
understandings of conflict resolution. Practitioners have the
opportunity to balance the scale, to equally support the stories of
all parties and, not least important, to respect Indigenous styles
of conflict management. Indigenous leadership and involvement
5Think beyond standard models of conflict resolution prac- tice. Well-known work such as Getting to Yes, by Roger
Fisher and William Ury, focused on macro-approaches to conflict
resolution, has set up an important road map. To build on such
work, consider the uniqueness of culture in conflict and let this
shape and reshape the techniques conflict resolution practitioners use in cross-cultural settings.
For me the “New Voices” theme in this issue has dual meaning:
offering space for new writers on conflict resolution, and recognizing the ethical and practical necessity of hearing new voices
in conflict resolution processes. In the complex world of today,
culturally and otherwise, there is a need to continually revisit
our understanding of “due process” as context-sensitive. This
is especially important because resolution in circumstances
like the Inuit case goes beyond the redress of an injustice. Ideally, the outcome works toward building trust and a mutually
respectful working relationship between governmental entities and traditional peoples.
While resolution for the Inuit case has not
been entirely effective, as the Canadian
government has yet to acknowledge the issue,
the provincial government of Québec agreed to
a public inquiry.