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Perspectives on Violence and Criminalization of Young People

The Panel did not specifically focus its review on serious occurrences, and in particular physical restraints, nor on the issue of cross-over kids and youth, thus referred to because of their simultaneous involvement with child welfare/ children and youth mental health and youth justice. The Panel did hear from young people and from case workers that the criminalization of behaviour, and also the criminalization of young people impacted by autism, FASD and developmental challenges, continues to be concerning. During the Panel’s work, another major project was launched referred to as the Cross Over Kids Project, led by Dr. Judy Finlay from the School of Child and Youth Care at Ryerson University, and Justice Brian Scully from the 311 Court in Toronto. The preliminary work of this project, which is steered by a large community group involving all major youth serving sectors, MCYS, as well as a youth group representing lived experience as cross over kids, identified the on-going criminalization of young people in child welfare as a major concern (Finlay & Scully, 2016). The Panel supports the on-going work related to this project as a step forward in creating systemic change in this regard.

Also during the Panel’s work, the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, in association with Dr. Kim Snow from the School of Child and Youth Care at Ryerson University, undertook a review of serious occurrences in Ontario’s residential care sector (PACY, 2016). The preliminary results of this review, released to the Panel as documents of interest, indicate a troublesome level of violence in the form of physical interventions carried out by staff in some residential care settings and impacting in particular younger children and youth with significant developmental disabilities. Also during the Panel’s work, another young person died in an unlicensed residential program during a physical restraint. The Panel did review a series of child death inquests involving death by physical restraint and is deeply troubled by the repetitive and still unresolved recommendations for change from one inquest to the next (the Panel reviewed a total of eight inquests into the deaths of young people in care from 1998-2011).