Projects & Events

Check it out!

VARJ Announcement: New project started, August 2018!!

VARJ and Restorative Justice in Mozambique

The Vancouver Association for Restorative Justice in partnership with the Christian Council of Mozambique – an ecumenical alliance of churches in the country – has received funding from the Canadian High Commission in Maputo, the country’s capital city, to conduct a pilot project training Mozambican youth and women in the practice of Restorative Justice (RJ).

Training will take place in Maputo and in Tete, the administrative centre of Tete Province. The modern history of Mozambique is one of conflict between Frelimo (the Mozambican Liberation Front) – and Renamo (the Mozambican National Resistance). Frelimo has governed the country since gaining independence from the colonial Portuguese administration in 1975. Between 1977 and the signing of the Rome Peace Accord in 1992, the government forces of Frelimo and the rebel forces of Renamo fought each other. The conflict was most intense in Tete Province. Following the Rome Peace Accord, Renamo was reconstituted as a political party.

Most Westerners remember the considerable effort to rid the country of tens of thousands of land mines following the peace agreement. Perhaps less well known were efforts by the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM), with funding from many sources, including the Canadian Government and with the support of CUSO, to rid the country of what, by some estimates, were about 6,500 AK47 assault rifles and other weapons. This was done, in part, by trading arms for community development tools, an initiative of the ‘Turning Arms into Plowshares (TAE) project of CCM.

Frank Tester, a founding board member of VARJ was part of this initiative. Some of these weapons, after being decommissioned, were turned over to a group of artists – Nucleo de Arte – in Maputo, cut into pieces and welded together to make sculptures. These were used to promote peace in the country and were displayed at the United Nations, New York, in London, and toured across Canada. An article on the process of using art to promote peace, “Art and disarmament: turning arms into ploughshares in Mozambique” is available at:      (also available below).

There is still considerable discontent throughout the country related to living conditions and perceived inequities in the benefits derived from economic growth and development of the country following the Rome Peace Accord. Attempts to resolve these conflicts have identified a number of initiatives important to achieving a true and lasting peace. These include the conduct of training and development, integrated psychosocial support, capacity-building and community development projects through the assistance of civil society organizations (CSOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other actors with a view to fully restore mutual trust, community acceptance and recognition of the concerns and interests of diverse interests among the civilian population.

This initiative between VARJ and CCM is intended to enhance the capacity of Mozambicans to resolve conflicts, achieve greater levels of social justice at a community level and become active participants in resolving conflicts within their communities. Tete Province, a site of considerable fighting during the 1977-1992 conflicts, remains a site of ongoing tensions, with approximately 12,000 refugees fleeing to Malawi and others to Zimbabwe, South Africa and Tanzania following the outbreak of renewed conflicts between 2012 and 2016.

Workshops in Maputo and Tete will pilot the concept of training Mozambican youth and women to play greater roles in resolving differences and dealing with offenses in their communities using the concepts and practices of Restorative Justice. This pilot project, with the participation of Evelyn Zellerer and Frank Tester, and support from members of the Board of VARJ and CCM, is intended to lead to a further effort to conduct a ‘training the trainers’ approach to developing Restorative Justice capacity in the country.

For additional information on the context for this work, go to:

Frank Tester 08/02/2018

Article by Frank Tester below Called: Art and disarmament: Turning Arms into Ploughshares in Mozambique!!

To read article click on link:      Art and disarmament

Last Project: LandBasedHealing-image20pc

top program-25pc


Alice MacKay room   Lower Level   Central Library, 350 West Georgia St.
Doors open 6:00 pm.  Event 6:30 – 9:00 pm

Free public event.     Please come early as seating is limited.

The purpose of this event is to introduce the concept of Restorative Justice and to foster an appreciation for the contribution that Aboriginal restorative practices and traditions can make to understanding our relationship with the natural environment.  Participants will have the opportunity to reflect on the value of employing restorative practices in response to misdemeanours, bullying and criminal acts which are normally addressed by western legal processes.

This event is one of many celebrating Restorative Justice Week held in Canada, and throughout the world, from November 15-22, 2015. The theme for the week is Inspiring Innovation.  For more information, see:

The Presenters:

Three distinguished speakers connect their life experiences to the healing role of Nature and its importance to restoring the relationship we need to have with others and with the world around us.

Piita Irniq is a well-known Inuit Elder, author and advocate for Inuit culture and language preservation. Peter played a key role in the creation of Nunavut Territory. A former Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth in the Nunavut Territorial Government, he has also served as Commissioner of the Territory. Piita is well-known for his attempts to restore Inuit who have lost touch with their language and culture to an Inuit way of understanding themselves and their relationships to others. He is now working with Corrections Canada, providing services to Inuit inmates in federal institutions in the Province of Ontario.

Frank Brown is a well-known First Nation’s advocate for RJ. He lives in his Heiltsuk village of Bella Bella.  His passion and commitment is reflected in his own experience as a 14 year old teenager in trouble with the law. After committing a serious offense, members of his family decided to find an alternative to incarceration to help Frank deal with his issues and challenges.  As a result, Frank spent 8 months isolated  on a nearby island which changed his life.  He is now not only a passionate advocate for Restorative Justice, he has felt the healing power of nature. Frank is a respected business person,champion of the resurgence of the ocean going canoe and culture , educator and advocate for social change.

Robin Gray is Ts’msyen from Lax Kw’alaams, BC, and belongs to Waap Liyaa’mlaxha, a Gisbutwada (Blackfish) House in the Gitaxangiik Tribe. She is also Mikisew Cree from Fort Chipewyan, Alberta.  She has a B.A.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies, Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Anthropology and a Graduate Certificate in Indigenous Studies.  She is currently a President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History at the University of California Santa Cruz. Articulate and a strong advocate for First Nations, Robin’s current work focuses on the repatriation of Ts’msyen cultural heritage. Her research interests include Indigenous conceptions of property and ownership, law, ethics and society, setter colonialism, decolonization and restorative methodologies.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 7.46.13 PM

A partnership event with Vancouver Public Library and:

Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing  Centre Society
Vancouver Aboriginal Transformative Justice Society
Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society
Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council
Vancouver Association for Restorative Justice
Nicola Valley Institute of Technology