Speaker Details

Speaker:Irene Lawrenson
Topic:Restorative Justice **

Irena started her 30-year career with the Ontario Provincial Police in 1974 as one of the first 35 women hired by the OPP as a police officer. She spent her first ten years on general patrol as the first and only female officer at Brantford detachment. In 1983, Irena transferred to OPP Headquarters to the newly formed Computer Services Branch. She was one of the first three women to achieve the rank of Corporal, the first female officer to achieve the rank of Staff Sergeant, and the first female to achieve a Queen’s Commission through the regular promotional process. As an Inspector, she held positions in Employment Equity, Policy & Planning, and Education & Training. In 1997, Irena became involved in Alternative Measures as the co-chair of the Inter-ministerial Pre-Charge Diversion project which eventually led to her becoming the OPP’s corporate lead for the implementation of Restorative Justice and the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which replaced the Young Offenders Act. In 1998, she coordinated “The Police Conference on Community Justice: Strengthening Community Responsibility” to promote the concept within the Ontario police community. In preparation for this, she partnered with the RCMP in sponsoring the writing of Restorative Justice and Policing in Canada: Bringing Community into Focus by Dr. Margaret Shaw, Concordia University. Irena also partnered with the Criminology departments at the University of Toronto and the University of Rosario in Argentina on a CIDA-funded “Project for Safe and Just Communities” whose objective was transference of knowledge about the development of peace making committees between the two countries. In addition, Irena partnered with the RCMP and BANAC (Barrie & Area Native Advisory Circle) in providing conference facilitation training to OPP officers and community members. As a member of the Inter-ministerial Restorative Justice Working Group, Irena presented on the topic of Restorative Justice to various audiences including the Ontario Association of Law Enforcement Planners and the International Association of Women Police. Her work in Restorative Justice also aligned her with the Ontario Multi-Faith Council and the various community agencies that provided diversion programs for youth. Irena is the recipient of the 20 year Police Exemplary Service Medal, the 30 year Police Exemplary Service Bar and was nominated for the federal government’s Ron Weibe Restorative Justice Award, the provincial government’s Race Relations Award, and the Ontario Women in Law Enforcement Mentor Award.

Irena has been married to retired OPP Staff Sergeant Ralph Lawrenson for over 40 years. Her family life is both blessed and complicated with six “daughters of the heart” and 11 grandchildren ranging from 20 months to 30 years of age. Post retirement in 2005, Irena devoted a decade sitting on boards of local not-for profits: Barrie out Of the Cold, North Simcoe Victim Crisis Services, Couchiching Jubilee House, Orillia’s Lightfoot Days and most recently the mayoral campaign in Oro-Medonte Township. She also continued to promote Restorative Justice in Orillia by partnering with North Simcoe Victim Crisis Services, Georgian College and the Colborne Street. Although no longer “in the business”, Irena continues to speak on the topic because she still believes that justice can be restorative!