Board of Directors

VARJ Board Members, 2020

Frank James Tester –  B.Sc., D.Phil., M.E.Des., M.S.W. –  President and Chairperson of the Board

Frank is adjunct professor of Native Studies, University of Manitoba and with the Kutenai Art Therapy Institute, Nelson B.C. He is a graduate student supervisor at Lund University, Sweden. Frank is a founding member of VARJ. His passion is projects and initiatives – getting things ‘off the ground’, and supporting the ideas and creativity of others. He is currently working as technical advisor to the Inuit community of Pond Inlet, Nunavut Territory, on matters related to a proposal to expand the operations of an iron ore mine on the northern tip of Baffin Island. This development has serious implications for the lifestyles, the environment and the hunting culture of Pond Inlet Inuit. Frank is a social worker and geographer who works as a mediator, facilitator and restorative justice trainer and practitioner. Frank is a former chair of the Family Court/Youth Justice Committee, City of Vancouver, a former board member of CUSO and the Georgia Strait Alliance and was a research advisor to the Qikiqtani Truth Commission (2008-2010). He is the author of books and papers dealing with Inuit social history, Canadian social policy and environmental issues. https://spinnakerproductions.wordpress.com/

Shane Leydon Vice President

Shane is a Métis actor, writer, and producer from Treaty 5 Territory in Flin Flon, Manitoba. He has lived on the Coast Salish shores since 2007. Aside from his artistic endeavours, he’s worked in community outreach, addictions, social enterprising and early years navigation. He completed a restorative justice certificate program through SFU.

You can find Shane at the various dog parks around town with his best pal Seymour, drinking coffee on The Drive or in Mount Pleasant, at home writing plays or dreaming of a Canucks Stanley Cup victory, acting or directing in the theatre, or on your Netflix queue in various TV shows shot on Coast Salish shores.

Tanyss Knowles – MSW – Chair of  “RJ on stage” project

Tanyss is a registered social worker with a Master of Social Work degree from the University of British Columbia. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Simon Fraser University. She is a board member at the Vancouver Association for Restorative Justice. Tanyss is passionate about community-building and social policy that meets local needs and promotes community strengths. Tanyss has worked with rural and remote communities across Canada on youth empowerment, popular education, and anti-violence projects. Currently, Tanyss works to reduce barriers to affordable housing for women and their children experiencing violence.

Jim Mandelin – CPA – Treasurer

Jim is a fully pardoned ex-offender, ex- gang member and recovered drug addict and alcoholic. Jim is a graduate of the Counselor Training Institute – Vancouver. He also has a Diploma from the Stratford Career Institute in Psychology and Social Work.  Jim is now 42 years clean and sober, is a public speaker, counselor and author and was the recipient of the Coast Mental Health’s 2015 Courage to Come Back Award for the province of BC.  In 2016 Jim wrote a chapter (Chapter 1) and worked with Theo Gavrielides from London, England and twelve Ph.D’s from Universities around the world on creating a fifth year University text book on Restorative Justice and Offender Rehabilitation called: Offenders No More: https://www.theogavrielides.com/books

Jim has facilitated restorative justice conferences while working in the past with the John Howard Society of the Lower Mainland of BC. His website is: http://www.jimmandelin.ca/

At present Jim works for the Homelessness Services Association of BC as the Coordinator of Training & Membership for the Province of BC https://www.hsa-bc.ca

Asia McLean – BA Criminology – Chair of “RJ school outreach” project

Asia comes to VARJ with a background in frontline work with diverse populations across the Lower Mainland. She graduated from the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University in 2018, where she found a passion for restorative and community-based justice processes and assisted on a number of research projects. Currently, Asia works helping to develop and facilitate workshops on providing trauma-informed and client-centred support. Asia is passionate about violence prevention and building capacity within individuals and communities to address conflict using restorative approaches.

Naomi Amren – Administrator

Naomi offers her technological, organizational, and artistic skills with the goal of supporting and learning from VARJ’s other members. In all aspects of her life, Naomi searches for ways in which she can enrich and improve the experiences of those around her – primarily through social activism advocating for human and animal rights, She recognizes that we exist in a society that is sustained primarily through the oppression of and violence against marginalized communities, and sees Restorative Justice as the best – and in most cases, the most logical – means for resolving and promoting fair and just treatment of human beings on all sides of a conflict.

Raj Khadka – MSW, PhD – Member  

Raj is a counsellor, educator and workshop/training facilitator.  He enjoys gardening, story writing, engaging in creative projects for social change and being in nature.  He is a recent Ph.D. graduate from UBC and holds expertise in the labour market and resettlement in relation to the immigrant and refugee population.  Raj enjoys working in the community – building the capacity to increase equity and social justice.  He has over 25 years of experience working with issues of social justice, equity, education, and diversity in Nepal, the United States of America and Canada.  He is associated with VARJ since 2018, with the goal of expanding its influence in the public and developing international projects. Living in various countries, Raj has witnessed a cycle of injustice, marginalization and conflict. He sees restorative practices as a holistic and sustainable approach to these issues, and to ultimately restore hope and peace.

Koshiki Tanaka – BA, LLM – Member

Koshiki (she/her/hers)  is an Equity and Inclusion Strategist for Bakau Consulting, a diversity, equity and inclusion consulting company located on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples,  including the territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam Nations.

She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Human Rights and LL.M in Peace Operations, Humanitarian Law and Conflict from the National University of Ireland, Galway. With a deep passion for peacebuilding, Koshiki is currently getting her certificates in Mediation and Negotiation from the Justice Institute of British Columbia.

Chris Flannelly – BA, BEd, MI – Member

 Chris is an educator currently working in the New Westminster School District as a Teacher-Librarian. He has taught in Japan, Singapore, Vancouver and Toronto primarily at the secondary level with a focus on social sciences, humanities and English language learners. He sees education and information institutions (i.e. schools, libraries, archives, museums) as fundamental mediums and bulwarks in the fight for a more just and equal world, and this remains central in his daily work and practice. He holds a B.A. and B.Ed. from UBC and a Master of Information from the University of Toronto.

Muriel Harris – PhD, Genetics – Member 

 A new board member, Muriel comes to VARJ as an elder and retired professor in Medical Genetics at UBC. She has several decades of experience, both within the university and in the broader community, in program development, problem solving, and in working on committees tasked with organizing serious things. She is thoughtful, has had a broad range of interactions with people, and works well with them.  She is embedded in music and the arts, and has a deep commitment to social justice.