Creating Community Justice Centres in Toronto, London and Kenora
Ontario is launching a new and innovative initiative to respond to the overrepresentation of marginalized, racialized and 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, mental health and addictions, housing, and social services - to respond to the unique needs of the communities they serve.
In Toronto's Moss Park neighbourhood, the new Community Justice Centre will respond to the needs of marginalized people including those facing homelessness, addiction, mental health and poverty issues in order to improve community safety and well-being.
Once established, Toronto's new Urban Community Health and Justice Centre will:
- Address social factors, like income, homelessness, education, and employment, that can negatively impact an individual's health and well-being
- Increase access to harm reduction strategies and alternatives to incarceration
- Improve information sharing and coordination of services between local agencies, justice sector partners and service providers
The Toronto initiative is one of three launching in Ontario, with the other centres located in London and Kenora. 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 community leaders, Indigenous service providers, health and social service agencies, and justice partners to explore whether a Community Justice Centre model could improve the integration and delivery of justice, health and social services in Moss Park.
- Local design and planning will begin in fall of 2018. Implementation is forecasted to begin in 2020.
- Harm reduction intervention is designed to reduce drug-related harm without requiring abstinence from drug use. Harm reduction programs and policies target all harm caused by drug-use, including to users, families, communities, and society.
- As part of Ontario’s plan to create a faster and fairer justice system, the province has hired more prosecutors and expanded bail programs.
- The CJC model in other jurisdictions has led to healthier and safer communities with improved outcomes for recidivism rates, public safety, community well-being, rates of incarceration, trust in the justice system, and cost savings.
“For vulnerable people with a history of poverty, homelessness, and mental health or addictions issues, the justice system is often the first point of contact to access programs and services. The Community Justice Centre in Moss Park will provide comprehensive supports and services for vulnerable people to make long-term positive changes in their lives. By providing this holistic approach, it is my hope that we can break the cycle of re-offending by addressing the root causes of the criminal behaviour.” -Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General
“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.” -Lise Maisonneuve, Chief Justice, Ontario Court of Justice
“After much consultation the establishment of a Community Justice Centre in Toronto’s Moss Park and Downtown East neighbourhoods is intended to bring a new approach to the criminal justice system, one that is more collaborative and measured for vulnerable communities. The City of Toronto has utilized similar approaches in response to complex needs, which have proven to be very effective. I welcome this initiative and look forward to having the City of Toronto work with the Province to implement this innovative program.” -Kristyn Wong-Tam, Toronto City Councillor, Ward 27
“A Community Justice Centre will be of immense value to the Moss Park community. It will help many individuals, including Fred Victor clients, to access more off-ramps from the justice system, such as supportive housing, safe beds, and treatment-related supports. By taking a therapeutic and harm-reduction approach, the Community Justice Centre will be able to meaningfully meet people where they are at, and focus on individual and community wellbeing.” -Mark Aston, Executive Director, Fred Victor