It is with a great sense of warmth and gratitude that we say farewell to Bruce Schenk, who is retiring as Director of IIRP Canada after serving for 12 years. Bruce’s pioneering work in Canada has been instrumental in extending the ability of individuals and organizations to foster healthy, meaningful relationships in schools, justice systems, workplaces and other areas of society.
“When I started in 2008, restorative justice was a known thing in criminal and juvenile justice circles in Canada, and a little bit in schools, but not restorative practices,” says Bruce. “The thing I’m feeling really good about is how restorative practice is now seen as applicable to so many areas, especially education, and IIRP Canada has had a big role in that.”
“Bruce has been a transformative leader in the field,” observes IIRP President John Bailie, Ph.D. “He has helped expand restorative practices from a set of skills to a way of approaching life and relationships in general.”
Bruce explains, “I think the key thing here is restorative practice being seen as a framework, a way of thinking and a way of acting rather than simply a range of practices. Unless you change the thinking of the system, new practices won’t take hold.”
He adds, “I’m really honored to have worked with the IIRP in this role, and very lucky to work with such a great organization. I am extremely grateful to all the mentorship and support Terry O’Connell and IIRP Founder Ted Wachtel gave me, especially in the early days, and the overall support the organization has given IIRP Canada and me over the years to develop restorative practices in a way that fits the Canadian context.”
Pat Lewis, who comes with nearly three decades of experience as a teacher and school administrator with Peel District School Board and teacher trainer for Brock University and the Ontario Principals' Council (OPC), will now assume the role of Director of IIRP Canada. Her involvement with school, School Board and Provincial-led initiatives provided opportunities for her to lead and monitor large-scale change initiatives. This experience will serve IIRP Canada’s growth in the years to come. Pat became Associate Director of IIRP Canada in 2019 to facilitate a year of transition.
“I look forward to building on the strong foundation that Bruce established,” says Pat. “During this transition year, I have met incredible practitioners doing amazing work across Canada. I am excited about the opportunity to support their ongoing restorative work. Through conversations with many stakeholders, I am also aware that there is much more work to do, and I am committed to facilitating meaningful dialogue about the future of restorative practices in our schools, our communities and in our public and private organizations.”
At Peel District School Board, the second largest school district in Ontario, Pat initiated and supported the implementation of restorative practices, which is now included in district-wide Safe Schools policy, in dozens of schools. Pat has volunteered as a facilitator on local Community Youth Justice Committees and worked closely with community organizations serving at-risk youth. She holds a Master of Education in Leadership and Administration.
“As an educator, my interest was in nurturing staff leadership to promote a culture and climate change within schools that would support the social, emotional and learning needs of all students,” says Pat. “I want to bring that same sense to working in a collaborative way with our clients to support ongoing change and implementation of restorative practices.”
“We are excited and pleased to welcome Pat,” says John. “She brings a wealth of experience in restorative practices, both as an educator and a senior organizational leader. Her vision, collaborative spirit and team-based approach will be a transformative force in the Canadian context.”
Of Pat and her colleagues who will continue his work, Bruce comments, “I feel really good about the team that has been assembled for IIRP Canada heading into the future!”
John concludes, “Though Bruce is leaving his role as Director of IIRP Canada, we are very pleased that he will continue to explore the intersection of restorative practices with other aspects of life, particularly faith communities, where he has been so influential.”
Bruce will be missed, but we trust he will continue to have a voice in the development of the field.