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 Vernon Public Art Gallery's new Regional Reach program which sends supplies and lessons to classes, has been a hit in the North Okanagan classrooms. (VPAG photo)
Travelling art kit a hit in North Okanagan schools

Art Gallery’s new Regional Reach program delivers art education to the classrooms

A kaleidescope of colours was captured over Lake Country Sunday, Feb. 28. (Wendey Innes-Shaw photo)
Colourful close to month with North Okanagan sunset

From all angles: Vernon and Lake Country photographers capture sunset Feb. 28

(File photo)
UBCO introduces another reading break in November

The break only affects the Okanagan campus

The Okanagan Screen Arts Society is set to take over Vernon’s historic Towne Cinema on 30th Avenue June 1 as fundraising for building upgrades is a third of the way to its goal. (Photo contributed)
Historic Vernon cinema rolling into society’s hands

Okanagan Screen Arts Society will take over and run with volunteers the Towne Cinema starting June 1

A student from Dawson Creek is the winner of Tolko’s Orange Shirt Day design contest for 2021. (Tolko photo)
Vernon-based Tolko contest features northern winner

Student from Dawson Creek beats out entries Canadawide for Orange Shirt Day design contest win

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Pastafarian Gary Smith, pictured here dressed as a pirate, wanted to wear his tricorn (also pictured here) in his driver’s licence photo, arguing that the display was a religious observance. Photo: Facebook
B.C. Pastafarian loses Supreme Court fight to wear pirate hat in driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith of Grand Forks, put his case to the Supreme Court in Rossland in early February

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

City council passed resolution in support of an expansion of the licence area at Salmon Arm’s Marionette Winery for the inclusion of a lounge area. (Marionette Winery/Facebook)
Salmon Arm council supports lounge addition at Shuswap winery

Marionette Winery expanding licence area to host small gatherings

(File photo)
UBCO introduces another reading break in November

The break only affects the Okanagan campus

An injured skier was helivaced from Apex Mountain Resort to Kelowna General Hospital Monday, March, 2021. (Linda Geggie / Facebook)
Injured skier helivaced from Apex Mountain Resort

The skier was taken to Kelowna General Hospital

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)

Most Read