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Historical VIRRJA Conferences:

Historical Virtual VIRRJA Conferences

Nov 26, 2022- Shifting from Challenge to Opportunity
Transforming Mental Health Perspectives in Restorative Justice

On November 26th, VIRRJA was thrilled to offer a one-day on-line Conference on “Shifting from Challenge to Opportunity,” a continuation of the February 2022 conference on “Mental Health Challenges in Restorative Justice.”  Programs throughout British Columbia and Alberta were invited. Huge thanks to all who registered!

On this page you will find:

1) Poster

2) Reflections and Gratitude- from Loraine Lee

3) Presidents Address- from Richard Tarnoff

4) ​Presenter Workshop Details (and a link to Allan's educational website!)

5) Presenter Bios

Reflections and Gratitude

Nov 26, 2022

It is my great pleasure on behalf of VIRRJA to express our gratitude to Allan Wade, Carol Larsen, and Nicky Hadwell for the wisdom and experience they shared with us. We have learned much from the breadth of their knowledge, and they have given us many practical skills to build into our restorative justice practices to acknowledge violence and trauma, resist violence, and give back dignity.

Allan not only addressed the importance of language, in the media and the Criminal Code, but he also highlighted a whole "new" language. We learned phrases from Allan (and attendees!) with phrases such as our "culture of concealing" the truth about violence, and the " neo liberal capitalism language" that we use to describe predatory behavior and violence against women and children.

Carol shared her vast experience and gave us an understanding of trauma and shame, and institutional responses to trauma. She provided us with some useful practices to approach trauma and to "treat the person with love". Nicky taught us about our ladder of inference and the need for us, as restorative justice practitioners, to be conscious and vigilant of where we are on our own ladders of inference.

Perhaps the most important lesson we learned was the immensity of how neutralizing violence and trauma is normalized in our culture. Where do we begin to tackle large and powerful systems? In the words of one participant, "How do we flip the switch"? Allan Wade's response was, "That part of restorative justice is to talk to the right people in public institutions". A participant gave the analogy:

"A drop of water falling on a rock, gradually over time, if it keeps dripping, the water does eventually erode the rock.” Another participant added, "Yes, and partnerships can create bigger and heavier drops.”

The message is: "Keep Challenging. We can change systems." And as Allan confidently reminded us we are already are.

I hope we will take the lessons we learned today and return to our communities and continue to make "drops of water" on our public institutions so that the truth about violence and trauma can be acknowledged and recognized and healing can occur. Thank you Allan, Carol and Nicky for the lessons we have learned. We are truly grateful.

Loraine Lee
VIRRJA Board Member

PO Box 1325, Ladysmith, BC V9G 1A9

President's Address:

Shifting: From Challenge to Opportunity
Nov 26, 2022

Good morning everyone and welcome to the Vancouver Island Region Restorative Justice Association conference, “Shifting from Challenge to Opportunity”. My name is Richard Tarnoff. We are grateful to Charlene Dawson of the Dzawada'enuxw First Nation for her welcome and guidance. 

We acknowledge that we live and carry out our work on the unceded traditional territories of many First Nations.

We are also grateful that so many of you have chosen to join us today from across BC and throughout Canada. Welcome to those of you from Manitoba, Ontario and from other BC communities including:  Coquitlam, Golden, Williams Lake, Nelson, and Kelowna.

This has been a busy and exciting year for VIRRJA.  Our mission continues to be "To bring together all restorative justice programs and practitioners in the Vancouver Island Region to guide, share, and inspire best practices and processes."  In addition, VIRRJA provides a united voice for our programs to continue to build a strong relationship with the Provincial Government.

And while we work to partner with the RCMP and the Provincial Government, we recognize that the government and the legal system are struggling themselves to overcome a legacy of Colonialism and violence toward Indigenous Peoples. 

As a sign of their commitment to reconciliation, BC was  the first and only Provincial Government to pass legislation adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (This is an encouraging development.)

To follow through and bring Provincial laws and policies into alignment with UNDRIP will take courage, perseverance, and humility on their part. We need to ask ourselves, as a partner, how we can support the Province of BC in that mission; certainly by recognizing their accomplishments, but also by pointing out where more needs to be done. And of course, as individuals and organizations, we are all challenged to recognize how our own attitudes and actions have been affected by colonialism.

And while we may recognize problems within the legal system, we still need to build trusting relationships with agencies, police officers and justice workers, so that we can continue to support the affected parties, responsible parties and communities who wish to choose alternative, healing processes.

This is a delicate balance to maintain, but it provides us with an opportunity to encourage the use of restorative values and practices, in order to support dialogue and address problems within the system. It is not hard to find examples that would benefit from a restorative approach.

In 2021, Victoria Police Department senior management and the Victoria City Police Union co-sponsored a study on mental health and well-being in the department. The study had a high response rate, with 79% of the department’s officers participating in it by attending focus groups and completing an online survey.

The study found that 20% of Victoria's 249 officers were on leave, many as a result of “mental health challenges.” Of those still on the job, 22% had clinical symptoms of PTSD. Could restorative practices be utilized to better understand and deal with these injuries? And could restorative practices be used to help resolve the inevitable damage to relationships within the Victoria police department?

In the healthcare system, the First Nations Health Authority has identified the failure of the regular complaint process to provide a safe, effective way for Indigenous people to report racism and inadequate treatment. They are collaborating with the Ministry of Health to promote the use of restorative practices to deal with these complaints. The same issues apply to non-indigenous patients, particularly those with mental health challenges and addictions.

Indeed, most of us here today are likely familiar with occasions where mental health issues, addictions and racism have under laid situations that on the surface appeared to be only about harmful acts. Restorative justice seeks to understand these underlying factors and this is why restorative approaches are likely to provide better outcomes. 

There is no simple solution to complex issues. Today we are here to  build skills to support the challenges we face in Restorative Justice and shift those challenges to opportunities for our programs and our practitioners. We are very fortunate to have two amazing presenters today, Allan Wade and Carol Larsen, whose work is especially relevant to these issues.

Finally, I would like to thank the members of the education, communication and conference committees who have all worked for months to bring about this event, and the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General for providing the funding. 


Richard Tarnoff, 
VIRRJA President

Workshop Details

Allan Wade, Ph.D.

Will be presenting in the morning on "Dignity and Resistance"

"Restorative justice practice is one important social/institutional response to the people involved in crimes, including violence.  If someone were to ask, "What is restored in restorative justice?" I would probably say, "Dignity."  Dignity, in our use of the term, encompasses safety, belonging, autonomy and self-determination, acknowledgement, and so on.  How people who are victimized work to preserve their dignity through their resistance during crimes and through their responses to the social/institutional responses they receive is important to recognize.  Many people experience negative responses from institutional actors. The problem for offenders may be "shame" out of a sense of having acted wrongly and injured others.  But for victims, the experience may be "humiliation" due to the humiliating actions of the offender(s).  Or humiliation compounded by shame due to blame from others. How we
interview victims and offenders about the quality of social responses they received over time is critical to treating them with dignity. This includes the use of accurate language.
-Allan Wade, personal communication, 14 October 2022

Carol Larsen, BSN, M.Ed.(CNPS) 

Will be presenting in the afternoon on "Understanding Trauma and Shame"

At this presentation, we will be exploring how trauma and shame shows up in the restorative justice process, and learn about interventions to use with clients. You can expect a variety of learning modalities during this session, as well as practice time to build confidence with newly learned skills. 

Presenter Bios

Allan Wade, Ph.D. lives on Vancouver Island, Canada, on the unceded territory of the Quw’utsun First Nation, where he works as a family therapist, consultant, and independent scholar with a primary interest in addressing violence, broadly defined. Allan is best known for developing Response-Based Practice, initially with Linda Coates and Nick Todd and, more recently, Cathy Richardson, Ann Maje Raider, and Shelly Dean. Allan works with adults and children, with couples and families, with Indigenous families and communities, with people who have been victimized and people who have committed violence. Allan conducts original research on institutional responses to violence, including the connection between violence and language. Like his colleagues at the Centre for Response-Based Practice, Allan’s primary goal is to improve institutional responses across ‘sectors’ and at all points of contact. Allan provides individual and group training and supervision and works across practice settings with the diverse organizations that become involved where violence and other forms of oppression are at issue."

Carol Larsen, BSN, M.Ed.(CNPS) is a Restorative Justice Practitioner and a Family Counsellor in Victoria, B.C. She earned her degree in Nursing from the University of Victoria and her degree in Counselling Psychology from the University of British Columbia. Carol has been with Restorative Justice Victoria (RJV) for almost eight years, the first year as a volunteer and the remaining years as a staff member. Carol’s role at RJV includes direct casework with clients, other staff members and volunteers. She is also an educator and is involved with the training and education of volunteers and, at times, clients. Although Carol appreciates the honour of working with each case that presents itself and each individual client, she has a special interest in cases that present with complex circumstances and clients who present with complex lives, behaviours and needs. Prior to becoming a restorative justice practitioner, Carol worked as a nursing leader in Health Care, in the field of Trauma and Critical Care. She also worked as a sessional lecturer at the University of Victoria for several years and continues to enjoy teaching and learning. Carol is a consumer of continuing education and strives to improve her knowledge, skills and abilities by listening to the questions and answers that clients provide, by learning from her own mistakes and successes, and by paying attention to the work and new ideas of experts in the field.

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