Restorative Justice Society – North Okanagan executive director Margaret Clark and her organization will recognize Naitonal Restorative Justice Week starting Sunday. The local oranization is approaching its 13th year of operation. (Roger Knox/Morning Star)

Restorative Justice Society – North Okanagan executive director Margaret Clark and her organization will recognize Naitonal Restorative Justice Week starting Sunday. The local oranization is approaching its 13th year of operation. (Roger Knox/Morning Star)

Restorative justice key for North Okanagan society

National Restorative Justice Week begins Sunday

Her first file with the Restorative Justice Society — North Okanagan (RJS-NO) was a bullying file for current executive director Margaret Clark.

That was in 2006, slightly more than 12 years ago.

“That file was an uphill learning curve, to keep the focus on what’s the best interest of the person harmed, what it is they want to see,” said Clark, the second executive director in the local program, which is getting ready to focus on National Restorative Justice Week starting Sunday.

“One of the big benefits of restorative justice is it gives a voice and a say to people directly involved in an incident; what do they want to see as an outcome. We work on a consensus basis. We want everybody to be in agreement with the outcome and feel the outcome is fair and reasonable and restorative. My first case was resolved. The victim wanted the person to do community service hours, write a letter of apology and to not do that kind of behaviour again.”

Everyone’s journey to justice is different and complex, said Clark. Restorative justice can be used at any stage of the criminal justice system; pre-charge, pre-/post-sentence and pre-/post-release.

RELATED: North Okanagan restorative justice model unfolds

The local society is a non-profit and a non-court alternative that provides a voice and role for the person harmed (victim of crime and other affected persons), the person who caused the harm (offender) plus guardians and supporters in determining the outcomes to repair the harm.

RSJ-NO received its 296th referral this month.

“It’s a small program so it’s a good number,” said Clark. “This year, we’ll probably reach more than 30 files for the year, which is good for us.”

RJS-NO provides restorative justice services within the Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP detachment area. In 2018, the organization has seen a spike of theft under $5,000 files (89 per cent). Four per cent of the files are mischief related and there have been 11 per cent other charges.

Typically the theft under is one of the files RJS-NO gets on a fairly regular basis. Other serious offences — including this year — include theft from a vehicle, cocaine possession and assault of a peace officer.

Not every file culminates in a conference, where Clark would bring person harmed, the person who caused the harm and guardians together in a room.

“Sometimes people don’t want to meet face to face although they’re willing to tell us what they need to see happen to repair the harm,” said Clark. “On occasion, we do what’s called a community accountability panel where there would be volunteers from our program sit and represent the victim (person harmed) and they would know what that person wants.

“We’ve resolved files where nobody meets face to face. We go between all parties until we reach a verbal agreement and the resolved agreement is with our society.”

RELATED: Restorative justice works for participant

Clark, a former corrections and addictions worker in B.C., the Northwest and Yukon Territories, has moms and dads stopping her on the street to talk and thank her for the restorative justice service program being in the North Okanagan.

“They tell me it was a great opportunity for their young person, son or daughter, and it made a difference,” she said. “It makes me feel good but it’s kind of overwhelming at times, too “We get so focused on delivering the service we sometimes forget about that ripple effect about what happens after we’re involved with somebody.”

Clark expects RJS-NO to be around another 12 years and beyond.

“Although people think restorative justice is something new, the idea of people in the community responding to harm or crime is not new,” she said. “The community justice forum model the RCMP use is based on teaching from a Maori tribe. This model has been around for centuries.”

There are currently 12 volunteers with the RJS-NO. Anybody who would like to volunteer should call Clark at 250-540-7846 or get more information from

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Township of Spallumcheen collected an honourable mention in the 2020 UBCM Community Excellence Awards for its sustainable service delivery and water improvment district conversion plan. (Photo submitted)
Spallumcheen water district conversion plan gets recognition

Township collects UBCM Community Excellence Award honourable mention

Spallumcheen councillors (from left) Todd York, Gerry Popoff, Christine LeMaire, John Bakker, Joe Van Tienhoven and Andrew Casson join Mayor Christine Fraser (fourth from left) in helping to proclaim the township open for business with new signage off Highway 97A. (Township of Spallumcheen photo)
Being open for business paying dividends for Spallumcheen

Township wins provincial award, new business and building starts increase

John Pavelich’s 83rd birthday had an added surprise; members of Enderby City Council came by his residence to present him with a Lifetime Civic Merit award Saturday, May 8, 2021. (Contributed)
Enderby resident unwraps Lifetime Civic Merit award on 83rd birthday

John ‘JP’ Pavelich has been a pillar of volunteerism in Enderby since 1967

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Five properties have been added to the Lake Country fire protection zone, after council moved to expand the local service area Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Google Maps)
Lake Country expands fire protection zone, covering 5 exposed properties

The properties petitioned to join the local service area after being left out ‘for reasons unknown’

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

The Oliver Fire Department had to put out a fire on their own training ground, and it wasn’t one they set. (Facebook)
Vehicles torched at Oliver Fire Department training grounds

This suspected arson comes after the cars were vandalized earlier and suspicious fire the night before

Tavis Stevenson, son of Pam and Bruce Stevenson, founders of The Book Shop on Main St, is the creator of the whimsical animal farm carts seen above The Book Shop. He also painted the book mural in the back alley behind the shop. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
The Book Shop in downtown Penticton is one of those rare gems

The Book Shop, like so many businesses, is wanting to turn the page to the end of this pandemic

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

Salmon Arm Silverbacks forward Mathieu Bourgault (13) tries unsuccessfully to deflect past West Kelowna goalie Johnny Derrick during the Warriors’ come-from-behind 7-6 BC Hockey Leaguje pod shootout victory Saturday, May 8, at Vernon’s Kal Tire Place. (Tami Quan Photography)
West Kelowna Warriors rally to edge Salmon Arm in shootout

Warriors overcome three significant deficits to post 7-6 BCHL pod win in Vernon; Silverbacks finish pod 9-7-2-2

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Most Read