Road rage victim walks path of restorative justice

Laureen and Paul Millette tell how a process of restorative justice helped Paul overcome the trauma from an incident of road rage.

PRAIRIE MESSENGER PHOTO | BLAKE SITTLER

Laureen and Paul Millette tell how a process of restorative justice helped Paul overcome the trauma from an incident of road rage.

February 9, 2015
BLAKE SITTLER
PRAIRIE MESSENGER

A Saskatoon man terrorized by an incident of road rage came to an accommodation with the perpetrator through a process of restorative justice.

"Being willing and courageous enough to go out and meet with the person who committed a crime against you is a powerful faith statement," said Peter Oliver, community reintegration chaplain with the Micah Mission, an ecumenical restorative justice ministry in Saskatoon.

It involves "faith in the humanity of other people . . . and hope about what is possible," Oliver told a recent meeting attended by 150 people at St. Anne's Church.

In September 2012, Paul Millette was returning from a late dinner with his daughter in Regina when a fast-travelling truck cut him off in the parking lot.

Millette honked at the man and the other driver responded by making an obscene gesture.

Millette began to drive out of the parking lot to go home when about half a block later the man cut him off and wedged him into the sidewalk so he could drive no further.

"I was scared and got more scared when I saw the driver, who was six-foot three and 230 pounds, had jumped out of his car and started screaming profanities while kicking my car," he recounted.

When the light turned green, Millette managed to manoeuvre his vehicle out of the bottleneck, but within a few blocks the man blocked him in again.

"When (the enraged driver) got out of his truck a second time, in a panic I reached over to hit the door lock button but accidentally hit the unlock button," Millette said.

At that moment the man tried to pull him out of the car. However, when the light turned green, Millette made his escape by driving away.

"Luckily, witnesses provided a description of the vehicle and even licence plate number," he remembered.

He and his wife Laureen were pleased with the way they were treated by the Saskatoon and Regina City Police.

SEEKING REVENGE

Paul said he felt that once the police were involved that he would have a team of people behind him to legally exact revenge for the fear and pain that he had experienced.

"This guy is in trouble," Paul thought to himself. "Now, I'm in control."

The offending driver was arrested a few months later and Paul was invited by Regina Police to identify the man.

Laureen briefly recounted how Paul started to lose sleep and became focused on the event, to the point of Googling the other driver to find out more about him.

"I wanted the book thrown at him," Paul admitted. "I never thought that I'd participate in a restorative justice experience."

The Millettes were approached by RAMP, the Regina Alternative Measures Program.

RAMP is a First Nations-based organization where aboriginal elders facilitate a process of mutual healing between the offender and the offended.

Paul was not sure if he should participate. He initially felt that it would be letting the offender off the hook.

TOOK CONVINCING

He was convinced by a police officer friend on his hockey team to give it a shot, and in July 2013 Paul met with the man who had chased him down and threatened him several months earlier.

Paul had no idea what was going to happen. He remembered saying and then nearly yelling, "I feared you. I feared for my family. I'm old enough to be your dad!"

For two hours, the two men spoke. Paul shared his feelings, how he was not sleeping well and feeling nervous about interacting with strangers.

The offender, who Paul gave the pseudonym, Alan, read a letter that revealed a history of concussions from hockey and alcoholism. He also shared that he was working on getting his journeyman ticket.

The discussion was overseen by Elder Murray Keewatin, who Laureen described as a "formidable facilitator."

"Over the course of time, the mood in the room changed from anger to listening," she explained.

AGREEMENT REACHED

In the end, the two men came up with an agreement involving six steps that Alan would take in order to show Paul that he was serious about his desire to change. The list included community service and a monthly donation to the Salvation Army.

"It was only after that conversation that I started to feel safe again," admitted Paul. "I saw that it wasn't about 'victims and criminals' or 'good guys and bad guys,' but that we are all just humans on a journey."

Paul concluded by stating that Alan was still with the same employer and that at the end of their last conversation they had wished each other a Merry Christmas.

Oliver lauded the Millettes for sharing their story in such a public way as well as for their decision to take steps to achieve restoration rather than revenge.