Ontario Launching New Justice Model in Kenora
Creating Community Justice Centres in Kenora, London, and Toronto
Ontario is launching a new and innovative initiative to respond to the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system.
Community Justice Centres move justice out of the traditional courtroom and into a community setting to help connect individuals with holistic supports that address the root causes of crime. They are justice hubs that bring together services - for example justice, health, Indigenous, mental health and addictions, housing, and social services - to respond to the unique needs of the communities they serve.
In Kenora, Indigenous people facing challenges rooted in intergenerational trauma and colonialism are repeatedly cycling through the criminal justice system as victims and offenders. The province is working with local Indigenous leadership, service providers and community members to develop the Bicultural Community Justice Centre to create meaningful alternatives to incarceration. The centre will prioritize restorative and therapeutic solutions that could allow people to remain in their own community.
Once established, Kenora's new Bicultural Community Justice Centre will:
- Include parallel criminal and restorative justice processes
- Provide supportive methods for helping offenders exit the justice system at an early stage
- Collaborate with local Indigenous leadership to provide culturally-appropriate and restorative criminal justice practices
Ontario is also exploring opportunities to establish satellite hubs in Sioux Lookout and Timmins that would work with the Kenora justice centre to enhance services and access to restorative justice for Indigenous people in Ontario's far north.
The Kenora initiative is one of three launching in Ontario, with the other centres located in Toronto and London. Each centre will be designed by and for the individual community, with support from local and provincial partners. Continuous evaluation of the centres will ensure evidence-based decisions are made to improve outcomes and refine the services they provide.
Ontario's plan to support care, create opportunity and make life more affordable during this period of rapid economic change. The plan includes free prescription drugs for everyone under 25, and 65 or over, through the biggest expansion of medicare in a generation, free tuition for hundreds of thousands of students, a higher minimum wage and better working conditions, and free preschool child care from 2 ½ to kindergarten.
- Ontario worked with local First Nations leadership, Indigenous organizations, community, health and social service providers and justice partners in Kenora to explore whether a Community Justice Centre model could improve the integration and delivery of justice, health and social services.
- Local design and planning will begin in fall of 2018. Implementation is forecasted to begin in 2020.
- In 2016, approximately 89.9 per cent of individuals admitted to the Kenora jail self-identified as Indigenous, compared to total adult provincial admissions where 13.4 per cent of individuals identified as Indigenous.
- The CJC model in other jurisdictions has led to healthier and safer communities with improved outcomes for recidivism rates, public safety, and community well-being, rates of incarceration, trust in the justice system, and cost savings.
- As part of Ontario’s plan to create a faster and fairer justice system, the province has invested in Indigenous-specific restorative justice programs, hired more prosecutors and expanded bail programs.
- Last year, Ontario unveiled a new bail directive to reduce barriers faced by Indigenous and racialized communities at the bail stage, ensure low-risk and vulnerable individuals have access to the appropriate supports for safe releases, and speed up the bail process.
“We know that we must do better to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in Ontario’s justice system. A Community Justice Centre in Kenora will provide comprehensive supports and services for Indigenous people that are grounded in restorative justice principles and delivered by local Indigenous service providers. It is my hope that by addressing the underlying factors of crime – like homelessness, poverty, mental health and addictions – that we can truly break the cycle of reoffending.”
“We are committed to working collaboratively to enhance timely and meaningful justice services for the public. These kinds of innovative initiatives can have a real and positive impact on people’s lives.”
“With the over-representation of Indigenous people within the Canadian criminal justice system, a new approach is needed. We hope to achieve this through a successful partnership in the development and implementation of a Community Justice Centre.”