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 from Flin Flon, Manitoba but has made the Coast Salish shores his home since 2007. He has worked in addictions and housing with the Phoenix Society in Surrey, in community outreach and social enterprise building with the John Howard Society. He is a member of the Métis Nation of BC and works for the nation in their Early Years program. He is currently studying with the hopes of being a restorative justice practitioner and is writing a series of plays that he hopes to produce in the best future.
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
Tanyss is a social worker, who is dedicated to promoting resilience, capacity-building, and meeting local needs through research, policy, and community development. She holds a Master of Social Work degree from UBC.
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 – Member
Asia currently works as an Outreach Worker with the John Howard Society of the Lower Mainland, supporting individuals in the community facing multiple barriers. Asia is currently working on a number of projects within the organization. She finds a sense of purpose in doing things that allow her to both create and connect with others. Restorative justice is important to Asia because it recognizes the interconnectedness of all beings, providing a means of addressing conflict that prioritizes love and respect for others and for ourselves.
Naomi Amren – Manager
Naomi is an artist, writer, barista, and free-lance cook who actively lives a life that both nurtures and challenges her to grow and better herself every day. Whether in the academic fields of Sociology, Psych, and English (Langara and Thompson Rivers U), or in coffee chemistry and the culinary arts, Naomi strives to expand her education in every direction she can reach. As the newest – and youngest – addition to VARJ, Naomi hopes to offer her technological and artistic skills, and activism experience with the ultimate 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 – whether through social activism to advocate for human and animal rights, assisting in amature conflict mediation, or simply by brightening someone’s day. 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.
VARJ Associate Members 2020
Evelyn Zellerer – Ph.D
Evelyn is founder and director of Peace of the Circle, as well as a professor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Evelyn is a facilitator, trainer and speaker, working internationally with government agencies, businesses, non-profits, schools, police, corrections and communities. For more information visit www.peaceofthecircle.com.
Raj is a community advocate, doctoral student, story writer, and a father. 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. Outside of VARJ, Raj is working on completing his PhD in Social Work at UBC in Vancouver, working as a program manager at ISS of BC, and raising a 4 year old. He has been associated with VARJ since 2018, with the goal of expanding its influence in the public and developing international projects. Raj enjoys working in the community – building the capacity to increase equity and social justice. 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.
Fiona Pierce – BA Justice Studies
Fiona is a Graduate of Royal Roads University (RRU) with a BA in Justice Studies. She has been active with VARJ since September 2015. Fiona studied restorative justice at Camosun College and RRU since 2012. She received the Saanich Police Department Restorative Justice Graduating Award upon completion of her Diploma in Criminal Justice, for her commitment to restorative justice in the community and for demonstrating restorative values in the classroom. While at Camosun College, she also volunteered for Restorative Justice Victoria. She plans on continuing her education at UBC’s law school; focusing on social justice and international law. Fiona loves learning about people and is committed to increasing human rights. Fiona is passionate about restorative justice, hoping to increase its use in the community. Currently, she is working for Dr. Evelyn Zellerer (also a member of VARJ) at Peace of the Circle. An active member of VARJ since September 2015, she has played a large role in managing the board as their secretary and recently has been involved in developing an RJ program for Vancouver. Fiona is inspired by people’s dedication to helping others, and has committed her life to helping others and making the world a happier place. Restorative Justice is important to her because it seeks to resolve conflict in a way that is non-violent, does not add to the harm done, and offers an opportunity for those involved in conflict to heal.