Ontario Taking Next Steps to Establish Kenora Justice Centre
Government working with Indigenous, community partners to enhance community safety
KENORA — Ontario's government is bringing together Indigenous leadership and organizations, justice partners, and others to establish a Kenora Justice Centre to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the local criminal justice system.
Today, the government announced next steps in making the Kenora Justice Centre a reality, including the creation of a Kenora Justice Centre Advisory Council.
To ensure the Kenora Justice Centre will effectively serve the community, the advisory council will consist of Indigenous leadership, judiciary and justice partners, community leaders, health and social services organizations, and housing providers. It will guide the development of the centre.
As an important first step in establishing a Kenora Justice Centre, pilots are expected to launch this winter. They are part of the engagement and participatory design processes and will inform the design and establishment of full-scale justice centres.
"To cut crime and make a community like Kenora safer we must address the repeat offenders who move through the revolving door of the system struggling with poverty, mental health, addiction, lack of secure housing, and unemployment," said Attorney General Doug Downey. "This Justice Centre will bring together partners and services to ensure help is there when and where it is needed to hold individuals accountable, support victims, and break the cycle of offending."
"The Kenora Justice Centre is being designed by and for the community it serves. It's moving justice out of traditional courtrooms and into a community setting," said Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford. "Our government is working closely with Indigenous partners, police, and justice partners to improve Indigenous people's experiences in the justice system."
The Kenora Justice Centre will build on successful programs that are designed, developed and delivered by Indigenous communities and organizations and supported by the government, including the region's Indigenous Restorative Justice Programs and Indigenous Bail Verification and Supervision Programs.
Continuing to work in collaboration with Indigenous leadership, local service providers, and Indigenous organizations, the Kenora Justice Centre will include parallel criminal and Indigenous restorative justice processes operating side by side. The goal is to increase referrals to restorative justice programs and reduce the number of people in jail awaiting trial. The centre will also provide trauma-informed supports and culturally-appropriate services, prioritizing solutions that allow Indigenous people in northern Ontario to remain in their home communities.
"With the overrepresentation of Indigenous people within the criminal justice system, a new approach is needed in our community," said Francis Kavanaugh, Ogichidaa, Grand Council Treaty #3. "We are committed to working together to establish a made-in-Kenora Justice Centre that recognizes and respects the unique circumstances and history of Indigenous communities in the North."
"There are many barriers limiting access to justice for First Nations in the North. We need new, innovative approaches for our disadvantaged citizens that find themselves in the correctional system," said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox. "The co-development of this community justice centre with Grand Council Treaty #3 will create an environment where Indigenous people can access justice services in a culturally inclusive manner. We look forward to building on this experience and working toward additional centres within the NAN territory."
"The Ontario Court of Justice is committed to the common goal we share with justice system participants to improve the delivery of justice services to the people of this province," said Ontario Court of Justice Chief Justice Lise Maisonneuve. "The Court is pleased that Kenora is a pilot site for the justice centre initiative."
Support for Kenora's Justice Centre is part of the government's strategy to fight guns, gangs, drugs and human trafficking in communities across Ontario. These initiatives combine enforcement and prosecution with community interventions that promote alternatives to gangs and prevent violence before it starts.
- Justice centres exist in more than 70 communities around the world, creating healthier and safer communities with reduced crime rates, fewer offenders committing crimes, and greater supports for frontline service providers and officers.
- Ontario is working to establish four justice centres across the province: Kenora, London, and Toronto’s downtown East and Northwest neighbourhoods.
- In 2016, almost 90 per cent of individuals in the Kenora Jail self-identified as Indigenous.
- While crime rates across the province are declining, the Kenora courthouse experienced an 18 per cent increase in caseload between 2014 and 2017.