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Review of the Roots of Youth Violence (2008): Executive Summary

The Honourable Roy McMurtry      Dr. Alvin Curling


When Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty asked us to undertake this review in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of a high school student at school, he had the wisdom not to simply ask for short-term ideas about how to deploy yet more law enforcement resources to try to suppress this kind of violence. Instead, he asked us to spend a year seeking to find out where it is coming from — its roots — and what might be done to address them to make Ontario safer in the long term.

This turned out to be a most challenging assignment. Ontario is a large and diverse province. The issues are complex and controversial. Time was limited, and both the pressures and expectations have been high. We nonetheless thank the Premier for this opportunity and commend him for the initiative he took in placing the focus on the long-term well-being of Ontario and its residents.

In undertaking this work, we joined a conversation rather than starting one. Our work, although focusing on a more fundamental analysis than has often been the case, did not begin in a vacuum. In provincial and other governments and, perhaps most importantly, in communities across this province, many individuals have combined compassion with passion to help address the violence in our society.

However, we found no overall policy in place to guide this work and no structures to coordinate the efforts of those doing it. We found a focus on problems rather than on the roots of problems, and on interventions once the roots had taken hold rather than on actions to prevent that happening.

Overall, our analysis brought to light a number of underlying issues that call for attention in a structured and sustained way. While this “roots” analysis has by definition caused us to focus on often very deep and sometimes divisive problems and has perhaps in some areas given our report a negative tone, we believe that our plan for the future is positive. With good communications and sustained and visible commitment, it will earn and receive significant public support.

Fundamentally, we believe that the public in Ontario does and will support an approach based on the efficiencies of aligning governments and communities to get at entrenched social problems in a collaborative way, an approach that features working in neighbourhood partnerships in the most disadvantaged areas to build strong communities and to nurture healthy, well-educated and engaged youth. And that is what we call for, along with a governance structure to ensure that change happens in a coordinated and sustained way.

Before outlining our findings, we want to acknowledge the wise counsel and excellent advice we received from the two bodies our terms of reference identified as key partners: the City of Toronto and the United Way. In particular, Nancy Matthews, on behalf of the city, and Frances Lankin, on behalf of United Way Toronto, brought to our work a wealth of expertise and experience, and were instrumental in helping us appreciate the full scope of the issues before us, and the kinds of sustainable responses necessary to address those issues.

We also want to note that while this executive summary provides a fairly extensive digest of our report, the complexity and interconnectedness of the matters we cover are such that those who wish to fully appreciate the issues and our approach to them should consult the main volume.