Ret. Staff Sgt. Michael Novakowski of Abbotsford Police, Mediate BC's Sharon Sutherland to be honoured June 10

The Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) will present Doctor of Laws degrees, honoris causa, to two recipients at its 2021 spring convocation: Michael Novakowski, formerly of the Abbotsford Police Department, in recognition of his promotion of legal education for police and his anti-gang and youth initiatives; and to Sharon Sutherland, Director of Strategic Innovation for Mediate BC, for her contributions to conflict resolution through practice, advocacy, and the training and mentoring of mediators across Canada.

“Michael Novakowski has not only served the community as a police officer with distinction, he has exemplified the lifelong learner, earning a Master of Laws degree and then sharing his knowledge with others,” said JIBC President and CEO Dr. Michel Tarko. “His passion for the law has led to his becoming a legal specialist on police powers, serving as an instructor at JIBC, the University of the Fraser Valley, and to local police agencies.”

Retired Abbotsford Police Department officer Michael Novakowski is receiving a JIBC honorary degree.
Retired Abbotsford Police Department officer Michael Novakowski is receiving a JIBC honorary degree.

Mr. Novakowski created a bi-monthly newsletter, “In Service: 10-8,” distributed to more than 1,500 people and organizations across Canada, which discusses court cases on policing issues and powers. He also serves as the Case Law Editor for policing publication BlueLine Magazine. In addition to his law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, specializing in criminal law and procedure, he earned a Master of Arts in leadership and training from Royal Roads University.

Mr. Novakowski retired in April from the Abbotsford Police Department with the rank of staff sergeant. During his more than 30 years in policing, his many contributions to the community included developing creative and engaging ways to guide youth towards making good choices and away from the gang life. For this work he was recognized with one of the three B.C. Meritorious Service Awards he received during his career. Other honours he has received include being invested as a Member of the Order of Merit for Police Forces in Canada by the Governor General for his contributions to policing.

For more than 20 years, Sharon Sutherland has spearheaded and advocated for the increased use of conflict resolution and mediation in B.C. She has mentored, trained and coached mediators across Canada, helping to expand access to justice both within and independent of the court system.

Lawyer, teacher and mediator Sharon Sutherland is being recognized with a JIBC honorary degree.
Lawyer, teacher and mediator Sharon Sutherland is being recognized with a JIBC honorary degree.

“Ms. Sutherland’s work in the fields of law and mediation have helped shape B.C.’s justice system, and the skills of those who practise within it,” said Dr. Tarko. “This has included serving as one of the original designers and program managers of the Court Mediation Program in the B.C. Provincial Court which provided mediation services in more than 20,000 civil disputes and served as a training ground for more than 1,000 mediators in the province. She also worked with Mediate BC to develop a province-wide practicum to increase the number of child protection mediators in under-serviced parts of B.C., and helped develop the Civil Resolution Tribunal, focusing on both strata and small claims disputes.” 

She earned both a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of British Columbia, and a Master of Laws from Osgoode Hall Law School. In between, she earned a Master of Arts in drama and theatre studies from the University of London and completed all work but her thesis towards a doctorate degree in drama at the University of Toronto.

Ms. Sutherland’s varied educational background has informed her professional and community work which has included practising law, teaching in the UBC Faculty of Law, utilizing applied improvisation and other theatre tools to teach conflict resolution, and serving on the Board of Directors for the Vancouver Fringe Festival, including as its president. Her interests have also extended into exploring the use of games in supporting team building and conflict prevention and management. This has included hosting team-building scavenger hunts, and co-designing Zombie Fight or Flight, a collaborative card game for PignPotato Games.

The 2021 Spring Convocation ceremony will be held virtually on June 10 and will recognize approximately 270 graduates who have completed certificates, diplomas and degrees at JIBC.


Want to make a difference every day? The Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) provides the education and training to let people to do just that, being there to support others when their health, safety or property is at stake.

JIBC is a public, post-secondary institution focused on justice and public safety professionals at all stages of their careers in fields including law enforcement, firefighting, paramedicine, security and emergency management. Complementing these programs, the Institute provides instruction in related areas such as conflict resolution, mediation, leadership and counselling, offers graduate studies in cybersecuritybusiness intelligence, and tactical criminal analysis, and conducts applied research in the justice and public safety fields.