Ontario’s Plan for Justice Centres
As part of Ontario’s commitment to build safer communities, we will establish justice centres in various locations across the province to address the root causes of crime, break the cycle of offending and tackle gun and gang violence.
Justice centres differ from traditional courtrooms by delivering justice in a community setting. The centres bring together justice, health and social services to address the root causes of crime, break the cycle of offending, and improve community safety.
Justice centres hold individuals accountable for their offences while simultaneously connecting them to services that reduce their risk of re-offending (for example, health, mental health and addictions, housing, employment, and social services). Central to the justice centre model is the focus on better supporting victims and communities harmed by crime.
Justice centres have been established in over 70 different communities around the world. These centres have reduced crime rates, decreased gang participation and activity, supported frontline officers and service providers, and contributed to healthier and safer communities.
Ontario’s plan for justice centres builds on past conversations with communities, including the community needs assessments conducted in Toronto-downtown East, Kenora and London in 2017 and 2018. You can read the community needs assessment reports to learn more about what we heard during these consultations:
The government will establish justice centres in four communities: (1) Toronto-downtown East, (2) Toronto-Northwest, (3) Kenora, and (4) London.
Community Health Focus in Toronto-Downtown East
Our community needs assessment demonstrated that Toronto’s downtown East neighbourhood is working hard to address the cycle of offending and victimization for Ontarians affected by homelessness, poverty, mental health and addictions issues.
To help local justice, health and social service partners, we are exploring an approach that addresses both urban community health and criminal justice. Our focus will be on breaking the cycle of offending by concurrently addressing both the criminogenic factors and social determinants of health.
Gun Crime and Violence Reduction Focus in Toronto-Northwest
Neighbourhoods in Toronto’s Northwest are experiencing escalating gun crime and violence that often involve youth and young adults. We will be undertaking a crime response scan and community assessment, as a first step towards establishing a justice centre in these communities. As part of this work, we will explore gun violence intervention and prevention strategies, as well as opportunities to provide employment, education and skills training to support at-risk youth with alternatives to criminal activity and improve their social and economic futures.
Indigenous Justice Focus in Kenora
Our community needs assessment demonstrated that Kenora’s criminal justice system has become a holding place for Indigenous people who face challenges, such as forced relocation, loss of culture, involvement in child welfare, systemic discrimination, racism, and sexual abuse.
In response to these complex issues, we are exploring a bicultural justice approach with parallel criminal and Indigenous restorative justice processes. These two streams would support increased Indigenous leadership in the provision of traditional and restorative justice practices, provide multi-disciplinary trauma-informed supports, and support access to culturally-appropriate programs and services run by local Indigenous organizations and governments, based in Indigenous restorative justice principles.
Youth-in-Transition Focus in London
Our community needs assessment demonstrated that many young adults in London are falling through the cracks once they age out of child protection or teenage social and health services. Young adults aged 18-25 account for a disproportionate share of criminal charges and Mental Health Act apprehensions in London, and young adults in London are much more likely than elsewhere in Ontario to not be in employment, education or training.
In response, we are exploring an approach that addresses the relationship between the adult criminal justice system, the child protection system, and the youth justice system. Our focus will be on redirecting more young people out of the adult criminal justice system through strengthened collaboration amongst justice, health, education, and social service providers.
Implementing Justice Centres with Each Community
Each justice centre will be designed by and for the community it serves - with residents, police officers, justice partners, health and social service providers, community groups, victims organizations, businesses and Indigenous leaders.
We will be taking a phased approach to designing, piloting, evaluating, and expanding each justice centre, and measuring the performance of each justice centre to ensure they are delivering results. This staged, evidence-informed approach will ensure we make smart investments that get Ontario closer to a more integrated and sustainable criminal justice system. Updates on phases and next steps for each community are forthcoming.
How to get involved
If you would like to receive general updates on Ontario’s plan for justice centres, including opportunities to participate in the design and implementation of justice centres, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.