Starting Community Restorative Justice Programs in rural Alberta.(SEE DOCUMENTS PAGE -------->


On Friday November 23rd 2012 we did a presentation at the ARJA 2012 Conference called “From the Ground Up”.

My name is Mary Bracken, I’m the Coordinator for the Fairview Community Restorative Justice Program. With me to do the presentation were Sheila Wegreen(FCRJ Administration Assistant and Facilitator) who spoke to the policy and funding pieces while Rebecca Stewart(Facilitator) made the presentation easier to follow with some graphic facilitation.

  • The theme of this year’s conference was Diverse Voices:
  • As a community restorative justice program we recognize that serving the needs of small rural communities differ from the needs of larger urban centres.
  •  Many of the restorative justice stories that make headlines are not the types of RJ files or referrals we receive. Ours are more about shoplifting, mischief and minor assaults.
  • Our hope is to provide some information for those groups looking to develop small community restorative justice programs.

We are not program developers but simply wish to share our experience and some of the history behind the development of our own Fairview Community Restorative Justice program.

In the beginning the Fairview Detachment area, with a population of just under 8000 was having issues around crimes that involved high risk youth.

 So in 2000 a High Risk Kids Workshop was organized and attended by many community stakeholders (The RCMP, Victims Services, FCSS, our local Youth Support Association, the Family School Liaison, reps from local Schools, Service club members, members of Municipal governments of the Town of Fairview and M.D. of Fairview # 136.)

As a result of that initial workshop a core number of these individuals worked together and later agreed that a restorative justice program could greatly benefit Fairview in dealing with these issues. So over the next 6 years a lot of groundwork was done to develop our Fairview Community Restorative Justice Program.

First there was a community needs assessment and work to develop a society. They also needed to chose which restorative process best suited our community’s needs.

 The focus was of course youth but they didn’t want to exclude adults. This showed great foresight on their part as 35% of our offenders are 18-25 years old.

They looked at the many different restorative processes; Youth Justice Committees, Victim Offender Mediations, Community Justice Forums, healing circles and community conferencing.

The decision was made initially to choose Victim Offender Mediation.

They then created policies and procedures for both registering as a society and for the restorative justice program itself.

Funding was applied for and provided through the Alberta Community Restorative Justice Grant Program through the Solicitor General’s office. Without this funding our program would not have been possible nor would it today. We are grateful to the provincial government for their support.

The Fairview & Area Well Community Action Association was incorporated as a society in August of 2006 as the umbrella organization to oversee the Fairview Community Restorative Justice program.

Policies & procedures were complete, the Society Established and funding was in place. The Community Justice Coordinator was hired and training of the myself and 14 volunteer facilitators took place in October of 2006.

We had a signed working agreement with Fairview RCMP detachment but were declined a formal agreement with the Crown. 

2007 was our ground breaking year, we were ready to take on any cases that would come our way. We got our first RCMP referral in March of 2007. It was an uttering threats case and we were all so excited until the offender was an intentional no show…….so that one went back to the RCMP.

 Our next referral didn’t happen until September that year and for us it was a big one.  The offense was multiple counts of vandalism and property damage.

Victims represented the Town of Fairview for the vandalism and NAIT, Fairview Campus had suffered the property damage through their Vet program. 7 sheep were spray painted and released with GRAD 2007 on them. One of the sheep was seriously injured.

The agreement was financial restitution totalling $900.00 for damages and vet bills/ apology letters from each of the 3 offenders, and 3-8hr days of Community Service for the town.

All portions of the agreement were completed successfully... except for one of the youth only completed 2 of the 3 days of CS. We were disappointed but still considered it a success. 

 We had a total of 6 referrals that first year. 

In 2008 we had 9 referrals. Our Victims Services organization came on board with advocates supporting victims of crime in forums.

 We were feeling great with our successes and increased referral amounts, so with a couple of years experience we submitted a detailed package to the Crown of what we’d done over the last 2 year, our reporting practices, stats policies everything. We asked if they would give us referral. The response was again no. I’ll come back to that.

In 2009 there was a turnover in volunteer facilitators 2 left due to health issues, and another moved.  We had 9 referrals that year and for training decided that adding the RCMPs Community Justice Forums might give us a better chance of having the Crown come on board. Also it stayed true to what drew us to the Victims Offender Mediation.

In 2010 we worked intentionally to building our school partnerships with Grande Prairie Regional College/ Fairview Campus, Formerly NAIT Fairview Campus. We did RJ presentations with our high schools and our facilitator’s added circle training to their restorative justice toolbox.

Victims Services continued to play an active role in forums and became part of the FCRJ committee.

In 2011 a formal working agreement with GPRC was established to do RJ on Campus. 2 of our volunteer facilitators are staff from GPRC.

2011 also saw a decline in our referral numbers along with the announcement that funding to ACRJ Grant program would be cut. We really scrambled as to what we could do to maintain our program so we calculated a skeleton budget of $10,000.00. Sheila will address that later in this article.

IN both 2010 and 2011 other communities expressed interest in our program and asked for mentoring or support which is what our From the Ground Up Presentation was all about.

When we started there was truly no small Canadian program like ours that we were able to find.

We did receive support and mentorship from the Nanaimo Restorative Justice program in BC but again provincial laws, processes and referral types were different than what we receive. 

In 2012 we continue to get cases that don’t always follow script and that we term as out of the box. We have positive open dialogue with probation and are working to understand more about the court processes again towards building that relationship with the crown.

Again this year we’ve learned that we will be losing 3 of our valued volunteer facilitators, 1 due to life circumstances and 2 moving from the community. We like to have 6 active teams for the program so it is not too taxing on our volunteers.

We continue to work on best practices, policies and procedure adjusting them to meet the needs of a growing program.

In our continuing work on best practices documents we want to see what best practice and training guides are established in the Province.

Our ongoing goal is to work toward accreditation for the program and our future RJ training choice will be greatly influenced by what the province decides.

So in speeding across that 12 year timeline, Ive really just gleaned over the great amount of work and dedication that it took by so many to make our program what it is today.

 Probably the most valuable part of this presentation will be sharing with you things we’ve learned along the way. Sometimes the hard way.

Our Experience has shown us that while every great program must have a solid, structured base, advisory board, policies, procedures, best practices and a paid person in charge it must also be willing to look at how to adapt to meet the needs of the community it serves.

Success has shown us it is the restoring and healing of relationships, victim satisfaction, offender accountability and reduction of crime that lets us know we are on the right track. Success also encourages us to stay strong and committed.

Challenge has truly been our greatest teacher.

It has shown us we must be willing to work outside the box, admit when things aren’t working and adapt to change the program as needed. We can only be successful if we are willing to work through obstacles.

Trying to decide the best way to share this was difficult because it is so multidimensional. In order to not seem scattered I moved along the graphic timeline Rebecca created.

Throughout the entire timeline and development of the program there is;

- Regular monthly and speciality training for volunteers along with volunteer appreciation. 

-Intake and facilitation of cases, debriefs and follow up.

-Reporting to the WCAA, the RCMP and to our funders the Alberta Community Restorative Justice Grant program.

-Surveys and evaluations.

-Public education to community schools and councils

-A constant need for funding.

Within those ongoing responsibilities Id like to discuss some of the challenges.

Training in the Restorative practice you chose

Going right back to 2004 VOM was the right choice and fit for our community. In 2009 adding CJF and later Circle training was also the right choice to make. Programs need a solid foundation but should always be open to adding to the skills of its facilitators and adjust to meet the community’s needs.

Hiring a coordinator

In hiring a coordinator it’s important to have someone with knowledge of restorative justice or a willingness to learn. Also some good organizing and coordinating skills. Public speaking skills don’t hurt either.

We now have job description for our RJ Coordinators/ Administrative position. I can tell you that I would not have qualified 6 years ago when I was hired but I’m grateful for the opportunity to become part of something so powerful and healing.

We have a document provided on the documents page of our website that gives an overview of what we have seen as the duties and responsibilities that can be shared to run a successful Restorative Justice Program.

Volunteer Facilitators

Choosing facilitators

Interviewing as part of a screening process is important when choosing facilitators because some qualities are more about how someone is rather than skills that can be turned on or off. People who apply for the Facilitator positions tend to be the ones who are already in help or supporting fields. Varied skill sets and background along with the ability to put in the time needed to be part of this program must be considered. If a volunteer has great skills and a restorative heart but is also a part of 16 other organizations it’s not realistic to expect that she/he can participate when needed.

Another thing we speak about in our debriefs and during monthly training is our role as facilitators. Our roles are not to determine guilt or the outcome but help victims and offender come together so they decide what needs to happen to repair harms. It is also to maintain a safe and respectful atmosphere and help dialogue move forward. Part of our script reads, “ After hearing all that has been said is there anything you’d like to say to anyone here”? In one of our first cases after an offender shook his head no, our facilitator said, “Well don’t you think you owe him an apology? That is not our place. We may think or feel it but it’s not up to us to say. Nor is it our place to lecture or share our own experiences.

 Even though offenders must admit guilt and be willing to make amends we know that for some the motivation is simply to avoid a criminal record. Many times through this process they end up feeling genuine remorse and come away with a much better understanding about how their actions have affected others.  In small communities our facilitators are people that victims and offenders will see in the grocery store or on the street regularly. More important reasons for the monthly meetings/training and skill building.

Facilitators, how many do you need?

That’s another big question. Really you want enough so that the volunteer’s time is respected. Our volunteers provide anywhere from 2-15 hours a month depending on how many cases they do or if there is training or additional presentations they wish to be part of. You don’t want volunteers bored but not overworked either.  

Your program will be reflected through your facilitators as they are the main connection with the victims and offenders. They are the ones who make it safe, or not. This is why great care in choosing and training facilitators is so important. Our program would not be what it is without the time, passion and dedication that our volunteer facilitators give to make this program a success.

Referral Sources

Our referrals come from RCMP GPRC/school and community. The Fairview RCMP Detachment has been our main referral source and a great support to the program. Restorative Justice is one of the yearly policing priorities in the annual detachment performance plan so that changeover in staff or leadership won’t change the commitment to RJ. We’ve been assigned a committed RCMP Liaison member who is a great support and part of our advisory board.

Members of our Fairview Chamber of Commerce have taken part in a number of processes as victims of crime and recognize the value of the process.

The Crown as a referral source.

After our first request the reason given for not working with our program was that many alternative programs differ greatly and sustainability was not strong as many programs come and go include a former Fairview program. We really get that. Secondly our program was not sanctioned and they would not work with an unsanctioned program.

 So after 2 years we went back again. This time we submitted our policies procedure stats etc. in hopes that they would recognize we were an efficient effective justice program. The response was again no because we were not sanctioned.

In 2011 12 we seriously pursued training a few of our facilitators as a youth justice committee following YJCs restorative model which is similar to what we do anyways. We felt if the Crown had an opportunity to work with us as a “sanctioned” program they would see the good work we do and it would transfer into the restorative justice.

2 things,

1. YJC's are not considered by some to be restorative justice. Personally, I feel that Youth Justice Committees are a very important part of the justice system and works towards repairing harms and holding offenders accountable to those who are directly affected. That is restorative.

2. Our RCMP SGT. Bruce Bracken explained that in smaller rural communities not only are there not enough files of minor or first time crime for both programs,  but establishing a Youth Justice Committee could lead to our restorative justice program folding.

Also YJC would not address the growing number of 18-25 year olds we’ve seen since 2010, so we withdrew that idea.


Recognizing the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for cause you just might get it.” I’ll use the Crown for an example. We really want referrals from the Crown but if we were to start getting one or two case a week do we currently have the capacity with facilitators and Coordinator time/hours to keep up with the workload? Can you say to the Crown, “We are established and credible so please give us referral but only 1 a week max. I don’t think it works like that.

Alternately if we trained additional facilitators anticipating many referrals and hired additional staff to handle the workload and very little changed can you justify the time, money and energy expended for little return? Lots to think about.

I spoke to another coordinator just starting out who is doing RJ as an addition to her current position. That’s how I started. Im at 9 hours a week for RJ and have an additional job as a resource centre coordinator with FCSS. I now work 37 hours/week so we have hired an administration assistant to help me. Keep in mind the potential growth and scope of your program and plan for additional supports if needed.

Cases intake pre-interview forum followup and reporting

Over time we’ve adjusted and adapted our referral forms, scripts, reporting format and policies to meet the changing needs and address issues we hadn’t previously encountered. Part of our pre-interview script reads that you cannot attend the forum with drugs or alcohol in your system or the case will be returned to the RCMP. Why do you think we added that? Because we came across it.

Also with confidentiality we included in our script that everything said here is confidential “with the exception of those named”. People wanted to be able to speak with their spouses,parents etc. Also we do use general non identifying information about cases for training purposes. Its one of the best training tools.

Id like to share one case which is definitely “out of the box”.

First I’ll start by saying that the first part of the agreement states that it can be discussed outside the forum as one of the major goals is public education.

An 18 year old grade 12 student pranked 2 teachers residents with fireworks set off on the corner of their properties. While there was no physical or property damage done both teachers families were very upset so the case was referred to restorative justice. Heres what makes this one unique.

One chose RJ and the other court. Once that descision was made and knowing that with one choosing court there would still be a criminal record, Kolton still agreed to do RJ as he felt he owed it to the teacher, Mr. Phillip.

Conversation during the forum was very restorative; again remember there was no monetary damage or property damage. The harm caused was loss of personal saftey.

The agreement was 3 part.

Kolton joined me at a full day public trade fair and spoke to some people about his experience with Restorative Justice.

He also took part in our next facilitator training as an offender who went through both RJ and Court. It was a great opportunity for our faciitators to ask questions and hear about his experince with both. How often does that happen?

Lastly he did a presentation to the grade 6 students because the next year for them was Jr. High. He wanted to share that pranking is not a joke and that it affects others. He was nervous and didn’t speak as much to is own experience as we thought he might but the kids paid attention and he did good.

We consider that a great success but when you look at it statistically it doesn’t look like much.

  Basically we have discovered that you have to be willing to adapt and change. We have not changed the core of the program, we have always kept within our vision, policies and procedure but we have even had to revised those policies and procedure to stay true to our goal.

I want to address one of the challenges on funding before turning it over to Sheila. As I stated earlier the financial support of the Alberta Community Restorative Justice Grant program is what has made our program possible.

In August of 2011 The small block of funding through this grant program was going to be withdrawn. Many of the programs including ours spoke up to the great benefits reaped from restorative justice for the provinces small investment. One things funders say is,  if communities believed and supported RJ like they say they do then they need to support it financially.  Our municipalities are very supportive but stated honestly that they feel justice is a provincial and federal responsibility and that too much has been downloaded already. They saw danger in our funding being cut back by whatever amounts they as municipalities put in. It's a rock and a hard place.

At this point Sheila will share details about policies procedure and funding.





Bylaws are a contract between members & the organization and between the members themselves. It sets out the rights and duties of directors individually and in meetings.


Bylaws are public documents and may be inspected by anyone either at the premises of the organization or at the registrar'soffice. These must be completed in order to be registered as an organization.

When an organization incorporates as a society or charity bylaws are required, but there are also standard bylaws required by the government.  Statutory clauses are bylaw items that the government requires, EG.  All organizations must have at least three board members.  If a board want to appoint additional roles and responsibilities they will add clauses to the bylaws.

 In general bylaws from organizations are quite similar.


 Policy and procedures may differ greatly from program to Program. Policies and procedures are designed to influence and determine all major decisions and actions that take place, keeping them within the boundaries set. They are created to protect the integrity of an organization by making sure the actions comply with the beliefs.

 A set of policies are principles, rules, and guidelines adopted by an organization to reach its long-term goals.  Procedures are the specific methods employed to express policies in day-to-day operations. Together, policies and procedures ensure that the steps result in an outcome compatible with the goals & vision of the organization.  FCRJ is very fortunate in that our Vice President is very experienced with governance, who in fact helped develop bylaws, policy and procedures for ARJA.  I strongly encourage all programs to have someone well versed in governance so that the organization stays on track.

 A copy of our bylaws and policies will be made avail through our website and the link will on ARJA

 Developing Policy:

Talk about it like its already happened:

Operational RJ, RCMP & Community support for referrals, relationship with crown, Sustainable

Grant Funding, Coordinator (consistency/quality/sustainability), Volunteers, Community Justice Forums Training, build partnerships with community RCMP




  1. 1.         Have someone who understands financial statements
  2. 2.         Set up a chart of accounts – either make one up, look online for a standard non-profit chart, get one from a bookkeeper or accountant, borrow one from another program.
  3. 3.         Add or exclude accounts according to the needs of your program (look through your policy and procedures for a guideline EX: Coordinator – you will need accounts for wages, remittances due to the government, sub accounts for Employer EI/ Employee EI /Employer CPP/ Employee CPP /Taxes withheld/benefits, etc…) We are lucky – the town of Fairview does our payroll.  If you need to figure out remittances: CRA Payroll Deductions Online Calculator (


  1. 1.       Have To’s:  Funder’s Requirements:  ACRJ (Alberta Community Restorative Justice)Grant:
    1. a.       Required a paid coordinator
    2. b.      Required an evaluation plan

 2.       What Else: Deciding what is important to your organization – If you have clear policies and procedures a lot of it is done.

    1. a.       Training:   Resources, bringing in trainers, sending our facilitators on training.  The quality of your program in the end rests on the shoulders of your facilitators.  This is our biggest budget item.
    2. b.      Cooperation:  We are very focused on partnerships with our RCMP, our local schools, Victim Services, Community, ARJA – This means time, travel, events (trade shows, service fairs, We held a partners breakfast in May, making sure that we have constables in our detachment that are familiar with RJ).
    3. c.       Case Loads: Equipment, supplies, snacks because often the best conversation happens after the forum when everyone is relaxed, everything we do – it is with intention.
    4. d.      Volunteers:  They are doing this for free – make some room for them.

 3.       How Much: Ball park amounts

    1. a.       Take a look at other communities with similar demographics as yours
    2. b.      Work with stats from RCMP
    3. c.       Figure out your skeleton budget (the budget that you need to keep running)
      1.                                                                            i.      Had a year where the case load was so low we were at risk of not getting funding.
      2.                                                                          ii.      Figured out what we absolutely had to have in order to not fold.
      3.                                                                         iii.      Approached our communities for funding – they came through with promissory notes in the event we did not get funding.
      4.                                                                        iv.      Got our funding – huge jump in cases after a slow year.


Funding Agency: Because FCRJ is not incorporated – we needed a funding agency.

  1. 1.       They had to be incorporated under charities or societies
  2. 2.       We needed to fit their vision and scope
  3. 3.       We needed their admin fee to be cheap or free
  4. 4.       In the end we formed the Well Community Action Association which holds a society status.  Although  FCRJ has been their only program,  WCAA is being approached by other organizations experiencing the same issues about qualifying for funding.


Financial Reporting and Responsibilities

  1. 1.       Monthly reporting to WCAA
  2. 2.       Grant Report:  Link to guide – intereim grant report and final grant report.
  3. 3.       Society / Charitable Return: link to guide
  4. 4.       People familiar with governance and policy and finances.


Tips and hints:

  • ·         If you need to figure out remittances: CRA Payroll Deductions Online Calculator (
  • ·         All non-profits can reclaim GST. 
  • ·         The two most frequent audits done by the CRA are Payroll and GST.  The easiest way to get through a payroll audit is to print off the calculation page from Payroll Deductions, the easiest way to get through a GST audit is to have a gst account in your chart of accounts (gst owed & gst recievable).  Since you won’t be charging GST you should never owe any.



All the information, forms and documents are available on the documents page of this website along with a link on ARJAs website.

I can be contacted to provide processes I use to report to RCMP and satisfaction surveys. We are happy to share our policies, procedures or any of our forms with group interested in adapting them.

Id like to thank our volunteer facilitators here with us today. Leanne Johnstone, Matthew Strydhorst, Rebecca Stewart, China Sieger, Diane Lund, David Burgess and Sheila Wegreen. A thank you to Joanne Shaw, Pamela Mackay, Ezena Adams and Shirley Lyman.

A special thank you also to our Well Community Action Association Board of Directors chair Lorne Brown,Victims Services Coordinator Linda Moffat, our RCMP Liaison Sarah Pennoyer and Fairview Detachment for their support.

Last but certainly not least a very special thank you to Shirley Lyman. Shirley has been with us since the High Risk Kids Workshop in 2000 to lend her expertise and passion for restorative justice for the past 12 years and the province for the last 6. She has been with us though the highs and the lows.

I can truly say that without Shirley Lyman our program would not have achieved the success it has today. Sincere thanks and gratitude to you Shirley. 

 In like to share my personal analogy of how developing and overseeing a restorative justice program is much like planting and growing a bonsai tree.

  • As both require great passion, preparation and planning.
  •  a person or persons in place to care for and oversee it on a consistent basis
  •  patience in the time it takes for small but important changes to shape it.
  • Allowing ,not forcing change by pushing it beyond its limits or moving too quickly.  
  • The attention to detail and constant care required to keep it alive and vibrant.


  • This well rooted, always changing, never really complete program you've nurtured is something that individuals and the community can look upon with pride.

Thank you

Mary Bracken




Pamela MacKay