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 move justice out of the traditional courtroom into 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 connecting them to services (such as health, mental health, addictions, housing, and employment supports) that reduce the risk of re-offending. Central to the justice centre model is a commitment to better support 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 community needs assessments conducted in Toronto-downtown East, Kenora, and London in 2017 and 2018.
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 needs assessment demonstrated that communities in Toronto’s downtown east are hard at work breaking cycles of offending and victimization for Ontarians affected by homelessness, poverty, and mental health and addiction issues.
To help local justice, health, and social service partners, we are exploring approaches that seek to improve both urban community health and criminal justice outcomes. Our focus will be on breaking the cycle of offending by addressing both 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 programs that provide employment, education, and skills training, so that at-risk youth have new alternatives to criminal activity and better opportunities to improve their social and economic futures.
Indigenous Justice Focus in Kenora
Our needs assessment demonstrated that Kenora’s criminal justice system has become a holding place for Indigenous people who often face challenges rooted in forced relocation, loss of culture, involvement in the child welfare system, systemic discrimination, racism, and sexual abuse. Each of these factors can inform how an Indigenous person may experience the justice system, particularly in the context of the Kenora region.
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 increase Indigenous leadership in restorative justice practices, provide multi-disciplinary trauma-informed supports, and facilitate access to culturally-appropriate services run by local service providers, Indigenous organizations and First Nations leadership.
Youth-in-Transition Focus in London
Our 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 to not be in employment, education, or training when compared to young adults in other communities in Ontario.
In response, we are exploring approaches that address the relationship between the adult criminal justice system, the child protection system, and the youth justice system. Our focus will be on helping young people avoid and exit the adult criminal justice system through stronger collaboration with justice, health, education, child protection, and social service providers.
The first London Justice Centre Pilot court appearances were held on September 24, 2020.
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 move 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.
If you would like to receive updates about opportunities to participate in the design and implementation of a particular Justice Centre, please contact us at: