Review of the Roots of Youth Violence

Volume 1, Chapter 9:

Structural Reform to Address Violence Involving Youth


As we saw in chapters 3 and 4, circumstances such as poverty, racism, lack of family supports and the like do not directly cause violence. Instead, but importantly, they are sources of — in our parlance, the roots of — the immediate risk factors for violence involving youth, including alienation, oppression, lack of hope or empathy, low self-esteem, impulsiveness and no other apparent means of being heard nor of addressing inequalities and unfairness.

This led us to conclude that a social opportunity strategy must be put in place across all sectors in Ontario to mobilize the social capital and other assets in our communities to address these roots. We must change the circumstances that now nurture the immediate risk factors into new ones that produce hope and opportunity.

Most of this chapter focuses on that task. We do, though, go on to address the interventions that are still required at the individual level to deal with those youth who develop the immediate risk factors about which we are so concerned. We do this briefly as there are already established programs on which to draw, with the main need now being to focus on and increase the use of those interventions that the evidence shows work best. In this context, we add our voices to those calling for a handgun ban in Ontario and briefly outline our reasons for doing so.

In approaching our broader strategy, we again acknowledge that much of value has already been said and written about the roots of violence involving youth and ways to address them. Inspired, insightful work has taken place in communities, in the academic world, in previous reports and in governments. Many dedicated people in all sectors have worked with passion and commitment to provide opportunities for youth and to make our communities safer. It is with profound admiration for this work that we have nonetheless concluded, for the reasons set out in Chapter 5, that in 2008 and beyond, this province faces a real risk of matters getting worse, not better.

To reverse this situation, and to create sustainable hope and opportunity for all Ontarians, we believe that a comprehensive and aligned approach based on four “pillars” is essential. These pillars will, collectively, provide a repaired social context, a youth policy framework, a neighbourhood capacity and empowerment strategy, and a new integrated governance system for all activities bearing upon violence involving youth. We conclude this introduction by summarizing them, and then discuss each in detail in the balance of the chapter. In summary, the four pillars are:

  1. A Repaired Social Context

    This pillar will bring together strategies to address the level, the concentrations and the circumstances of poverty, along with such tightly related issues as racism, housing, education, family and community support, transportation, the justice system and other services. It will provide a targeted and measurable long-term strategy to move from social exclusion to social inclusion, creating greater opportunities for the young people who lack them now.

  2. A Comprehensive Youth Policy Framework

    Building on the early childhood development framework that has anchored programming for children up to age six, this pillar will provide a comprehensive framework based on developmental stages and outcome goals to guide the policy and program decisions of all orders of government, the community and agencies. It will foster strategic decision-making and policy coherence across the numerous sectors concerned about violence involving youth.

    An important part of implementing the framework is the necessity of bringing youth-led organizations into both policy and delivery roles. It is youth who must have key roles in the design and delivery of this strategy, as they will pay the heaviest long-term price if it does not succeed.

  3. A Neighbourhood Capacity and Empowerment Focus

    This pillar will enhance or create local centres, often based in or around schools, in which opportunities and services for youth and their families can be maximized, and community cohesion fostered. They will provide space and services, butjust as importantly, will also provide hubs in which communities can anchor ever-increasing amounts of local policy-making, priority-setting and program delivery. This pillar also includes supports for resident engagement, financial stability for key service providers and new funding mechanisms for core community building organizations.
  4. Integrated Governance

    This pillar will provide new governance mechanisms to enable the provincial government to plan and deliver an effective, coordinated and efficient approach to the broad range of issues affecting violence involving youth. These mechanisms are essential if the rest of the overall strategy is to work.

    As these new provincial mechanisms are put in place, the pillar provides a community-based approach through which the Province’s integrated governance mechanisms can develop strategic partnerships with the other orders of government. Those partnerships will set priorities, develop policies and deliver services, and also collectively begin to listen to and work with communities in ways that support their cohesion, capacity and meaningful involvement in governance.

These four pillars form the heart of our advice to the Premier. In our view, violence involving youth can only be addressed by ensuring sustained and relentless progress towards a social context that provides hope and opportunity for all Ontarians, a youth policy framework, enhanced neighbourhood capacity and empowerment, and an integrated governance structure. Supported by our individual intervention strategies, these four pillars will effectively address the roots of violence involving youth, while at the same time improving the quality of life for everyone in this province.

The First Pillar:

A Repaired Social Context


In this pillar, we discuss the kinds of social context changes that we believe are necessary to address the roots of violence involving youth. We saw in Chapter 4 how pervasive, persistent and invasive those roots are, and in Chapter 5 how much damage they are doing not only to specific individuals, but also to entire neighbourhoods and potentially to the social fabric of this province.

These roots have grown over a number of years. They were not created by one party or government or segment of society. We all bear the responsibility for having let a series of discrete policy choices, including the failure to implement the recommendations of earlier reports, undermine the social strength that Ontario needs in order to be a safe, prosperous and inclusive society for all.

Just as those policy omissions and commissions grew over time, so will it take time to remedy them. There are initiatives such as anti-racism, addressing the circumstances of poverty and mental health, and starting to build community hubs that can and should be advanced immediately, while others will take varying amounts of time to initiate, with implementation times ranging from months or years to possibly a generation.

We stress this point not to encourage the government to respond in a slow way, but rather to be clear that the breadth of our analysis does not mean that we are suggesting that everything we discuss in this pillar can be done at once. If we sound cautious in this regard it is because experience shows that those opposed to change will often focus on the breadth of an initiative, and then attack the straw man of what they will say is a call for widespread change to happen all at once. For greater certainty, let us be clear that we do not claim to have all the details or choices resolved and that we are primarily providing broad directions in this social context pillar.

We believe that we have described the right destination and appropriate ways to get there, but fully recognize that work beyond our time frame or expertise will be required to turn our broad directions into detailed road maps. What we can unequivocally call for is a firm commitment to the destination, and a move away from piecemeal and sporadic ways of getting there.

As we outline in Chapter 10, Ontario needs a comprehensive plan to accomplish the required changes, with defined outcome goals, specific timelines, and clear indicators to measure progress on a regular basis and to keep the strategy on track as those goals are pursued. The government must provide hope as well as opportunity. A clear set of commitments with measurable steps and early progress will provide a basis for that hope even if everything that is desired, and indeed desirable, cannot be provided in the earliest years.

With those important understandings, we will proceed to outline the kinds of initiatives that we believe are needed to repair our social context so that it works against the roots of violence involving youth, rather than, for many among us, nurturing and encouraging them. While, for ease of exposition, we discuss the social context issues in separate categories, they are all interrelated. A cohesive and aligned strategy across all of the areas we cover will be required if progress is to be made.

For reasons made clear in chapters 4 and 5, we begin with the issues of poverty and racism, and particularly those physical spaces where they intersect. But we wish to stress that the roots of violence involving youth also arise in other places and contexts and can manifest themselves in Ontarians of all backgrounds. Alienation, lack of hope, impulsivity and other immediate risk factors are powerfully, but far from exclusively, driven by the intersection of racism and poverty.

Mental health issues, unhealthy, stressed and unsupportive families, transportation barriers, education issues and other roots we have discussed affect many youth who are not members of racialized groups and/or do not live in areas of concentrated deprivation. These issues arise throughout our society. Although often the best way to get at the most pernicious intertwinings of the roots is to work with and within the most disadvantaged communities, the measures we discuss here must also be applied more widely.

Pillar 1 accordingly sets out both targeted and universal measures to improve the social context across the province in ways that will address the roots of violence involving youth. We proceed in subsequent parts of this chapter to discuss our other three pillars: a policy framework to guide these changes as they apply to youth, a strategy to strengthen and work with communities across the province and a governance structure designed to maintain focus and build collaboration over the long haul. Then, in Chapter 10, we outline an overall accountability structure and a road map for this work.

1. Responding to Poverty

The Potential for a Virtuous Cycle

Ontario is a rich province: rich in resources, rich in people and rich in potential. As the Premier said on May 8 of this year, even a somewhat declining economy does not change the reality that Ontario is situated in a country of haves. There is, in our view, no justification for the level or conditions of poverty that coexist with this wealth.

We start with this statement because we do not want what we say about measures to reduce the impacts of poverty to in any way be seen as our acceptance of the level of poverty Ontario now has, or anything like it. Our mandate, the crossroads at which we find the province and the reality of the time it will take to address poverty, even with the Premier’s impressive commitment to do so, all nonetheless compel us to put forward such measures.

As a fundamental starting point for what we propose, we wish to repeat an important message from Chapter 4. Poverty does not directly cause violence involving youth. For the reasons we set out in that chapter, if not ameliorated it can nonetheless play a central role in generating alienation, a lack of hope or opportunity, low self-esteem, a sense of having no future and other immediate risk factors for that violence.

The three main ways poverty can do so, as identified in Chapter 4, provide a logical way to also look at solutions. To recap, they are:

At we noted in Chapter 4, these factors are at present intertwining in powerfully negative ways, accelerating the malignant impacts of each and creating immediate risk factors on a widespread basis. In our view, positive action on each of them is not only necessary, but is also efficient: each discrete action will be linked in positive ways to the others, powerfully reinforcing the individual gains made by each.

These positive actions will of necessity be advanced and achieved at different rates. The first aspect, the level of poverty itself, will likely take the longest to resolve. Few see it taking less than a generation, and indeed most would applaud a firm commitment to even that relatively long time frame. By contrast, many of the negative circumstances of poverty are ripe for immediate action.

Although the other aspect of poverty, the concentrations, can as a practical matter only be addressed incrementally, progress in that direction will be very much accelerated by actions to reduce the level of poverty and to advance the initiatives we describe to address its circumstances. If poverty is less deep and devastating for families, and if poor neighbourhoods receive early infusions of recreational facilities, parks and community building centres, and if their schools and public spaces become safer and better, these improving conditions will weaken some of the roots we have discussed. These improvements will also begin to slow the exodus from these communities, attract businesses and jobs, and make the communities increasingly attractive to those who are somewhat better off, all of which will reduce the concentration of disadvantage itself. The potential for a virtuous cycle here is large and should not be missed.

Reducing the Level of Poverty

We do not propose to outline a strategy to deal with the first issue, that of the level of poverty. The way forward has been mapped by many. It calls for higher and more stable levels of income support; better job training, readiness and opportunities; improved access to employment insurance benefits; the elimination of barriers to pursuing higher education and to getting, maintaining and advancing in employment; the removal of barriers caused by racism and other forms of discrimination; and other well-known strategies.

Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Committee and the Throne Speech and Budget commitments to establish goals and timelines to reduce poverty in Ontario are very positive steps in this regard. We accept and applaud the Premier’s commitment to making serious progress on this front and will defer to that resolve and to the expertise that his committee is bringing to its task. We simply wish to record our view that we consider relentless progress on this issue to be not only a matter of basic human dignity, but as well an essential part of any plan to address the roots of violence involving youth.

Addressing the Concentrations of Poverty

For the myriad of reasons set out in chapters 4 and 5, we consider high concentrations of poverty to be one of the most significant sources of the immediate risk factors for violence involving youth. To cite just one of the many voices articulating this concern, Prof. Scot Wortley, after studying crime and its origins for many years, recently concluded in a paper prepared for our review that:

Ontario, it seems, is currently at risk of developing the types of permanent underclass communities (often referred to as ghettos) that have marked the history of urban development in the United States. The warning must be sounded — if such deprived neighbourhoods become entrenched, it is very likely that much higher rates of violent crime will follow (Wortley, Volume 4: 59).

As discussed above, these concentrations of disadvantage will continue to create this risk every day until they are addressed, frustrating many of the efforts being made in numerous other ways to reduce violence involving youth. To fail to address them is to ensure a steady supply of new recruits to replace whatever number of youth our other interventions deter from violence, thus wasting public dollars and, tragically, lives. It is simply not logical to fight fires with one set of public policies while at the same time starting others by failing to correct these continuing policy failures from the past.

We agree with the mantra adopted in Britain to anchor its neighbourhood renewal strategy: no one should be seriously disadvantaged by where they live. Or, to put the matter more directly in the terms of our mandate: where someone lives should not itself generate immediate risk factors for their being involved in violence.

This is a long-term goal, but one on which action can start immediately and where an accretion of seemingly small steps can make a major difference over time. First and most obviously, we must stop the creation or expansion of concentrations of disadvantage. New affordable housing must be created through a long-term plan, with new units integrated into economically mixed neighbourhoods. As well, inclusionary zoning and other planning tools must be used to encourage economically mixed development overall.

As described by the Community University Research Alliance, inclusionary zoning is:

... a policy tool that ties the production of affordable housing to market-rate residential development. Any residential development that includes a certain minimum number of units must include some affordable housing. In this way, inclusionary zoning makes the creation of new affordable housing independent of direct public funding. It simply becomes a cost of doing private residential development. This policy tool has been used extensively in the United States and the United Kingdom, and in a weaker form in Canada as well.

There are two main benefits associated with inclusionary zoning. First, affordable housing is produced. Second, the affordable units are usually provided in the same location as market-rate developments, thereby creating communities with a good socio-economic mix (Community University Research Alliance, 2007: 8).

In this connection, we note the potential to pair inclusionary zoning with incentives for developers, and note as well that Ontario’s Places to Grow (formerly Smart Growth) strategy provides an existing land-use planning mechanism, which might be adapted to support moves in this direction. Economic integration has not been part of its mandate thus far, but it seems to us that it can and should be part of this innovative approach to advancing the provincial interest in land-use planning.

In addition to inclusionary zoning, the Community University Research Alliance has also suggested a number of other mechanisms, which could be deployed to advance the goal of economically integrated neighbourhoods. These mechanisms support a number of specific objectives, including decreasing the potential to displace existing residents, maintaining the affordability of existing rental housing, adding new rental housing and maintaining a mix of local shops and services. They include:

We are not in a position to assess the merits of each of these proposals. We list them here simply to illustrate that there is an established body of thinking about how to work towards economically integrated neighbourhoods. What Ontario needs to do is to recognize why it is essential to do so, and then to open the door to the readily available expertise, which is more than willing to bring forward the needed actions.

A second part of any strategy to reduce concentrations of disadvantage is to improve and integrate the ones that already exist. As we have seen, bringing economic diversity to a community will provide the role models and other positive influences that are in too short supply in these neighbourhoods now. It will also bring the “sharp elbows of the middle class” to work within the community for its betterment, rather than having them working in other communities in a competitive way that hurts the disadvantaged communities.

Indeed, it is likely that more progress can be made in the short run by diversifying the existing concentrations of disadvantage than by efforts to locate affordable housing in better-off communities. The latter efforts are important, but they are not likely to bear much fruit very quickly, nor is their likely scale such that they will have significant impacts on the existing concentrations of disadvantage.

An important emphasis should therefore be on finding ways to diversify existing concentrations of disadvantage while protecting the social and individual strengths such neighbourhoods often have. Regent Park in Toronto and cities elsewhere offer examples of how an area of concentrated poverty can be integrated by adding condominiums and by changing the physical structure to better connect it to the surrounding community. While there is some dispute as to how this has been done, and whether enough care has been taken to protect existing social structures and bonds, few question the goal of economic integration itself.

Given the many ways these concentrations can foster the immediate risk factors, we see this as a core area for provincial investment. We stress, though, that the economic integration of existing concentrations of disadvantage must be done in a way that respects and, indeed, reinforces the strengths of those communities. Great care must be taken to understand those strengths and to manage the process of redevelopment to support and incorporate them throughout the entire process. Relocation of residents while work is done, for example, should be to areas as close as possible to the community, ideally keeping youth in their current schools, and should seek to keep together those who share social bonds.

To be clear, we also stress that we are not talking about gentrification. It does little good to “improve” a disadvantaged neighbourhood by having the middle class replace the disadvantaged and displace them to some other concentration of poverty. Indeed, it does harm, as the social bonds and structures that helped people cope with disadvantage will be fractured in the process.

In all of the efforts to diversify the existing concentrations of disadvantage, it is accordingly vital to remember that the goal is to reduce alienation, provide hope, build self-esteem and foster a sense of belonging to and engagement with the wider community. This is not a bricks and mortar exercise, but a fundamentally human one in which bricks and motor are the means, not the end.

Addressing the Circumstances of Poverty

This is an initiative that pays dividends in two important ways. First, it improves the quality of life for the disadvantaged wherever they live, addressing in many ways the key drivers of alienation, lack of hope and lack of any sense of belonging to or having a stake in society. Second, where the circumstances are addressed by adding important amenities and services to disadvantaged neighbourhoods, it makes them more attractive places to live and raise families. This, in turn, encourages existing residents to stay as they improve their own economic situation.

This second approach also has another benefit. It makes those neighbourhoods more attractive to those who have some degree of choice about where they live. We are not saying that the middle class will rush to move into a disadvantaged area just because it has good services. But we do believe that, as improvements begin in these neighbourhoods, they or their immediate vicinities will start to be seen as viable options for those who have more choice about where to live. This will further strengthen those communities and, indeed, increase over time the potential to proceed with redevelopment along the lines of Regent Park.

The fundamental value of redressing the circumstances of poverty should be obvious. Long ago, we decided that poverty should not bar an education and so we provided free and universal public education. More recently, we determined that it should not bar access to hospitals and later to core medical services and so we made hospitals free and built medicare. Today, there is simply no reason to accept that poverty should mean fewer and poorer parks, recreation facilities, community centres, arts opportunities, local stores or public services, nor should it mean inferior public transit service.

Indeed, it seems clear that if we cannot reduce serious income gaps and if people are condemned to live in areas of concentrated disadvantage, largely, and in the case of youth, entirely, for reasons beyond their own control, then the least we as a society can do is to try to counterbalance this with public services. Youth with the greatest need and who otherwise get the least from society should have excellent parks, first-rate recreational and arts facilities, the best-resourced schools and the easiest access to public services. Although this should be done as a matter of fundamental fairness, it will play a central role in addressing the roots of violence and thereby improving the prospects for our society as a whole.

The most urgent and pressing need is a safe and accessible place for youth to gather, play and engage in arts activities. We won’t overuse the word “shocked” in this report, but we will say that we were profoundly shocked by the realization that so many youth have nowhere to go and nothing to do outside the perhaps 35 hours a week they spend in school for about nine months each year.

We have stood in some of the disadvantaged neighbourhoods and looked around and tried to imagine a day, a week, a summer or, impossibly for us, a childhood spent with no place for creative play. We have been taken into some “recreation centres” only to see that they are woefully inadequate — in some the spaces are so few and so small that it is hard to see how active recreation could occur at all. And we have been told all too often how the better spaces that do exist in some communities are booked by outside groups and are off-limits to local youth, who have no other options.

This issue extends beyond the disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Many youth living in economically integrated areas lack the money to pay the fees that are often demanded for programs and services, and so are as effectively barred from them as youth in neighbourhoods where they do not exist.

We will address in Pillar 3 the need for schools to be open and accessible to serve as hubs and to provide space for youth and youth activities. Whether access is provided by new facilities or by eliminating barriers to existing ones, we believe there is a core provincial interest in youth having, as one of the greatest people of our generation, Nelson Mandela, said, the right to play and to do so in a safe, welcoming environment where they can be exposed to positive mentors and good learning experiences. For reasons we explore more fully under Pillar 3, we believe that as a matter of urgent priority the Province must bear the responsibility to ensure that there are accessible gathering, recreation and arts facilities for disadvantaged youth wherever they live.

At the same time, we also see a provincial interest in the quality of the housing stock. There are serious quality issues in public housing, much but not all of which is in neighbourhoods of concentrated disadvantage. Providing people with a quality place to live, where hot water is available, the public spaces are not run-down and unsafe, and the elevators work, is not too much to ask in this society. We saw in Chapter 4 how failing to do so incubates immediate risk factors; we cannot afford to ignore this obvious route to addressing that risk.

The Province should be vocal in trying to increase the federal funding for this, but should also significantly increase its own investment. Recent provincial funding has been significant, but still falls far short of recognizing the serious harm done when youth spend their childhood in substandard conditions.

In this regard, we were pleased to hear that the Province and the federal government may be close to an agreement on “unlocking” the equity that has been built up in public housing units. Often lost in talk about subsidized housing is the reality that public housing tenants pay rent, and that rent eventually pays off the mortgages used to finance their buildings. We were told that substantial equity now exists in the public housing stock — enough to cover not only upgrading, but new construction as well. We strongly encourage the two governments to maximize refinancing opportunities using the equity in the social housing stock for capital repairs and new development.

In addition to public investments in public housing, steps must be taken to improve the living conditions in private rental accommodation. We did not receive much information on the best ways to do this, but can say that the provincial interest in addressing the roots of violence involving youth may well require increased public interventions in the form of low-cost loans or other ways to ensure the necessary investments are made. Federal programs for this remain in place, but they fall short of the mark. The Province should seriously consider cooperating with municipal governments to close the gap as part of its strategy to address the roots of violence involving youth. We cannot wait to resolve theoretical turf wars among governments while the quality of the actual turf on which people live is generating violence.

As well, investments must be made in the physical environment in areas of concentrated disadvantage. Some of the required improvements can be seen as traditional crime control initiatives, often referred to as “creating defensible space.” These generally involve improving sightlines, eliminating cul-de-sacs and dead ends, ensuring that the regular street grid passes through the neighbourhood, improving lighting and so on.

Other improvements have esthetic dimensions. The way a neighbourhood looks affects how children and adults alike see themselves, for better or for worse. Simply improving the way a space looks can change the attitudes of residents to it, to themselves and to their futures. As one youth said to us, it would be simply amazing to be able to get up in the morning, throw open a window, look out and say, “Damn, that looks fine!”

Related to this are investments to make the public space usable, and used, space. Good and well-maintained playground equipment, community gardens, possibly weekend markets and other initiatives can bring residents back to public spaces, improve the level of social interaction and cohesion and make the space unattractive to criminals. As others have noted, “inclusionary regulation” to provide for culturally specific entrepreneurial activities in these neighbourhoods may be a very promising way to help accomplish these objectives.

At the same time, governments must look at increasing access to the services they provide, like health care, counselling and job-training programs. There have been some encouraging developments in Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods, but as we will discuss in more detail in Pillar 3, all orders of government must do more to locate their services and facilities in shared hubs and creatively promote access to them within priority neighbourhoods right across the province.

Similarly, government must take on the task of attracting businesses to these areas. We saw in Chapter 4 the perverse circumstance of the poorest among us facing the highest costs for the necessities of life. Apart from the economic aspect, there are serious issues here in terms of travel time, good nutrition and a sense of belonging, as well as access to and the example of productive work in the neighbourhood. Given a goal of addressing the roots of violence involving youth, there is a public purpose to be served by helping businesses to locate in these areas, whether through zoning and regulatory changes or through direct economic supports.


The level of poverty in Ontario, its concentrations and the lack of quality services and facilities that accompany it have a devastating impact on many individuals and families, and on their capacity to build a strong community. We apparently cannot end poverty now, but we can provide a series of initiatives and community resources that will ameliorate its effects by removing some of the major negative impacts of poverty while also strengthening the capacity of individuals, families and communities to cope with and get out of it.

2. Responding to Racism

As we said in Chapter 4, the Supreme Court of Canada has put beyond question the pervasiveness of racism in this country, stating in R. v. Spence (2005):

The courts have acknowledged that racial prejudice against visible minorities is...notorious and indisputable...[it is] a social fact not capable of reasonable dispute.

In doing so, the Court built on a series of cases from Canada’s appellate courts. In a leading judgment from 1993, Mr. Justice Doherty, writing for Ontario’s Court of Appeal, held that “wide-spread anti-black racism is a grim reality in Canada and in particular in Metropolitan Toronto” (R. v. Parks, 15 O.R. (3d) 324; [1993] O.J. No.2157, para. 42). He also wrote as follows regarding how this racism manifests itself:

That racism is manifested in three ways. There are those who expressly espouse racist views as part of a personal credo. There are others who subconsciously hold negative attitudes towards black persons based on stereotypical assumptions concerning persons of colour. Finally, and perhaps most pervasively, racism exists within the interstices of our institutions. This systemic racism is a product of individual attitudes and beliefs concerning blacks and it fosters and legitimizes those assumptions and stereotypes (para. 43).

The impacts of this widespread racism, as set out in chapters 4 and 5, show why we believe that anti-racism must be at the heart of the government’s response to the roots of violence involving youth. The devastation racism wreaks, the many ways it is deeply ingrained throughout our society, the sustained commitments required to address it and the deep reluctance of many to name it and deal with it give it, regrettably, pride of place in our analysis. For all of the reasons set out earlier in this report, it is obvious to us that a sustained strategy and immediate initiatives are urgently required to address this enduring wrong.

We think, first of all, that the provincial government should articulate more effectively its commitment to confront racism. The absence of such an articulation in recent times can lead to those not directly impacted by racism continuing to be able to leave it in the shadows and fail to take action to rectify it. It can also leave the victims of racism wondering whether their government stands with them as much as it needs to to get at the depth and breadth of a continuing and, many told us a worsening, problem. Indeed, survey research conducted in Toronto found that in 2007 perceptions of racism in policing and the courts were just as strong — indeed were slightly stronger — than they were in 1994 (Wortley, 2008 ).

We believe that words matter and that the government’s words on this specific issue matter a great deal. And these words must be backed up by action, not because an assurance is needed that they are real, but because action is desperately needed.

The most important action the government can take is to place anti-racism at the core of its agenda. Diversity is not enough. As it was for Stephen Lewis, so it remains that the issue we confront is racism. His Toronto-focused inquiry led him to put a powerful focus on anti-Black racism, a focus that regrettably remains apposite today. But we would add that Aboriginal people are often subject to the same degree of virulent and entrenched racism. They, too, require a particular focus in an anti-racism agenda, which must encompass numerous groups. In Pillar 4 we set out a governance structure to deliver the overall strategy we propose. For now, we simply note that anti-racism needs to be a key and explicit part of that governance structure in order to drive progress and send a strong message of commitment to communities and officials alike.

In addition, we believe that Ontario needs to follow Britain’s lead by ensuring that there is a public duty on all public institutions to address racism in a measurable and accountable way. As a starting point, each Ontario ministry and agency with the potential to in any way address racism should be required to produce and publish a plan to do so. These plans must identify clear objectives and timelines and provide a clear, public articulation of how the objectives will be met. This issue has been unaddressed for so long that the publication of detailed plans is essential to generate momentum and to create confidence that meaningful, sustainable change will occur.

To support this, and indeed to anchor anti-racism overall, Ontario needs to take one further overarching initiative: to mandate the collection and publication of race-based data in several key areas, including the justice and education systems. We recognize that efforts to study how this might be done have started very recently in the education system and we welcome that development. We also understand that, among other diversity data, racial statistics will be collected on the composition of the workforce at the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services as part of a two-ministry pilot project. This information was collected across the public service in the mid-’80s as part of an I-Count initiative of the then Cabinet Committee on Race Relations. While it is discouraging that we are back to pilot projects, we nonetheless welcome these steps in the right direction.

The need for race-based data is overwhelming, and the reassurance from how normalized this has become in Britain is telling. The need should be obvious: without data we can neither prove nor disprove the extent of racism in any particular part of our society. Nor can we focus limited resources on the areas most in need of action, nor design measures to achieve the most-needed results in the most efficient way, nor assess whether progress is being made as a result of those measures.

Indeed, it is hard to think of another domain where it would be controversial to seek evidence of a problem and, where a problem is found, go on to seek evidence of how best to address it and whether the efforts made to do so are bearing fruit.

We know that in the late 1980s, the Black community in Toronto resisted the collection of race-based statistics by the police because of fears about how the information would be used. While the Black community is far from homogenous, and while there will likely be some dissenting voices, we were advised that there is not only broad acceptance of the need for this information in that community but, as well, a strong sense that progress will not be made without it. Recent research published by the Toronto Star supports this attitude. It found that, while racialized groups are disproportionately convicted of crimes, the public believes that their involvement is almost double what it actually is. In the result, publishing race-based data can help calm, rather than incite, prejudicial public opinion (Rankin and Powell, Toronto Star, July 21, 2008: A1).

We note in this specific connection that the collection of race-based data on policing in Britain goes back to at least 1992. In calling for Ontario to adopt this approach, including in what seems to be the most fraught area here: front-line policing, the British precedent is as reassuring as it is inspiring. After more than a decade of experience, we were advised by a senior police commander in London that, while some front-line officers consider it bureaucratic, it has widespread endorsement, especially among police leadership. It provides a vital tool to find areas needing improvement, develop approaches to secure that improvement and demonstrate the improvement to the public.

While policing was the focus of attention in Ontario in the 1980s, we by no means suggest that in the justice sector information is needed only in relation to the police. As was demonstrated by the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System in the 1990s, there is much of value that this information can teach us about each stage in the justice system: policing, prosecution, judging and corrections. In the specific context of the criminal justice system, a very significant report from Britain entitled Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society makes the following important observations:

To understand the phenomenon of disproportionality in the CJS [criminal justice system], it is essential that there is an effective process for collecting and monitoring ethnicity data at each stage of the criminal justice process....[The goal is] to enable CJS practitioners and policy-makers to: identify disproportionality in the CJS; understand the causes of disproportionality; performance manage the CJS in relation to race issues; and demonstrate accountability to Black and minority ethnic communities (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2007: 65).

We by no means believe that data are needed only in relation to the administration of justice. As is the case in Britain, they are needed and valuable in several other public domains, including housing, health, the labour market and all levels of the education system. In the report noted immediately above, the Department for Communities and Local Government in Britain demonstrates convincingly the value of detailed race-based statistics in all of these areas.

We believe that the same information base is required in Ontario and agree with the senior Ontario official who wrote to us in the following terms:

Collection of race-based data in a multicultural society is considered to be a sensitive issue as cultural communities may have concerns that the information gathered could be misused to discriminate against minority groups. Race-based data, however, can be used ethically and effectively to determine the special needs of minorities, identify systemic shortcomings that are affecting a particular group, remove systemic barriers and promote substantive equality, or to develop programs designed specifically to meet the needs of a particular group.

Beyond our core advice on creating a public duty to address racism and on gathering the information to do so, we believe that the specifics of the anti-racism plans to be produced by ministries and agencies should largely be left to them. But we make an exception for two areas where action is urgently needed and where we believe we have heard enough to make specific proposals. The two areas are front-line policing and the education system.

These areas are at the core of the problems we have heard about: front-line policing because it is difficult and challenging to do well, and because when it is not, it can undo all of the good work being accomplished elsewhere to create optimism and hope; and education because it is where much of that good work must be done. No doubt for these reasons, these areas have been the subject of clear recommendations in many reports going back many years.

The most immediately pressing issues are those involving front-line policing. These have serious community-wide implications, as well as the potential to be flashpoints on a daily basis. In our view, action on them will have the greatest short-term impact on matters giving rise to violence involving youth.

We recognize that a long-term cultural shift, a more representative police force and a rethinking of some front-line police strategies will be necessary to fully come to grips with this issue. As the ongoing workplace issues in relation to racism among employees at Ontario’s correctional facilities demonstrate, this will take sustained time and energy. In the meantime, we feel that tangible signals of a commitment to address these long-standing concerns need to be sent now to both police and residents in the priority neighbourhoods across the province.

We first suggest that the Province establish a fund, which communities and police could access to support highly localized police-youth issues committees in each priority neighbourhood across the province. Funds would support youth participation and provide for a neutral facilitator. The police would be represented by the local police commander and front-line officers engaged in policing in the area (not just liaison officers). These committees would open the kind of dialogue which wouldn’t otherwise happen, and would be mandated to develop a neighbourhood-specific plan to improve interactions between youth and front-line officers. They would also be involved in the design and delivery of the local training programs we propose below.

We agree with what the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services said to us, when it called for “more opportunities for positive interaction between police and youth.” We think that these committees can and will be positive. The opportunity to hear each other out, coupled with the obligation to work together to build a local plan on matters of direct and immediate relevance to their work and lives, should make these committees places of constructive engagement.

The second immediate initiative we propose would also be very local and would be centred in the priority neighbourhoods. It would see the Province provide funding for immediate, in-service, neighbourhood-based training on anti-racism for front-line officers in each of these neighbourhoods. We recommend this tight focus for reasons of expedition and cost, and also because we believe that service-related training is likely to be the most effective. We agree with what Stephen Lewis said in his 1992 report, specifically in the context of race-relations training:

If we really believe in investing in our justice system, then the people who are on the front-line deserve the best training possible (Lewis, 1992: 13).

We have been told repeatedly that the few hours of sensitivity training at the Police College before recruits begin their work as police officers does very little good. The training is of necessity generic and is divorced from experience in the field. We were often told that the training is very frequently overridden by police leaders and colleagues once recruits take up their duties.

What most of us know about adult education is that it is most effective when taught in a hands-on way and when it responds to issues we are actually facing in our work or our lives. We heard in England how they are now focusing race-relations training for the police on very specific job functions and using the orientation of improving the officer’s functioning in their current assignment. The training, therefore, is not about sensitivity in some general way, but rather focuses on ways in which a better appreciation of anti-racism will improve the officer’s performance in the particular job they are carrying out.

Our rationale for suggesting that the initial focus for this kind of job-specific training be on front-line officers is simple: it is interactions with front-line officers that can do the most damage to race relations and where addressing concerns about racism could do the most good. We understand that those are often difficult and sometimes dangerous situations for the officers themselves, and that many of the youth they deal with seem or can be aggressive and intimidating. Even though most youth stopped by the police do not meet this description, the reality that some do increases, rather than obviates, the need for this training.

As these short-term training measures are put in place, we believe that the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services should carefully examine the recent British approach of requiring officers to be “assessed as competent” on issues of race. As described in the Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society report to which we referred earlier, “[a] key goal of this program is to ensure that, by 2009, everyone in the Police Service is assessed as being competent about race and diversity....” (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2007). In the same vein, consideration could be given to including good community relations and support in measuring the performance of local police commanders.

This initiative applies nationwide and is overseen by a national board. Police forces are required to have a suitable number of trained assessors, and assessment has started in most police forces. What is attractive about this is that it goes beyond training to find out whether training has worked and, if not, to identify specifically where and what more is needed.

The last specific initiative we propose for the police is the establishment of a telephone hotline for the reporting of negative interactions between police and minority youth. Those interactions can take place anywhere in this province, and without recourse to a system such as this there will be neither the information nor the impetus to develop a sound way to deal with them, wherever they arise. This service could be established as part of the new independent police complaints oversight body, which is expected to be operational shortly after our report is published, or in some other independent body. In either event, it would provide a sound anchor, directly or indirectly, for the power in the new oversight system to undertake reviews of systemic issues arising in policing anywhere in Ontario.

We have resisted the temptation to add any more specific proposals in relation to policing at this time. Lest it be lost, however, we do want to suggest that, in preparing their anti-racism plans, Ontario’s three justice ministries consider carefully the recommendations in the important work of the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System and, where appropriate, undertake research to update its key findings.

In the education system, we feel that the most urgent priority is to bring more teachers who reflect and represent the diversity of the students into schools in priority neighbourhoods. This cannot be left to chance or to the vagaries of the hiring practices of individual schools. Through whatever mechanisms the Ministry of Education has or can develop quickly, we believe that action on this issue must be advanced immediately.

Recognizing that, even given the highest priority, the results of this will be incremental, we encourage the ministry to support a program of culturally specific youth workers in schools in priority neighbourhoods. These workers should be trained to “bridge” the experience of students and families with the circumstances at the school. They should help schools, students and families understand each other and should work to keep youth engaged in their schooling even as the issues we identified in Chapter 4 persist.

Lastly, we encourage the Province to consider the ways in which the education system could be enriched through the initiatives that would flow from a body like the Black Cultural Institute outlined in the paper in Volume 4 by Prof. Walcott and his colleagues.

We can think of no better way to close this section of our report than by again citing Stephen Lewis:

If we are ever to rid this world of so much of the poverty and despair to which vulnerable communities are subject, then we must simply develop bold — even daring — economic and social policies. A new race relations construct might be just the place to start. (Lewis, 1992: 35–36).

3. Other Social Context Initiatives

We started our social context analysis by outlining responses to the roots that arise from poverty, including its intersections with racism and place, because these are the roots that many are reluctant to confront and that are indeed the most challenging. As we move beyond issues of poverty and racism, and the physical places where they intersect, we stress that the roots of violence involving youth can arise throughout our society. It is not only disadvantaged and racialized individuals who need our attention; the roots we are concerned about arise in and affect many others as well.

Although often the best way to address the roots of the immediate risk factors for violence involving youth is to work within the disadvantaged communities, most of the measures we discuss in this section must also be applied more widely. Before outlining these measures, we want to stress that wherever needed services are provided to youth, each youth’s context must be taken into consideration. It does little long-term good to provide after-school programming to a child who cannot benefit from it because of an unaddressed mental health issue, or because their home is a place of constant crisis. There is limited value in dealing with the issues one family member faces if the unaddressed problems of another family member will undo that work in an instant.

People do not live as service units. They live in families, in peer groups and sometimes in group homes or on the streets and are deeply affected by the health and well-being of those around them. A recent publication from the Social Exclusion Task Force in Britain, entitled Think Family, put the matter in the following terms:

Even the best children’s services can only ever mitigate the impacts of parental problems such as domestic violence, learning disability or substance misuse.

The next phase of our efforts to improve outcomes for children must therefore include adults’ services and recognise the importance of addressing the problems that parents face....

Both adults’ and children’s services [should] take into account the family circumstances and responsibilities…. Services working with different family members [should be] aligned, giving a consistent message and working towards the same outcomes. Practitioners [should] consider the ways in which different family members and their problems interrelate… (Social Exclusion Task Force, 2008: 6–7).

We see much wisdom in this and would apply the same analysis beyond families to consider youth in the context of their peers, schools and communities. As well, the same integrated viewpoint must apply to the services themselves. In discussing the issues below under separate headings, we do not in any way want to be taken as suggesting that they be addressed in these compartments.

Mental Health

We saw in Chapter 4 how pervasive the impacts of unaddressed youth mental health issues are in this province. These issues affect the capacity of families to function and thrive and the ability of children and youth to progress in school and interact positively with their peers. For these and other reasons, they are a powerful predictor of involvement in the child welfare and criminal justice systems. Indeed, concerns about the extent of these issues and the lack of resources to address them were among the most frequent we heard.

We heard from school boards about the needs of children starting at age five, or even earlier. They and mental health practitioners stressed that it is vital to address learning disabilities before a child is labelled, and feels, dumb and begins what could be a long-term disengagement from learning. And, for youth as well as children encountering mental health issues, we heard widespread concern about both the lack of a strategy and the lack of services to address their needs.

And yet, the response to this pervasive problem is not unduly complex, nor in the context of provincial spending for health is it unduly expensive. The solution, it seems to us, has several key components.

First, we need to work on prevention through programs that promote health, engagement and activity for youth. Second, as Senator Michael Kirby has so eloquently demonstrated, it is essential that we bring mental illness out from the shadows. There is no more reason to be ashamed of, or to try to hide, a mental illness than there would be a physical ailment. And yet, in much of the broader community and, we were told, even more so in some minority group communities, it is simply not done to talk about mental health concerns.

Part of the answer to this is appropriate public campaigns to educate families, schools and communities about the true nature of mental illness. Another part is to equip those dealing with children and youth, whether they are teachers, mentors, coaches, police officers, youth workers or others, to recognize the signs of mental illness so that they can recommend interventions.

But most importantly, those interventions must be available and accessible. We were told by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health that there are severe gaps in the availability of mental health services. This is true throughout the province, but is even more the case in smaller centres and more remote areas. The estimate we were given of the cost of having a good spectrum of services universally available for youth was about $200 million.

While in isolation this sum may seem large, one need only compare it to the annual cost of just the custodial part of the youth justice system — over $160 million — to put it into perspective. When it is compared to the cost of the rest of the health system, the perspective is even clearer: making this investment would increase our health care costs by only half a per cent.

The savings that would flow to the education system, the justice system, and the wellbeing and productivity of youth and their families alone make this a very compelling investment. But when the value of the saved lives and reduced violence are considered, it is impossible not to see this as near the top of the list of urgently needed initiatives.

It is important that this investment be sustained over the long haul and made in a way that maximizes access by those who need these services the most. This means having mental health services available within schools and communities, in locations and at hours, and linked to other services, so that families can and will easily use them. This work to take the services to the clients needs to be supported by skilled and sensitive outreach, effective “navigators” to help youth and their families sort out options and align services and creative, culturally conscious mechanisms to break down parents’ reluctance to have their children use them. In part for this reason, and also to promote a “think family” approach, local mental health clinics should, wherever possible, be integrated with other services for family members and ideally should be offered within the supportive and welcoming community hubs we propose in Pillar 3, which will not only facilitate, but also encourage access.


We can be brief here because many of the issues that concern us the most have been the subject of detailed and wise recommendations for many years. We believe education to be at the heart of everything that needs to be done to help youth succeed in our society. To us, it is simply and fundamentally wrong not to take every realistically possible measure to ensure that its enormous benefits are not denied to any youth.

We recognize that numerous creative steps have been taken in that direction over the years and that much of value is in place. In pointing out the continuing shortcomings, we do not seek to diminish the value of what is being done. But they are such important shortcomings, and of such long standing, that we must express our frustration that they remain largely unaddressed.

We consider it unacceptable that the issue of a culturally and racially inclusive curriculum remains on a to-do list over 30 years since its absence was first flagged as a serious barrier to learning. We are not talking here about special weeks or recognizing cultural holidays or offering add-on programs. We are talking about having a curriculum that addresses the very real gaps and consequences outlined in Chapter 4, and thereby promotes a positive learning environment for all students.

In this regard, coming as they do more than 30 years after the calls for a racially inclusive curriculum began, the comments in the report of the Grassroots Youth Collaborative are worthy of note:

Thus, it is not so much a matter of building more ‘inclusion’ into the education system (i.e., trying to add more cultures to a primarily white, Eurocentric male- dominated curriculum), but rather, what is required is the ‘re-centering’ of curriculum within a model that values the histories and struggles of indigenous people, racialized communities, women, queer communities, disabled communities and other poor and/or marginalized communities (Grassroots Youth Collaborative, Volume 3: 119).

We believe that this issue must be addressed now and that youth organizations, such as Schools Without Borders, part of the Grassroots Youth Collaborative, should be closely involved in developing the appropriate curriculum changes.

Also in relation to the curriculum, we wish to note that, while there is much that is positive in the increased academic focus that the government has brought to our schools, that focus has not been accompanied by the supports and incentives that some youth need to cope with higher academic expectations. Just the contrary: several groups pointed out to us that, while the curriculum has become tougher, the programs that provide the supports and incentives that some youth need to stay engaged in school have not been restored after being cut in earlier years.

Some youth will stay in school because they connect with the right counsellor or outreach worker. Others do so because of literacy programs and homework clubs operated by bodies like Frontier College, which has a strong record in this field nationally and is active in Aboriginal communities and Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods. For yet others, the attraction of sports or involvement with the arts will keep them working to master the curriculum: this is not about streaming youth away from academics, but rather about finding ways to engage all students in learning.

When these kinds of programs and initiatives are seen as frills to be cut rather than integral to the learning success of many students, many students lose out. Whether from the perspective of our mandate or more broadly, we do not consider this acceptable and believe that, in at least the priority neighbourhoods across the province, the appropriate incentives and supports must be restored as integral parts of the learning structure.

In those neighbourhoods, attention also needs to be paid to more intensive measures to help high school students graduate and go on to further learning. While as a general rule we are not endorsing specific programs, we want to support and encourage the interest the Ministry of Education has shown in the Pathways to Education program, which has recently been expanded from Toronto’s Regent Park to Kitchener and Ottawa, as well as four additional Toronto neighbourhoods.

What attracts us to Pathways is not just the success it appears to be having, but the integrated approach it takes to keeping youth in school and helping them aim for and attain higher education. The program combines academic help (tutoring four nights a week), social (group mentoring), financial (from bus tickets to a modest bursary for higher education) and community (student-parent support workers to help connect youth, parents, schools and community agencies). It is by combining these elements, focusing on trying to reach all the youth in the catchment neighbourhood and rooting itself in its community that Pathways offers a model initiative.

Initiatives like Pathways and more modest local ones such as Licensed to Learn (a peer-tutoring program) will nonetheless face unnecessary challenges as long as the teaching force remains so unrepresentative, again more than 30 years after the issue was forcefully raised. The explanations for this go around in a confounding circle. In one decade, we are told that there are not enough teachers from racialized groups to meet the demand. In another, we are told that there are more than enough, but that they can’t get job offers. And throughout this period, no concerted strategy has been put in place to ensure that these vital positions are reflective of the student body being taught.

As noted in our discussion of racism above, we believe that this is the education issue that requires the most immediate response. Each year, a new cohort of youth enter elementary, middle or high schools only to look around and see that they are not represented in the most powerful role models in their schools: the teachers. We lose some of those youth every year as a result and have been doing so for more than three decades. We accordingly believe that the Ministry of Education must use the powers it has, or create the ones it needs, to ensure that hiring and promotion criteria include community needs. This should start in the priority communities no later than the 2009-10 school year.

A similar issue arises in relation to guidance counsellors, although, based on what we were told, the issue may run deeper than just adding more minority group counsellors. Schools need to assure themselves and their students that subconscious attitudes and stereotypes play no role in the kinds of options and encouragement offered to students. The “assessed as competent” approach to issues of racial diversity, which we discussed in relation to the police, is attractive here as well. As for the safe schools provisions, we feel that more needs to be done. The recent amendments are welcome, although it is too early to say how they are working. But we believe that countenancing a five-day suspension with no alternative learning program remains wrong. Five days is a very long time in the life of a child; certainly for a possibly angry and upset child with no parents at home and nowhere to go, it is long enough to permit far too much involvement with negative peers and risky behaviours.

We conclude this section with a reminder of the importance of schools situating their work within the local context provided by families and neighbourhoods. Students do not learn in isolation from their environment, and many cannot be reached effectively or at all if that environment is not understood by teachers and administrators. The suggestions we made in Section 2 of this Pillar about youth outreach workers should be recalled in this connection.

Little of this is new. In 1993, the Ministry of Education and Training issued Policy Program Memorandum 119. Although seemingly overlooked since then, this document remains in force. The guidelines accompanying the memorandum set out for school boards the steps in developing policy and implementation plans on anti-racism and ethnocultural equity. These steps articulated key principles of continuing relevance with which we agree, including:

The policies were to address 10 major areas of focus: board policies, guidelines and practices; leadership; school-community partnership; curriculum; student languages; student evaluation, assessment and placement; guidance and counselling; racial and ethnocultural harassment; employment practices; and staff development. For each area of focus, boards were required, for example, to provide a list of resources that identified tools (human and material) needed to achieve the stated objectives, and an indication of the person or persons responsible for carrying out the plan of action to ensure consistent direction during implementation, facilitate monitoring and ensure accountability.

Fifteen years before Memorandum 119 was issued, Walter Pitman described to the Empire Club the findings of his race-relations report in these words:

Obviously, what was needed was a major effort to provide teacher training, to provide curriculum change, to provide a completely different atmosphere in which young people may learn, recognizing as well the need to reach out to the family and neighbourhood in carrying out this purpose (Pitman, 1978: 6).

These remain wise recommendations. Their continuing relevance and, indeed, urgency are a telling commentary on how priorities have been set over the last 30 years.


Families, in all of the forms that they take in Ontario, are at the core of everything we are proposing. Involving families in services for children, reaching out to families to make sure that they are connected to and involved with schools and placing families at the heart of communities and of community building are all vital initiatives.

But many families require supports to fulfil the role they need to play with their children and in the broader society. To be most effective, these supports must be locally available, culturally relevant and both active and creative in their outreach to the most marginalized.

For many parents, supports are needed even before a child is born. One of the most rigorously evaluated and successful initiatives in reducing violence is a program known as the “visiting nurse program.” It involves having a nurse visit an expectant mother before the child is born and then regularly for the first two years of the child’s life. We understand that Ontario’s Healthy Babies, Healthy Children program (HBHC) provides services to mothers both before and after her child is born, but, at present, the prenatal screening component of the HBHC is not widely used. The HBHC blended home visiting is available to all identified expectant high-risk mothers, but since the identification rate is low, the uptake by that population is low. The evidence strongly supports making the prenatal program universally available and taking active and creative measures to make it known, so that it can assist all who can benefit from it.

In the same vein, the early childhood development work of Drs. Fraser Mustard and Stuart Shanker, and the Honourable Margaret Norrie McCain has convincingly demonstrated the value of investing in the learning capacity of children in their earliest years. We need not say much about this, not because it is anything but insightful and vital, but because this approach is now widely accepted in many jurisdictions. We do, though, want to make it clear that we fully endorse the approach and believe that it is an essential part of any agenda to address the roots of violence involving youth. We also fully endorse the need for both parental and non-parental supports (as in the early learning centres) to foster healthy child development.

Ontario has recognized the importance of early learning and care in order to ensure that parents have the supports necessary to advance the social, emotional and cognitive development of the youngest of our children. The Best Start program is intended to enable more and better child care in and around our schools, along with better coordinated child and community services. But more needs to be done given the extent of the need and the service gaps in Ontario. As noted by the responsible ministry, these gaps include cultural barriers to accessing services, geographic barriers based on the unavailability of service providers and an overall shortage of funding and capacity.

In this regard, the Premier’s vision for all-day learning for four- and five-year-olds and Charles Pascal’s work on its implementation hold great promise for developing a more seamless early-learning and supports program. Given the relationship between undiagnosed literacy problems and behavioural problems later in life, including incarceration in many cases, effective learning programs can play an enormous identification and prevention role.

This is a bold initiative, which has a significant potential to address the roots of violence involving youth. It will be most effective in this regard if it provides diverse role models, including more male involvement in early learning, fosters full-day learning and development, works actively to ensure that learning problems are noted, diagnosed and addressed at this early stage and is designed to reach the neediest children.

For example, we were struck by what we learned in Britain about the location of its Sure Start programs in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. While this was seen as a positive initiative, experience demonstrated that it was not enough to attract the very most disadvantaged. These are families that are simply too intimidated to come into any kind of formal program, however close it may be to where they live.

For these families, which tend to contain the children who most need these programs, creativity is required. When even outreach workers failed to bring these families to Sure Start centres, Britain adopted an approach from Finland, which puts staffed adventure playgrounds in the yards in front of these kinds of centres. This has been shown to act as a magnet for children, who then gradually draw their parents to the area. This allows staff to introduce the centre to the parents and to overcome the barriers to accepting these important services. We believe that Ontario needs to be similarly creative in order to reach the most marginalized families.

Similarly, as noted above, it is also important to learn from Britain’s Think Family initiative. That initiative shows that what are needed are not only programs that wrap themselves around individual family members, important as that approach is, but also programs that address the needs of each family member within the context of the environment in which they spend the vast majority of their time: their family.

To this, we would add that it is also important to “think community.” Families exist in communities and they, and services provided to them, are powerfully affected by that community, for better or for worse. And, for some youth, their peer or street community is their only real family. As a result, if schools and service providers do not deeply understand the community context for each youth, they are not going to be able to effectively provide the services a youth needs.

We discuss in Pillar 3 the key role that schools can play as community hubs, bringing together children, families, agencies and community organizations. Related to this is the enormous potential schools have to engage youth in positive ways during the afterschool hours of 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., hours which many told us, and research confirms, were “prime time for crime.”

We believe that providing well-structured recreation activities during these hours, along with healthy snacks, could play an important role in countering childhood obesity. This time period could also be used to provide mentoring opportunities, homework and other clubs, arts programs, information on nutrition and other healthy lifestyle choices, and could help keep youth safe until their parents get home from work.

In all such initiatives, particular attention needs to be paid to the needs of immigrant youth and their families, for the reasons we discussed in Chapter 4. Settlement services need to be expanded and integrated into the community hubs we propose in Pillar 3, with a focus on connecting families to schools and helping ensure immigrant youth are strongly supported to succeed there.

We turn next to the issue of respect for different family structures. This issue is laden with cultural and racial baggage. We adopt the view we heard elsewhere that what most affects the well-being of youth is not necessarily the traditional family structure, but family relationships. What matters is a healthy and positive home environment, however that home is structured.

While a two-parent home is often the ideal, a parent who is abusive, or a substance abuser, or is a dead weight in an otherwise strong household, is not a positive influence. While we must encourage parents to be positively engaged with their children and work to eliminate the social and other conditions that cause people not to want to parent their children, or lead them to have children they do not intend to raise, we must not assume that children cannot be raised to very positive effect by one parent, or by the extended-family tradition, which exists in many cultures.

Similarly, while most children do best when born to mothers who are in stable relationships and have had some life experience, some young single mothers are remarkably good in that role. Statistically, we know that teen parenthood is associated with difficulties both for the parents and the child. We must, though, be careful to look at the individual and cultural circumstances before we leap to conclusions, which can unfairly characterize and stigmatize parents who, sometimes with the help of extended families, are doing a fine job of raising their children.

Of course, Ontario needs to provide meaningful education on parenting responsibilities, sexual health and family planning. But, just as importantly, Ontario needs to ensure that two fundamental policies are in place. First, Ontario needs the kind of measures outlined throughout this pillar to provide a social context of true hope and opportunity for all youth and families. There is a widespread understanding around the world that this is the key to appropriately delayed pregnancies, strong, well-educated mothers and fathers who want to raise their children.

Second, we must wrap supports around those parents, single or otherwise, male or female, who need help to raise a child. Disapproval of a young mother or an absent father should in no way block or limit the efforts needed to secure a positive future not only for the child, but also for the parent. It we attempt to write off these members of our community because we think it will deter others, we are not only wrong, we are condemning ourselves and future generations to pay large and ongoing social costs. It is support, hope and meaningful and equitable opportunity that will address these issues over time, not disapproval.

Finally, Ontario needs to bring more focus to its approach to youth in care and youth leaving care. As discussed in Chapter 4, these are among the most vulnerable youth in this province, often harmed by their own family and then raised in environments of frequent change and uncertain nurturing.

Among the statistics that the Ministry of Children and Youth Services provided to us about youth who have been in care, we note that they are:

While these are national figures, they clearly illustrate the need for a program of active, transitional supports for these youth.

Of particular concern to us are the older youth in care, who often go back and forth between care and the youth justice system. We will discuss these “crossover” youth in the justice section of this pillar.

Overall, we believe that the Province needs to revisit the logic of allowing children to leave care at age 16 with no family to go to, but also requiring them to stay in school to age 18. All we know about education suggests that a stable and supportive environment is vital to learning effectively. We support the longer time in school, but question whether corresponding supports do not need to be as mandatory as the time in the classroom.

When youth do leave care, at whatever age, transition services are essential. These youth have often had very difficult childhoods, and many have been under the control of the state for much of their lives. To expect them to go from that regulated life to full independence overnight is simply not realistic.

In this regard, it was encouraging to learn that at least some youth leaving care at age 18 may be able to get an allowance to help with living costs, and may be able to access some other supports, but troubling to learn that fewer supports are in place for those who leave care earlier. We applaud Ontario’s June 2008 announcement that, over time, youth from 15-17 will have a lump sum of up to $3,300 to assist them in leaving care, but question whether it is enough to make a real difference to a troubled youth.

Housing, Transportation and Community Design

We discussed above the need to increase the supply of affordable housing and for improvements to housing standards and quality in both the public and private sectors. The need to ensure an acceptable standard of housing for those who frequently have no real choice about where they live must be recognized across the province.

In the same way, it is important to address the isolating features of the way some communities are designed, as we discussed in Chapter 4. The community hubs we propose under Pillar 3 will go some distance in this regard. But it is important as well to integrate people not only within their own communities, but across the broader community.

One important way to do this is by rethinking public transit. Transit planners should take into account the impacts of isolation on youth and the impacts of long and difficult commutes on parents struggling to find time to spend with their children. There is an important social good in planning transportation specifically to strengthen families and communities. And there is an important public good in making that transit affordable for the youth who need it to break the bonds of isolation and access the learning, socialization or work opportunities of the wider community.

In the same vein, those design features of some communities that facilitate crime, making both living in these communities and policing them unsafe, must be addressed. To some extent, this is a question of the physical design — good sightlines and lighting, fewer enclosed spaces and dead ends — but, to a great extent, it is a question of social design.

Attractive and welcoming places to play and gather must be created; zoning, regulatory and tax incentives should be used where needed to bring services and stores back to communities now without them; and community markets and festivals must be encouraged and supported. All of these must be seen as core public investments in reducing the roots of violence involving youth, not as optional extras.

Youth Engagement

(i) Sports and the Arts

Few deny the positive impacts of engagement in sports and the arts. If anything, it is necessary to remind people that the arts can be just as positive for youth as sports.

We join the many who believe that the benefits of youth sports and arts programs can be significant and far-reaching. Being on a sports team, in a choir, or in an art or music studio with others, can instil a sense of community and belonging. Group programs promote mutual respect, from which self-worth and individual responsibility develop. Sports and arts programs also provide a context for setting goals and seeing the relationship between effort and results. Success in these programs increases confidence and self-esteem among participants. Offered in schools, these programs can be incentives to stay in an academic environment.

For those who do not learn well in a traditional academic setting, sports and arts programs can provide non-traditional opportunities to learn problem-solving and other life skills. Learning ceramics and photography can involve chemistry, physics, math, computer skills, reading, history, cultural knowledge, organization and sequential thinking. Learning a musical instrument develops motor skills and enhances mathematical ability.

One of the key factors for resiliency in children and youth is having positive experiences with supportive people in situations that add structure to their lives. Programs that attract and provide skilled and caring sports coaches or art teachers “address children’s needs for adult support and provide role models, often making an impression on youngsters who might otherwise surrender to hostility and hopelessness.” (Weitz, 1996: 14).

Despite these many benefits, there are numerous barriers to participation in sports and arts programs. These include material barriers, such as a lack of income, time or transportation, and others, such as a lack of social supports and lack of awareness when parents do not encourage participation.

Many children and youth face several of these barriers at once or are confronted by the reality that there simply are not enough places for youth to engage in recreation, whether that be organized sports or some form of fitness activity. There is a similar shortage of space for engaging youth in arts. Sports equipment, art supplies, musical instruments, coaches, advisers and teachers seem to be in short supply where they are most needed, or to be rationed by cost or fees where they are least affordable.

What is required in Ontario is a greater recognition that arts and sports programs are not frills, but are integral to the development of our youth. They address alienation, low self-esteem, a limited capacity for self-expression and other immediate risk factors for violence involving youth. These programs should not be seen as optional, but rather as a core right of all youth. Where parents cannot reasonably afford to provide them, these programs must be available at the expense of the broader community. Our future as a province suffers when this is not done.

Where sports are concerned, there is a need to ensure the cultural relevance of what is being offered in each community: cricket or baseball? There is also a need to recall that, in our context, the goal is not sport development, but rather youth development through sports. Whether we speak of character development, health issues such as the avoidance of obesity, or being occupied in a positive way between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. after school, the potential for youth development through sports is significant.

This potential will be augmented when engagement in sports is accompanied by opportunities for mentorship and for learning teamwork, structure and discipline. In a very useful literature review provided to us by the University of Toronto (The Use of Sport to Foster Child and Youth Development and Education), some of the key conclusions included:

We apply the same reasoning to arts programs and encourage Ontario to provide its youth with culturally specific and fully accessible opportunities to learn core social and life skills through the arts, ideally through programs that are integrated with other community and family activities. The goal here is not to produce career artists, but to engage youth through creativity, attracting and challenging them, teaching them self-expression and involving them in positive ways with people who live in their communities.

The potential for effective youth arts programs is vast. In a forthcoming paper on youth arts policies in Canada, One Hundred Musicians! Youth Arts Policy in Canada, Joyce Zemans and Amanda Cole noted that their review of the literature confirms that effective youth arts:

Our experience supports those research findings and also the recent British conclusion that “the arts have the potential to transform lives and communities and to promote social inclusion, neighbourhood renewal and cultural citizenship” (Arts Council, England, 2005). We note a growing trend in many countries to invest in youth by promoting their involvement in creative activities, and have been advised that this flows from research showing that:

While we would not measure the benefits of the arts by looking only at their direct impacts on crime prevention, we note this potential, as set out in Doing the Arts Justice: A Review of Research Literature, Practice and Theory (Hughes):

In prevention contexts with young people, evaluation studies provide evidence that arts programmes can reduce offending behaviour and incidents of disruption, help disaffected young people re-engage with education, and sponsor personal and social development....

Specifically, four types of impact are identified: changing individuals’ personal, internal responses to drivers or triggers that lead to offending; changing the social circumstances of individuals’ lives by equipping them with personal and social skills that can help them build different relationships and access opportunities in work and education; changing and enriching institutional culture and working practices; changing wider communities’ views of offenders and the criminal justice system (Hughes, 2005: 10 and 11).

These are all very valuable benefits, but we stress the broader social and community benefits we noted earlier. From whatever perspective is adopted, we nonetheless stress that, without participation, there are no benefits.

Regrettably, as we noted above, there are simply not enough programs and places for youth to engage in the arts or in recreational sports in Ontario and too many barriers to those that exist. Well-resourced and readily accessible sports and arts centres must be available to all youth in Ontario, with immediate priority for those now growing up in disadvantaged communities. Youth need to be involved in meaningful ways in choosing what programs are offered. Both the programs and the core staff providing them need to be on a stable footing. The programming cycles for arts, or for recreational sports, need to be as reliable as those in traditional and established elite team sports — they must be something all youth can count on.

(ii) Mentors

One of the things we heard that resonated most with us was the comment that all youth need an adult who is “unconditionally crazy about them.” Families and extended families provide this for many youth, and many parents are both mentors and inspirations for their children. But other youth will only obtain this benefit from mentors outside their families. There are countless mentoring programs in Ontario, full of dedicated volunteers who are making a real contribution to the health (and safety) of our communities.

We are in no position to assess these programs, nor to recommend one over the other. We have, however, been advised of some core principles, which we think should guide Ontario in expanding these initiatives to ensure universal access to all youth who need this support.

Those principles are not complex. The mentoring relationship must be seen as a serious one: seriously entered into and seriously carried out. Care needs to be taken to match mentors with youth to maximize the chances of a positive and sustained relationship. Most mentors will then benefit from both training and support. Mentoring must be meaningful and involve real engagement with the youth in positive activities. Mentoring must be sustained: a short-term involvement with a vulnerable youth can often do more harm than good, leaving the youth disillusioned. Some have suggested that a two-year commitment is required (Wortley, Literature Review, Crime Prevention, Volume 5). And finally, the value of integrating mentoring with other activities that help link youth to their families, schools and communities cannot be overstated.

(iii) A Voice for Youth

As pointed out in Chapter 4, youth who are already at risk of being alienated from society will have that sense reinforced when they do not have opportunities to be heard on issues that directly and immediately affect their lives. And yet, as we have noted, although youth have much to offer, there are few opportunities for their voices to be heard when agendas are being set, policy is being made or significant decisions are being taken.

We think that initiatives such as the Toronto Youth Cabinet need to become much more widely available. That initiative features a standing committee of youth, which advises city council on a wide range of issues. Governments at all levels, community organizations and service providers need to see the value of having youth within their governance structures. And they need to recognize that such participation must be encouraged and supported, and not just made available to those who come forward.

But providing a seat at the table is not enough. Most youth need mentoring and support to play a meaningful role at the table and not to be simply a token. And often, the adult participants need training to fully appreciate how to work — and share power — with youth. Obtaining the youth voice must be seen as a long-term, two-way investment, requiring energy and commitment from an organization. We are convinced that when this approach is taken, important voices are added to the discussion, decisions are enriched and an important contribution to youth development is made.

But it is important to reach out to youth who would otherwise not know of or be able to take advantage of these opportunities. Obtaining a youth voice is important in its own right, but it is also important as an opportunity to engage women, immigrants, Aboriginal youth and youth of colour, and youth from any background, who are not already doing well. This will not only assist those youth with their development, but also will send a significant message of inclusion to their peers and families.

In a similar vein, we also see a need to support youth-led organizations. We address this in Pillar 3 and include it here only to note that it is an important way to engage youth — not only the youth in the organization, but all the youth served by it. There is an undeniable impact on the imagination when youth see their contemporaries not only running significant institutions and as sources of advice and assistance, but also as valued by the rest of society for so doing.

(iv) Youth Workers

Youth engagement of course extends beyond the three areas we have outlined in this section. It is a journey rather than a destination, and there are many roads that lead in the right direction. What matters most, it seems to us, is to focus on the strengths and capacities of youth and use these as building blocks to help provide opportunities in the present and hope for the future.

To help accomplish this, the role of youth workers will need ongoing attention. There are numerous areas where youth workers can play valuable roles. These range from helping schools and youth understand each other and connecting youth with arts and sports programs to getting youth involved in community hubs and being part of gang-exit strategies.

When selected from and, ideally, living in disadvantaged communities, these workers provide powerful bridges to the most disadvantaged youth, those who would very likely not be reached otherwise. With all youth, they can bring an age and cultural relevance, which can make key connections. And, of course, they provide youth employment, including in supervisory positions, and role models for other youth.

For these reasons, we believe that the government should more formally recognize the contribution and value of youth workers. This primarily involves paying attention to the stability of their employment, in part by making sustained commitments to the organizations that employ them and in part by supporting wages that will attract and retain highly skilled staff.

But it also includes providing developmental opportunities and linking youth workers as much as possible to each other and to the broader communities in which they work. Much of this can be done through “virtual networks” and video-conferencing. And part needs to be done by providing ways for youth workers to have time to travel and engage with and learn from each other. This keeps the focus of their work on local communities, where they can build strong relationships with youth, while at the same time providing opportunities for broader learning and engagement.

Overall, there is an important supporting role for the Province to play in relation to youth workers, which, in turn, will greatly enhance the capacity of numerous programs to address the roots of violence involving youth.

Youth Economic Opportunity

Providing economic opportunity for disadvantaged youth is a multi-faceted challenge, one that requires progress on many of the other roots we have identified. The required efforts include:

Because of the need to deal with these kinds of issues, we believe that a youth economic opportunity strategy must go well beyond making available summer, part-time or entry-level work. We see value in those initiatives and encourage those who are involved in them, but more is needed to get at the roots of the immediate risk factors for violence involving youth.

When more is provided, we will see another of the virtuous cycles we have mentioned in our report. Positive action on issues like housing quality or educational attainment will not only address alienation, impulsivity and low self-esteem and strengthen communities, but will at the same time help youth want and obtain meaningful employment. This, in turn, will put these youth on positive paths, reduce the reach of the roots, provide good role models for other youth and further strengthen their communities. This positive cycle will then renew itself with ever more positive results.

It follows that much of what we feel needs to be done to provide economic opportunity for youth has already been outlined in earlier sections of this pillar. We will accordingly address in this section only the efforts that are required to supplement those foundational initiatives. In doing so, we will focus to a fair extent on the private sector, but note that much of the fundamental underlying work falls to governments.

There is a critical need to create opportunity for marginalized youth, for whom its lack often intersects with other roots, such as poverty and racism, and can engender the immediate risk factors for violence involving youth. This is not to say that simply providing jobs to economically marginalized youth will necessarily reduce violence or solve the various challenges they face. Instead, it points to the need for comprehensive programs that provide both economic opportunities and multiple supports to help these youth overcome the entrenched barriers to their success.

Such holistic programs can only be developed with the leadership of Ontario’s private sector. As we established in Chapter 8, a number of businesses across the Province have adopted innovative projects that serve both their organizational needs and support economically marginalized youth. These programs, which range from apprenticeship opportunities to skills development and employment measures for economically marginalized youth, are to be encouraged. They recognize that investing in Ontario’s disadvantaged youth helps provide a stable and qualified workforce for years to come, and helps to support the long-term economic prosperity and safety that will attract and retain the knowledge workers and creative workers the Province needs for its long-term health.

To our way of thinking, there is a very important public-private partnership opportunity here. The public sector — including all orders of government — is well placed to take on the task of assisting youth with job-readiness. Beyond education and training, this means providing the kind of coaching that many parents provide: how to prepare for an interview, how to dress and act at work and how to deal with early frustrations and pressures. In some circumstances, governments might even pre-screen candidates to reduce the interview burden on employers and to identify ways in which candidates could improve their presentations. And perhaps governments could help address concerns businesses have about even a minor criminal record by helping a youth demonstrate that they have left their past behind or perhaps, in some cases, providing a bond or some other security for an employer.

Employers could in return be expected to create environments that are welcoming and supportive: to take some extra time in the first weeks or months of employment to help the youth succeed and to make allowances for what may be some growing pains on both sides. Existing staff, as well as the youth, could need some training or coaching in this regard. Ideally, employers would also work hard to find advancement opportunities for youth from disadvantaged communities in light of the powerful impacts these would have well beyond the youth involved.

The core issue remains, however, finding employers who will take the time to make the kind of social investment needed to create these jobs and retain youth in them. Governments need to play this role when they are the employer and need to encourage all the agencies they fund to do likewise. But governments also need to help the private sector play its role.

Consideration needs to be given to regulatory, tax or other incentives for business, which either create jobs within disadvantaged communities or create lasting jobs elsewhere with advancement potential for youth from these communities. We are not talking about subsidies for short-term, entry-level jobs, but incentives for jobs that, by their location or duration, will make a meaningful difference to disadvantaged communities.

On the private sector side, one of the issues seems to be that there is a lot of employment potential in smaller businesses, which might not be able to afford the kind of social investment in youth that we contemplate. At the same time, larger employers might not have enough relevant positions to offer. It seems to us that those employers that are willing to be part of the solution to the youth employment problem could be encouraged to provide business-to-business support to help smaller employers meaningfully employ youth.

In essence, larger businesses that are doing well could “adopt” a local business community through initiatives such as supporting a coach, ideally a youth outreach worker, who could assist a number of area employers to integrate youth into their workforce, providing the two-way cultural bridging we discussed elsewhere.

Or a sector such as banking or mining or insurance might organize itself to support a fund for one or more priority neighbourhoods for this purpose, or to directly support small businesses that are willing to create the kind of meaningful jobs we have discussed. The accumulation of a significant number of relatively small contributions into one fund could make an enormous difference to a community — one potentially greater than if each large employer invested the same amount in bringing youth to their enterprise.

Apart from these job-creation initiatives, the Province needs to address the discrimination that many youth and adults face when they seek employment. Ontario’s new human rights system, with a commission freed-up to address systemic issues, an enhanced, expert and expedited tribunal process and specialized advocacy assistance for claimants, is very promising in this regard. But it will only be able to make a difference if youth and other claimants are aware of it and have easy access to it.

Two possible ways to achieve this occur to us. First, funding could be made available to the human rights legal support centre to train youth outreach workers on human rights law, and perhaps to engage them to help potential claimants understand their rights, complete the application form and manage their way through the process from beginning to end. Second, the community legal clinics could similarly be resourced to make these services available in all disadvantaged communities across the province. Given the structure of the clinic system, this could encompass work within communities of interest as well as geographic communities. In Pillar 3, we suggested that the clinics could be resourced to work with and assist the Neighbourhood Strategic Partnerships; this additional role on human rights issues would be a natural complement to that role.

Finally, the Province needs to find ways to encourage the entrepreneurial skills of youth. While many see youth only as employees and not as employers or self-employed, the Grassroots Youth Collaborative has stressed the interest many youth have in creating their own jobs and jobs for others.

What would be needed is a venture capital fund, which would allow youth to finance good business plans. The university-college-community partnership we discuss in Pillar 3, or businesses that had “adopted” a community, could play a key role in helping youth develop those plans. The transformative power of letting youth shape their own futures and create jobs for other youth would extend well beyond the involved youth.

We note as well that, if our advice on supporting youth-led organizations and on expanding and stabilizing employment opportunities for youth workers is followed, a significant number of good youth jobs will be created. These will provide key contacts in, and role models for, many communities, and also allow the youth workers to build impressive resumés for their other career options.

There no doubt are other ways to advance economic opportunities for youth. We believe that the ones we have mentioned have merit, but encourage the private sector and the orders of government to come together to find creative and sustainable ways to give hope and opportunity to the youth who need it the most.

The Justice System

Introduction and Context

In this section, we address a significant number of ways in which the justice system could become a more integral and coherent part of a social context that works well for all the youth of Ontario. These fall into seven main categories, all of which are linked but each of which has some unique elements. We address them separately, but stress their connections to each other and indeed to many of the other elements in Pillar 1.

The need for change in each of these categories was demonstrated in Chapter 4. There we saw how the criminal justice system, while generally used to good effect, can nonetheless also be used in counterproductive ways when the exercise of its powers leads to the inappropriate treatment of youth and to over-criminalization. When this happens, it generates — needlessly — feelings of alienation, low self-esteem, unfairness and injustice, or creates a lack of belonging or hope and can operate as a root of the immediate risk factors for violence involving youth, even though those working within it would seek to have it be anything but.

By way of context for what we think needs to be done to remedy this, we start with two general observations. First, Canada has a legislative framework for youth justice, which provides for tough sentences and good, secure treatment options to deal with youth who represent a danger to the public, and for sanctions outside the formal justice system for youth who do not. It also provides legislative support for the use of police discretion as to whether to bring a youth into the criminal justice system at all and sets out important principles, such as recognizing the developmental stages through which youth pass.

It seems to us that this framework, the 2003 Youth Criminal Justice Act, represents a reasonable balancing of the need for toughness, where that is required to protect society, with firm, non-criminalizing approaches, where they best advance society’s interests. Both the governing principles it sets out and the legal framework it establishes provide sensible standards to protect society — in the short run — by incapacitating some youth and, in the long run, by maintaining a focus on our ability as a society to keep most youth on the path to productive roles in society, if we choose to pursue that objective.

Leading to our second general observation is the fact that the Act permits the provinces and territories to implement these provisions in various ways. Provinces and territories have real discretion as to what they will resource and how they will exercise the options provided by the Act. They can promote the use of intensive treatment options and community resources, or they can press for the use of jails. The Act permits and supports a balanced approach to youth justice in any given jurisdiction, but does not require one.

Our second general observation, then, is that, despite some significant moves in the right direction since 2003, Ontario has not begun to catch up to provinces such as British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, which, measured by incarceration rates, take a less-punitive approach to the implementation of the Act. In the paper they prepared for us, published in Volume 4, professors Caputo and Vallée note as well that Ontario formally charges proportionally more youth than the other three large jurisdictions in Canada. After considering the possible reasons for this, they stated:

This leads us to conclude that it is likely not the nature of the offences or the level of crime that can help explain the charging practices in Ontario. The role of the police and Crown attorney must be assessed with respect to charging policies and practices (Caputo and Vallée, Volume 4: 261).

In particular, we note that Quebec, which appears to charge proportionally about half as many youth as Ontario, has long been known in Canada for bringing a more social than legalistic approach to youth who commit offences, with there being no suggestion over the last 30 years that it is any less safe as a result.

Additionally, Ontario seems to still rely excessively on incarceration as a way of dealing with youth who are charged, including non-violent youth. Ontario has dramatically reduced the absolute number of youth in jail, a move we applaud, but still favours incarceration more than is the norm in this country. We note with some dismay that in 2006, Ontario, with about 40 per cent of Canada’s youth population, was responsible for about 54 per cent of all youth custodial sentences in the country. This is a big proportional jump from 2002-03, when Ontario incarcerated 45 per cent of the incarcerated youth in Canada (Caputo and Vallée, Volume 4: 257).

While there are many encouraging developments in the approach to youth justice in Ontario since 2003, and some figures suggest that Ontario is heading towards a more balanced approach to youth justice, its charging and incarceration rates are troubling. And no evidence has been brought to our attention to suggest that Ontario is safer as a result of the approach it is taking.

It also troubles us that in Ontario two out of every three sentences of incarceration are for non-violent offences, suggesting that the long-term negative effects of jail on youth outlined later in this chapter are being incurred for reasons that are not related to violent crime. Where incarceration creates alienation and a lack of empathy or hope in a youth who is jailed for a non-violent offence, as it often can do, or where it leads to association with youth gangs, it may have the effect of producing rather than deterring violence.

It also seems to be the case that in Ontario many sentences are very short, with, as Prof. Tony Doob advised us, half being less than 30 days in length. Ontario’s data cannot show to what extent this is accounted for because allowance is being made for pretrial incarceration, but if any significant proportion of youth is being sent to jail for this period of time, the consequences are manifestly counterproductive. It is just long enough to stigmatize a youth in their own mind and the minds of others, disrupt their education or employment, label them as a serious criminal, expose them 24/7 to many youth who are a danger, and destroy their self-esteem and sense of hope, without being long enough to represent a specific deterrence in their lives.

Incarceration of this kind cannot be seen as a strategic use of expensive (in many senses of the word) resources. Its use suggests that incarceration is very often not being relied upon to protect the public from serious offenders, but rather to send some kind of message to youth who pose no significant public safety risk. Our view on this can be simply stated: exercise great caution before using the courts to send a message to youth, as they often send the wrong one. The courts should not be used just because no other alternative has been made available, or because someone feels that this will be a salutary experience for a youth.

Overall, in the absence of a stated objective governing the youth justice system in Ontario, as discussed below we can only infer one from the message that arises from the daily actions of the many separate individuals within the system. Those actions tell us that, even though charging and incarceration rates have dropped significantly, Ontario still sees public protection primarily through an immediate, short-term lens. That lens is far too narrowly focused on immediate punishment and control, rather than on responding to crime and protecting the public by strategically using treatment options and effective sanctions, which also address the long-term safety and health of the province by strengthening youth, families and communities to prevent future crime.

With this by way of general context, we will go on to discuss the seven areas in which Ontario could modify its approach to youth justice to better address the roots of violence involving youth, while ensuring that the public is protected from those youth who present a real danger to it. We start with the overarching themes of coherence, strategy and integration, and then discuss separately our thoughts on specific initiatives for the police, Crown attorneys, judges and the correctional services.

(i) A Policy Framework

The youth justice system in Ontario does not operate as an integral part of an overall strategy for youth in this province, nor does it work from a shared sense of desired outcomes for youth and ways to achieve them. We set out the basis for this kind of provincial outcomes-based youth strategy in the next part of this chapter (Pillar 2). What matters in the immediate context is that, without such a framework, and most particularly without specific outcomes to work towards, the justice system is defined by the consequences of a large number of individual decisions rather than by a coherent set of policy objectives. As noted above, at present, that definition now features the use of short-term, inward-looking and often unstrategically punitive responses to youth behaviour.

While we cannot fault the justice system for not being part of an overall youth policy framework, which has yet to be created, we can express concern that it has operated to date without a framework to guide the three ministries that operate it. Beyond being referred to in the broad policies articulated within the federal government’s Youth Criminal Justice Act, we could find no articulated approach to the business of Ontario’s youth justice system, no collective vision for the use of the wide discretion provided by the Act and no statement of the outcomes the system as a whole is seeking to produce.

We believe that the absence of a shared policy framework has contributed in no small measure to the concerns we outline in this report. The overall youth policy framework we call for in our next pillar will provide a vital new orientation for youth justice in Ontario and, we believe, help address those concerns.

(ii) Someone in Charge

The problems that flow from the lack of an overall strategy for youth in Ontario are exacerbated by the fact that no ministry appears to have overall responsibility or accountability for the system or its outcomes. The Attorney General controls prosecution policy and funds an extra-judicial sanctions program through youth justice committees. Local police services, with little or no overall guidance from the Province, have their own policies on how to police youth, when to intervene, and when to do so through criminalization as opposed to warnings or formal extra-judicial measures. The Ministry of Children and Youth Services, in turn, is responsible for funding some of the programs that can be used as alternatives to court proceedings, and thus can limit or encourage the use of alternatives by the police, but only from a distance. And that ministry controls youth corrections and probation, youth protection services and youth mental health services.

This divided and un-aligned jurisdiction can lead to mixed messages within the system, to resources not being allocated where they can do the most good and to the actions of one part of the system undoing the value of investments in other parts of it. One example of the lack of coordination, which makes the point, lies in the fact that about 45 per cent of all youth justice matters brought to the courts are withdrawn or stayed. Those responsible for the system advised us that this figure relates to the number of youth charged, and not simply the total numbers of charges youth face. They told us that it almost always means that the Crown attorneys have determined that these youth can be effectively dealt with through measures operated outside the traditional justice system.

Given what we know about the limited positive impacts for most youth of continued involvement with the criminal justice system, and the needlessly negative consequences of that involvement for many, we see that exercise of discretion as commendable. But it seems to us it comes too late. By the time this discretion is exercised, many youth have already been labelled as a criminal by themselves, their family, and often their peers and school and stigmatized as such. They have missed school, perhaps many times, to attend court, where they have associated with potentially negative peers and often adults accused of serious offences. They have encountered needless delay between their alleged offence and a sanction. And, of course, society has spent costly justice resources on someone who did not need to be in the formal system at all.

Our point is not that an individual police officer was always wrong to have laid these charges or that the Crown was always right to stay or withdraw them. Rather, it is that with almost half of the youth who are charged being referred out of the courts before the courts have been asked to deal with them, there is an obvious disconnect between two parts of the justice system. Even if the 45-per-cent figure did not mean that this many accused youth have all the charges against them dropped, the problem would be a real one for many youth. A feedback mechanism either does not exist or is being ignored and, more fundamentally, it seems clear that a consistent approach to youth justice is not in place.

In our view, Ontarians are entitled to a youth justice system with shared approaches and outcome goals, and with a consistent approach to its administration. While there are various ways to accomplish this, we think that the depth of the current divide is such that a Youth Justice Advisory Board should be put in place to provide integrated policy and operational advice to the three ministers responsible for youth justice, and to the Cabinet committee we propose be created in Pillar 4.

We do not think that the required coordination would occur simply by asking that one of the three ministries try to assume policy direction over the others, and we doubt that an interministerial committee would provide the kind of leadership needed to deal with the customary ministerial silos. But, even more importantly, a Youth Justice Advisory Board would allow key disciplines, such as education and health, to be formally included in the governance of the youth justice system.

The advisory board we envisage would operate as an agency of the government, reporting jointly to all three ministers. It would be composed of experts in the relevant domains, including policing, community and custodial sanctions, probation, prosecutions, defence, victim services, mental health, child welfare, child and youth advocacy, education, housing, equity and youth development.

The board would have a small staff component to study and assess how the youth justice system operates as a whole, and how its resources could be better aligned to improve consistency and effectiveness. It would identify areas where the different parts of the system were operating at cross-purposes or simply not communicating well with each other, with the rest of Ontario’s youth sector or with agencies working with the families or communities of youth. Having regard to the youth outcome goals we discuss in Pillar 2 and hope the government will establish, the board would advise the ministers, the government and the public on the specific measures that would best ensure the justice system’s contribution to those goals.

Overall, the board would, as its core responsibility, look across the whole system and the whole budget for it and make recommendations to the ministers on ways to set priorities for the available resources in order to meet defined outcome targets for youth, to align programs and use discretion to provide safety and address the roots of violence involving youth and to ensure consistency across the system.

The board would also be responsible for measuring, monitoring and publishing the results achieved by the system. It would monitor and advise on the impacts of related initiatives in other provincial domains, (e.g., the safe schools provisions or initiatives in child welfare), maintain current information on youth justice approaches in other jurisdictions and develop and publish its own policy proposals. To support the development of its advice, it would be able to commission independent research into relevant youth development, health and justice issues, and related best practices, whether in Ontario or elsewhere.

We have been careful not to call for a lot of new agencies in our report, but this is one we feel is needed if progress is to be made. The serious impacts of unneeded criminalization, the lack of balance in resourcing (discussed below), the deep-seated cultures of independence (generally, but not always, itself a good thing) of parts of the justice system, and the potential for Ontario’s justice system to powerfully reinforce — or undercut — expensive youth and social initiatives elsewhere nonetheless lead us to this conclusion.

(iii) A Strategic Approach to Criminalization and Incarceration

Clearly, serious youth crime must be treated seriously. We have said so on many occasions. We accept the need for a criminal law intervention in many cases and the need for serious sanctions for serious crimes, most particularly crimes of serious violence. We also accept and value the role of police enforcement and protection activities. Police presence and interventions are obviously important to deter offences, even minor ones.

But we are not convinced that Ontario’s disproportionate use of criminalization and incarceration, compared to the other large provinces, represents a strategic approach to what the police and the rest of the justice system should do once those interventions have taken place. We agree with the comments expressed to us by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police that, to fight crime, we must invest in youth: we must put the dangerous ones behind bars but otherwise use proven programs to get youth on the right path.

Ontario needs a strategic approach to youth offending that would put those words into action. Careful thought needs to be given to what society’s next move is going to be if a criminal law approach, instead of investing in youth, is used to deal with youth behaviour that poses no real risk to public safety, even though it crosses the lines set by our criminal law.

Enforcement, while in the right cases very important, does not address the roots of violence involving youth and so has limited value in preventing future serious crime. The justice system as a whole has but a marginal impact on future offending. In this connection, we were encouraged by the presentation made to us by the deputy minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services in May 2008. That presentation included the following insightful comments, which were echoed by several senior police officers on other occasions:

Ontario can best prevent youth from becoming involved in criminal activity through investments in education, social services and creating opportunities for disenfranchised youth.

Police and corrections/rehabilitation interventions cannot effectively address youth violence in the absence of education, social service and employment supports that address the root causes and provide alternatives to engagement in crime.

The views of those at the top of the law enforcement system in Ontario are wise and encouraging. What seems to us to be lacking, however, is a consistent, strategic orientation that would put these significant and persuasive words into action on the front lines.

What would a strategic orientation look like on the ground? It would start with the acceptance of the simple reality that many adolescents commit offences. The majority are never detected, and those youth generally go on to be productive citizens. It follows that the youth who are detected should not be reflexively seen as aberrations who need to be made examples of for the good of society, but rather, for the most part, as those who happened to get caught. Their conduct needs to be addressed, sometimes very seriously and within the justice system, and they must always be discouraged from repeating it, but not by isolating them or treating them as if they were part of an irredeemable outlaw class. To do so is to nurture, not address, the immediate risk factors.

A strategic approach would also ensure that the exercise of discretion in the justice system is informed by an understanding of what is normal behaviour for adolescents, what developmental and transitional stages they are going through at different points in their lives and how they are functioning within their families, schools and communities. This understanding should be considered in deciding whether to charge a youth, whether to detain them, what bail terms to seek, what alternatives to the formal system may be appropriate and what penalty to impose if they are convicted. This very approach underpins how Quebec addresses youth justice. Quebec, which has a widely respected approach to dealing with youth crime, sees youth:

... first and foremost as young people in a stage of development. They are seen as susceptible to making errors. They have special learning needs and require structure and counselling. They can become productive citizens if appropriate measures are used such as rehabilitation rather than correction. Their criminal responsibility is attenuated and different from adults (Quebec, n.d.: 1, cited in Caputo and Vallée, Volume 4: 247).

The importance of this perspective is reflected in the fact that it has recently been reaffirmed as a constitutional principle by the Supreme Court of Canada. In a recent judgment, speaking on this point for a unanimous Court, Justice Rosalie Abella made the following finding:

...because of their age, young people have heightened vulnerability, less maturity and a reduced capacity for moral judgment. This entitles them to a presumption of diminished moral blameworthiness or culpability (R. v. D.B., 2008 SCC 25, para. 41).

The Court then went on to determine that the principle of the presumption of diminished culpability is one of fundamental justice, saying:

.... a broad consensus reflecting society’s values and interests exists, namely that the principle of a presumption of diminished moral culpability in young persons is fundamental to our notions of how a fair legal system ought to operate (para. 66).

In reaching this conclusion, the Court quoted the following comment of Prof. Nicholas Bala:

...adolescents, and even more so children, lack a fully developed adult sense of moral judgment. Adolescents also lack the intellectual capacity to appreciate fully the consequences of their acts. In many contexts, youth will act without foresight or self-awareness, and they may lack empathy for those who may be the victims of their wrongful acts (Bala, 2003, cited at para. 62).

And the Court went on to cite research by Doob et al. in reaching its own view that “... there is, moreover, evidence suggesting that as a result of this reduced judgment and maturity, young persons respond differently to punishment than adults and harsher penalties do not, by themselves, reduce youth crime.” (para. 64).

A strategic approach to youth justice would ensure that all of those exercising discretion in our youth justice system are aware of these realities and taught how to take them into account. There needs to be a full understanding of which behaviours are simply typical or normal for an age or developmental stage, and a full recognition, when discretion is exercised, that, while society has an interest in sanctioning some of those behaviours, it should do so in a way that has the best chance of success in light of the developmental and other circumstances of the youth in question.

It is not that we expect every police officer to be an expert on this. Consideration could be given in some cases to referring youth for a social services assessment before a charge is laid. This assessment would consider the youth’s circumstances and their ability to benefit from the available programs. This is done in Quebec, where, as summarized by Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General after the May 2008 McMurtry Seminar, “[s]taff in Quebec’s alternative measures program meet with the youth’s family and consider whether drug treatment, community work or other alternative measures would be more appropriate than laying charges.” If this approach were applied in Ontario, the results of this kind of assessment could be considered by the officer before he or she determined whether charges were appropriate. In this way, that crucial decision could be made on the basis of all of the available evidence and information about the youth, including what services might work for them.

This kind of strategic approach to charging, where in many cases the decision to invoke the formal criminal process is made after rather than before the suitability of alternatives has been considered, responds to the reality discussed in Chapter 4 that the decision to proceed within the formal system has enormous implications for most youth, their peers, their family and their future. Having good information on the availability and suitability of alternatives before incurring those implications would improve the outcomes for many youth. Where that is not possible, the police could establish an internal vetting by a more senior officer before charges are laid to help ensure that all available relevant information is considered.

The orientation should not be just what is to be done today with a youth, but should also be to take into account the likely longer-range consequences of the various options. To be clear, we do not call for this analysis before the police intervene to prevent or interrupt a crime or make an arrest — only before they or a Crown attorney decide to continue with a process with so many consequences for all of us.

In this connection, Ontario also needs to address the criminalization that results from policies in place in schools and group homes, which lead to the police being called to respond to even minor infractions. Especially in group homes, where we place our most disadvantaged youth, we should be cautious about criminalizing youth in care who engage in behaviour that, if committed in a family home, would be dealt with away from the justice system. These youth are in care because of the severe disadvantages they are already under, often because of their family circumstances, and should not be further disadvantaged just because they cannot live with their family. In our view, the policies that criminalize them need to be reconsidered in light of a strategic approach to the deployment of the criminal process.

As well, Ontario needs to put in place policies that call upon those exercising discretion to take into account the deeper implications of some of the circumstances of the youth they deal with. For example, as a matter of routine, the police, the Crowns and bail justices of the peace give great weight to the support and attitude of a youth’s parents in deciding whether to charge a youth, seek or grant bail or continue with a prosecution. While logical from an immediate “today” perspective, this approach fundamentally fails to recognize that the dysfunctional or disengaged parent is often why the youth is offending, and that to further penalize the youth for this is bound to reinforce the immediate risk factors we have identified.

We do not say that the consideration is not relevant. Instead, we suggest that a strategic orientation would bring the longer-term consequences into consideration, along with the immediate ones. A strategic approach would ask those exercising discretion to look deeper than simply noting that a family is “not supportive.” They should be expected to probe to see if alternative supports — including, but not limited to, extended families — are available.

And the government itself should back this more strategic approach by putting in place resources to help ensure that those alternative supports can be sought out and brought to the attention of the Crown and the Court. There have been good examples in Ontario of bail programs that do this, and at present the African-Canadian court worker and social worker program is struggling with precarious funding to help youth find, or the justice system understand, community supports for release or diversion when family supports are lacking. With Ontario’s pretrial incarceration rate increasing, programs that can prepare a well-thought-out plan to ensure public safety while a youth is out of jail are needed more than ever before.

The last strategic issue we raise has to do with incarceration following a conviction: it involves looking at the practical consequences of incarceration for youth before that penalty is sought or imposed. We saw above that Ontario relies more heavily on incarceration than the other large provinces. And yet, it is well-known that while time in jail will seriously stigmatize a youth, the prospect of jail does not deter most youth. Most youth think they will never get caught; many others are indifferent to the risk and believe it is worth running because of their limited options in life or because of peer pressure; and others still are even at the point where they believe that, if they are incarcerated, it will constitute a rite of passage and a badge of honour, which will increase their prestige and power in their community.

Despite these attitudes, some of which themselves reflect the immaturity of youth, incarceration will in fact alienate some youth and lower their self-esteem and sense of hope in ways that can reinforce or create the roots of future violence. For others, it will lead to becoming a gang member while in jail and taking that new membership back to their community or to learning new ways to commit crimes on release. From a strategic perspective, society must nevertheless pay these consequential prices when jail is necessary to reflect the risk to society of the offence and the offender, but it should not pay them when it is not. To do so is to give in to a very short-term punitive approach at the direct expense over time of, in many instances, significantly increasing the immediate risk factors for violence involving youth.

To be clear and not be taken out of context on a sensitive topic, we repeat that we are not suggesting in the strategic approach we propose that there should not be incarceration. Rather, we suggest that incarceration should not be used unless necessary, and that the downstream costs of a heightened risk of future violence should be considered, especially when the immediate offence involves property or the administration of justice rather than violence. To punish a property offence in a way that puts Ontarians at risk of future serious violence should not be done lightly.

In summary, the kind of strategic orientation we think should be in place would call on those exercising discretion in the criminal justice system to appreciate the circumstances of youth, and the consequences of decisions about them on the roots of violence involving youth. We should be able to expect that our justice system is managed in a way that requires and supports those who exercise its discretionary powers to “think roots.” We believe that they can reasonably be asked to look at least one or two moves beyond the immediate step they are taking to deal with a youth — to focus on where the puck is going to be, as opposed to where it is at any given moment.

(iv) Balanced Resourcing: The Need for Responsive and Available Alternatives

Important as they are, it is not enough to just put in place a policy framework and promote a strategic approach to the use of the youth justice system. The resources to support a strategic approach must also be made available. By this we mean not only training and support for those on the front lines, but as well the ready availability of meaningful sanctions outside the formal justice system. We would define such sanctions as ones that are proportionate to the gravity of the conduct, relevant to the circumstances of the youth and the roots of their offence, and appropriate to meet the public’s expectation that they will signal society’s disapproval and contribute to bringing a youth back onto the right path.

These kinds of sanctions outside the formal justice system must be available if discretion is to be exercised at all, much less strategically. And yet, in a perhaps unusual example of Toronto having fewer resources than other parts of the province, police officers there, including a deputy chief, told us that there were essentially no alternatives available to the police other than doing nothing or proceeding with a charge. Two small pilot projects were just getting underway when we spoke, but otherwise there were very few, if any, options, or at least very few options that the police knew of and could access easily. The fact that charging rates have dropped without such alternatives does not address the reality that Ontario still disproportionately charges and incarcerates youth, nor does it tell us whether the best long-term results are being obtained for Ontario’s youth.

Certainly, the police made it clear to us that they believe that more alternative sanctions should be available to them. We agree. There cannot be a balanced approach if the police and Crowns do not have the same access to effective and credible community-based responses to youth crime as they do to courtrooms and jails. We live in a society where it is a given that police, prosecutors and jails are available as core public services. While all of these sectors claim to be underfunded from time to time, they are all seen as basic services with clear and compelling access to the public purse. We don’t withhold from communities whole parts of the justice system, such as courts and prosecutors, until we can find a way to pay for them from discretionary funds.

And yet this is exactly what Ontario does regarding alternatives to the formal justice system. While good data are not available, it appears that Ontario spends less than 10 per cent of its approximate $850-million youth justice budget on alternatives to the formal system (see Chapter 8, page 207). Police officers have told us that they would divert more charges from the courts if community-based sanctions were available and easy to access. They and the Crown attorneys cannot use alternatives, that do not exist. As a general rule, it remains far easier to send a youth to the court system than to an alternative. A simple piece of paper suffices for the former; finding an alternative can be a time-consuming and frustrating exercise for many officers even when alternatives are available.

As we have seen elsewhere in this report, the line between what is mandatory and what is optional is too often drawn by reference to past practice, rather than by current needs. We need to redraw that line so that what we now call the alternatives in youth justice are not alternatives, but rather core elements of an aligned and strategic approach to youth crime with the same priority for funding as any other core element of the system.

(v) Service Integration

We discuss elsewhere in our report the disadvantages faced by youth who are taken into the care of the state. We have also outlined the dramatic extent to which they then become involved in the justice system. To repeat just one example, we were advised by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services that, Canada-wide, these youth are 30 times more likely than other youth to have this involvement.

Much obviously needs to be done to provide services and supports to reduce the disturbing extent to which we are turning needs into risks. In our immediate context, however, much also needs to be done to provide continuity of services and programs when these youth do move back and forth between the child protection and youth justice systems. Their common need for services should predominate over the most immediate reason for which they have been referred for assistance.

This approach would focus on the need for treatment and reflect an orientation around seeing a youth as having a problem, not being one. Both systems deal with youth in difficulty, and the responses can often be the same. It almost certainly has to be cost-effective to have someone manage in an integrated way the services they receive in each system, and where feasible combine those services, but even if cost-neutral there are obvious advantages in providing continuity when a youth moves from one system to the other. There should be an integrated service plan in place for each youth and someone responsible for providing common case-management across the systems.

With one Ontario ministry now being responsible for child welfare, youth custody and many of the extra-judicial sanction programs, we see no reason why this approach could not be brought to Ontario. The efficiency of coordinating services and the logic of looking at the presenting needs of the child rather than the label placed on them both commend this approach to us. With the complementary community-based approach we propose for youth mental health services, the benefits of integration would be even further increased.

(vi) The Police

We of course respect the vital function of policing in this society, understand its complexities and difficulties, and commend those men and women who have chosen this important form of public service. We fully appreciate that the neighbourhood conditions we described in chapters 4 and 5 create enormous challenges for those who police these communities as well as those who live in them. The same conditions that facilitate crime — rundown areas and buildings, limited through streets, poor sightlines, dead ends, dark stairwells and corridors, overcrowding — all create risks for police officers as well as potentially hardening their attitudes to those who are forced to live in these conditions. In light of these conditions, we applaud the countless ways individual officers go beyond the call of duty to try to support youth and prevent crime, as well as to carry out their often-onerous enforcement obligations. We also applaud the balanced statements of senior police officers and of senior officials in the ministry responsible for policing in Ontario.

We nonetheless have three serious concerns about the way policing is carried out on the streets. Two of these have already been addressed above. The first, over-criminalization, is sometimes a structural resourcing question as opposed to an issue of how police discretion is used, although we believe that the value of strategic thinking about the consequences of their decisions should be more widely communicated to, and such thinking more generally expected from, front-line officers. The second, systemic racism, while by no means limited to policing, is a fundamental concern, which we have already addressed in some detail above. The remaining issue is the aggressive approach sometimes taken to policing, both as it affects youth and their peers and as it affects whole communities. How far up the chain of command support for this aggressive “take control” approach extends is difficult to ascertain from one day to the next, but it is high enough that long-standing concerns about it remain unaddressed.

While our focus in this section of our report as a whole is on youth justice, we do not in this particular connection confine our remarks about police conduct to interactions with youth as they are defined by the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Overly aggressive and uncivil police behaviour to any member of a community can send clear messages throughout that community about fairness, trust in the police and belonging to the wider community.

We emphasize that we are not debating the wisdom of policing strategies. We have published in Volume 4 an insightful paper by Prof. Doob and his colleagues on what the evidence tells us about some of those strategies and commend it to those who wish to pursue this topic. For present purposes, we wish only to reflect on the concerns we often heard about how these strategies are implemented. The idea of policing by suppression — by a large show of force — may be the right short-term approach in some circumstances. But as the police themselves told us, suppression cannot be sustained. Inevitably, problems arise elsewhere, sometimes because the suppression itself has simply moved them. When it does, resources go elsewhere.

When they do, safety then turns in large measure on what the community is left to deal with when the extra police resources are withdrawn. If the suppression efforts have been done with firmness, but also civility and respect, they may have achieved some lasting benefits without alienating youth and their community. But where they are carried out aggressively, with tactics that intimidate and often belittle, and where as a result the community is alienated and bridges between the police and the community are destroyed, then for the reasons we outlined in Chapter 4 these tactics have every potential to contribute to the growth of alienation, a sense of injustice and other roots of violence involving youth.

The issue of police attitude extends beyond how major suppression efforts are carried out, although that raises particular concerns. In our view, every officer must be trained, supported and expected to think about the impact of their attitude, as well as their actions, on the immediate risk factors for violence. Again, to avoid being taken out of context, we stress that this does not mean that an officer must refrain from intervening when crime is suspected or expose themselves or others to risk. We want simply to say that, apart from such situations, there is both time and a need for mature, strategic thinking about the roots of violence involving youth.

Yes, youth may often be unresponsive, confrontational or rude. But it is the officer who is paid to be the adult and who can reasonably be expected to take the high road. Policing through intimidation has no place in a society. It alienates individuals, promotes disrespect of the police in large segments of communities and makes impossible the kind of relationships and community mobilization the police themselves say they need to make a difference. When it does so, it powerfully creates and reinforces the immediate risk factors for violence in entire communities.

A long-run solution is a more representative police force, one with officers who come from and ideally live in and near the communities they serve. It also involves a culture shift to valuing and rewarding longer-term approaches to preventing crime by contributing to stronger, more involved communities and to youth seeing a positive future in them. And it includes immediate actions by police leaders to curb unnecessarily aggressive and uncivil behaviour by their officers.

Senior police officers spoke to us of their “unwaivering belief” in crime prevention (the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police), yet in practice do not seem to see that, from a roots perspective, it must be integral to how all policing is done and not considered a separate function, however valued. To be effective, crime prevention, especially the prevention of future crimes of violence, needs to be front and centre in the way all policing is carried out, and particularly in interactions with youth.

(vii) Crown Attorneys

As with the police, we have already addressed issues concerning the Crown attorneys in relation to a strategic orientation and over-criminalization. We want to add only three further considerations. The first is specialization in youth justice; the second is the Crown attorney’s broad responsibilities for the administration of justice; and the third is the apparent disconnect between the Crown attorney system and some racialized communities.

The complex interaction of law and policy, and of punishment and social services, call for a unique blend of skills in those who exercise the Attorney General’s discretionary powers over the administration of youth justice. They require a deep knowledge of child development and an understanding of the availability and best use of community services, on top of a sophisticated grasp of all the Charter and other jurisprudence that are part of any Crown’s working life.

For some years in Ontario there was a perception that the Crowns who worked in youth courts were “kiddie crowns,” whose work was less important than what went on in the adult courts. Especially, but not only, from the perspective of influence over the roots of violence involving youth, this is plainly wrong.

We were happy to have been told that this attitude is dying out, and that senior and skilled Crowns are devoting significant parts of their careers to this specialized field. We applaud and support that development. We recognize that not all Crown offices are large enough to support that specialization. Where they are not, the youth in that community should not be disadvantaged; those Crowns must have the training and the easy access to mentors and leaders to support their bringing a similar degree of knowledge, if not always experience, to their work.

We speak here not of specialized knowledge of jurisprudence. We speak instead to the need for current knowledge of effective and available community alternatives, and to knowledge of youth development stages and other factors that need to be taken into account in determining the best response to a youth’s behaviour. The discretion these Crowns exercise needs to be as informed by youth development and community resources as is the discretion exercised by specialists in the field.

The second issue we want to raise relates to the role that Crown attorneys should play as local ministers of justice. This role was first widely articulated some 35 years ago by the then deputy Attorney General, the late Frank Callaghan. He made it very clear to all of Ontario’s Crown attorneys that they have a broad and important responsibility in relation to the administration of justice in Ontario. Their role is not confined to an individual case, but extends to how justice is experienced by all residents of Ontario’s communities. It includes a fundamental obligation to balance equity and fairness.

We raise this role in our report because we believe this responsibility applies whenever racism comes to the attention of a Crown attorney. If, as we have been told is the case, stereotypical and sometimes racist comments are found in police reports on bail, we believe that the Crown should have an obligation to draw that to the attention of the officer in question and, where necessary, his or her senior officers. Including a document containing this kind of information in a disclosure package for defence counsel is not an answer. Silence by an agent of the Attorney General cannot be allowed to imply their acceptance of such remarks.

The link to the roots of violence involving youth is subtle, but important. An officer may not be aware of the systemic racism or stereotypes inherent in some remarks and, if they are, may feel that their attitudes are condoned by the Crown if there is no reaction to them. If so, their behaviour on the streets will stay the same. Whether this manifests itself in overt racism or is simply apparent to the community by more subtle behaviours, it feeds the immediate risk factors we have identified.

Similarly, we believe that if a presiding justice or court official acts oppressively or in a discriminatory or belittling way towards an accused or a witness, as we have been told happens from time to time, it is the Crown attorney who must stand up for the wider interests of the administration of justice. The Attorney General’s proper concern about this conduct and its consequences should, if the conduct is that of a justice, be put on the record to ensure that no one in the courtroom has the impression that the Attorney General is in any way associated with such conduct. In some cases we believe that the matter should then be followed up with the office of the chief justice of the court in question.

While the link to alienation, lack of self-esteem, unfairness and the other roots from written police submissions is indirect, the link to in-court conduct is more immediate because it takes place in a court and it generally occurs in a public, embarrassing and memorable way. Justices and court staff need to be aware of this and asked to think strategically and long-term about their conduct.

Where that does not end this behaviour, an immediate response in the courtroom is needed to try to minimize these negative impacts. And, of course, Crown attorneys must ensure that their own conduct and demeanour do not give rise to similar concerns.

The last issue we wish to raise in relation to Crown attorneys is what we heard about their limited interaction with racialized communities and the need for a greater recognition of why this matters. Some have told us that, as a practical matter, it is easier to engage the police on issues of racism than it is the Crowns. And yet, it is the discretion exercised by Crowns that, in the final analysis, determines what charges will be proceeded with, what bail terms will be sought and what sanctions should be agreed to in a plea bargain or sought if a trial ends in a conviction.

These are all issues of enormous impact on a youth and their community. They cannot be optimally determined without the kinds of contextual information we have already discussed, including an understanding of the youth, their family and their community. With particular reference to racialized communities, we are not convinced that Crowns will routinely have that knowledge if they are not exposed to members of those communities.

To avoid any misunderstanding, we note that we are not calling into question the vital principle of the independence of the Crown. Instead, we are saying that the public interest test that the Crowns have long applied should be informed by a full contextual understanding so that it can lead to addressing the wrong a youth has done in a way that best puts them on the path to a positive and productive future.

This is not only a question of sensitivity training, but also one of ongoing contact and communication. A good way to start to promote that is through local consultative bodies, such as race equity advisory committees, which could work with local Crown attorney offices to bring the most locally relevant social context information to their attention on a sustained and ongoing basis.

(viii) Courts

We have four issues to raise in relation to the judiciary and the courts. We do so in full recognition of the independence of our judges and, for the most part, simply wish to draw these matters to their attention for consideration as they see appropriate.

The first issue is to encourage justices dealing with bail matters to consider the full social context of those before them. As we have already noted, youth may often seem to be unattractive candidates for bail because they do not have a stable home, or lack someone to be a surety and supervise them, or because their family is uninterested and uncooperative. And yet these youth are often in difficulty for exactly those reasons. To deny bail because of circumstances of disadvantage beyond the youth’s control can easily drive alienation and a lack of hope.

A similar issue can arise if a condition of bail is imposed that requires counselling for substance abuse or mental health issues as a term of release. We were told that these services are largely unavailable and that many youth languish in custody because of a condition they have no power to fulfil. A youth whose parents have resources may well be able to pay for these services, thus furthering the disadvantaged youth’s sense of unfairness and oppression.

We realize that justices cannot control the circumstances we mention and must exercise their discretion in accordance with the criminal law. But we think that the strategic approach we discussed above could lead to a careful examination of this broader context and to a more fulsome consideration of whether the inevitable incarceration, if the condition is imposed, is really what will further the long-term interests of justice.

The second issue is what we heard about judicial conduct. We discussed in Chapter 4 and immediately above the negative impacts certain attitudes and approaches can have. But we are also aware of the opposite — how a presiding justice can make a positive difference to a youth’s life by a thoughtful and considerate intervention.

We understand, for example, that research and work done by Canada’s National Judicial Institute to prepare judicial education programming shows that treating youth with respect and civility, engaging them in what is taking place in the courtroom and introducing what has been called a therapeutic approach to the process and to sentencing has a favourable impact on how well those youth do when they leave the courtroom. Excellent training on this approach is available from the institute and needs to be provided to all judicial officers dealing with youth.

It follows, of course, that if positive treatment in the courtroom has positive effects, negative treatment is, at a minimum, a lost opportunity and may also have negative effects.

Whatever immediate reason or rationale a justice may have for upbraiding a youth or using the court process in a way that risks alienating an already-disadvantaged and alienated youth, this would not appear to be a sound use of discretion. We believe that judges should be encouraged to remain mindful of the potential for their conduct to have negative consequences for that youth, their peers, their family and their community. While the consequences a justice must impose may sometimes have to be harsh, the route to them never should be. We commend to the chief justices what we have said about the potential to make the court process a positive contributor to reduced youth violence.

The third issue is specialization. We believe that, to the greatest extent feasible, the judges who deal with youth matters should specialize in this work. We also see real benefits if those specialist judges are also involved in child protection cases, given the high degree of overlap of both participants and issues. We have also noted that judges who deal with family cases as well as youth matters have said that this improves their capacity to appreciate the circumstances of the youth coming before them.

We recognize that combining youth justice work with family or child protection matters may not be possible in those parts of the province that have a unified family court, given the choices made about what jurisdiction to vest in those courts, Ontario’s unified family courts have jurisdiction over all family law matters. They also deal with child welfare matters, but not youth criminal justice cases. This is a policy choice resulting from the negotiations when the federal government expanded the unified family court system, and could be changed if the governments and the courts were willing to do so. We think that the Province and the federal government should consider again whether to give those courts the young offender work. Elsewhere in the province, we encourage this combination of work wherever logistically possible.

While we see specialization, where possible, coexisting with and sometimes being enhanced by combining youth justice work with family or child protection matters, we do have concerns about holding youth court in adult-court buildings, when all of the personnel in the building including the youth court judges rotate through all the courts. Given the predominance of adult-court matters, the resulting style of justice can all too easily coalesce into adult-court values and processes. In high-volume courthouses, where most cases are disposed of by guilty plea, youth cases can be subject to the same plea-bargaining pressures (high volume and limited resources on both sides) as adult cases.

As a result, the principles of the Youth Criminal Justice Act can be forgotten. Defence efforts can reflexively focus on quickly negotiating the most lenient result for the young person rather than on, as the Act requires, taking “reasonable steps to prevent youth crime by addressing its underlying causes” (preamble). Judges come from a milieu where they find themselves allowing joint submissions in order to relieve the case backlog pressures, even though the goals of the court require much more in terms of analyzing the causes of behaviour and accessing community-based services and resources. Even dedicated, youth-specialist Crown attorneys cannot ensure an appropriate result on sentence in the atmosphere of an adult-court culture and enormous backlog pressures. None of this is in the interests of youth or those concerned about their future. While a high-volume, fast-resolution model is less than ideal for adults, its impact on youth is more severe given the early effect it can have on their life chances.

The fourth issue we want to raise applies not only to youth justice, but also extends to community justice. Throughout our short tenure on this review, we had far more good ideas presented to us than we could consider fully. For many of these, we are relying on the specialized planning exercise called for in Chapter 10 to ensure that the government has the widest array of options and best advice possible.

But because it could get lost in the array of better-known programs, we wish to comment briefly on the concept of a community court. This concept is in place in some parts of the United States and Australia, has been expanded to 10 sites in Britain and is close to coming to fruition in British Columbia.

While each variation has its own features, the core concept is that a court would sit in a community centre, where it would be anchored in a full spectrum of community resources. It would work closely with a community advisory council. As is the case with the mental health courts and some other existing specialized courts in Ontario, its role would be to enforce the use of community programs and alternatives, working with the community and using community resources to address the underlying problems of those brought before it. As described in an article about the proposed court in Vancouver’s downtown eastside:

Community courts take a problem-solving approach to offenders, using a range of health and social services like housing, mental health, drug treatment, welfare and job training (Bermingham, 2007).

That article went on to quote the judge setting up the Vancouver court as follows:

The community court wants to solve the problem that leads ... to the crime....

We think that this concept is worthy of careful consideration. Importantly, such a court could be piloted in one or more of the community hubs we propose in Pillar 3. This would directly connect the court to the community and its services and, indeed, could serve as a place of specialized learning about how courts can build on community strengths, lessons that could then be disseminated more widely among other judges and Crowns.

(ix) Probation and Corrections

We did not hear a great deal about the conditions within youth custodial facilities. As discussed in Chapter 2, we were deeply impressed by the maturity and insights of the detained youth we met and by the impressive and progressive programs in place to help such youth. The commitment by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services to ending the use of adult correctional facilities for youth custody is a positive one and is to be commended.

There remain four areas for attention. First, the strategic — think roots — analysis we outlined for the rest of the justice system needs to apply here as well. The ministry needs to be vigilant to ensure that systemic racism does not influence either the treatment of, or decisions made about, incarcerated youth. And, for the reasons we discussed, civility needs to be insisted on at all times.

Second, the ministry needs to find ways to prevent a period of incarceration becoming a “gang-entry” program. We were advised that many youth, while in custody, develop relationships with gang members that lead to gang affiliation. They then take that association with them when they return home. In some instances where youth are incarcerated with youth from other cities, this transition jumps municipal lines and brings a new and more dangerous gang culture to areas that did not have that problem before. The ministry needs to be sensitive to this issue and should implement a strategy to prevent it from occurring.

Third, the ministry needs to pay careful attention to the critical role of probation officers. They make important decisions about extra-judicial approaches to youth, prepare presentence reports that carry great weight with judges, and supervise youth on release. They, in particular, have to be trained and supported to understand the full context of the youth they deal with, including the kinds of family issues discussed above.

Finally, more needs to be done to assist youth with their transition back into the community. Youth who are released from custody with no family and no place to live are highly likely to go back to their former associates for companionship or just to survive on the streets. Youth who have no place to go other than a place that was already isolating and dysfunctional for them are similarly likely to fall on their old ways. This is all the more likely given that they now face the barriers of a criminal record, which includes jail time.

We understand that the ministry does do reintegration planning for youth, and that probation officers work with youth during the community supervision phase of their sentence to help with this goal. But there is more work to be done in promoting increased service coordination between program sectors to enhance successful outcomes for youth leaving custody. The implementation of a transitional support-worker model is such an example.

Transitional workers would work with youth from the initial court process through to release into the community, providing in-depth support and counselling, as well as mentorship. Additionally, these workers would assist in the development of a reintegration plan, working closely with the probation case manager to provide necessary community referrals, such as culturally appropriate programming, linkages to mental health, schooling, economic opportunity initiatives and mentoring, among others. Once again, youth workers could play a key role in making connections to and among these supports, and our proposed community hubs could both facilitate and normalize their use.

The Second Pillar:

Towards a Youth Policy Framework


At many points throughout our work, we were struck by the lack of policy coordination across the myriad of programs dealing with Ontario’s youth. This is as true within the provincial government itself as it is among the three orders of government, the many other funders of youth services and the thousands of youth-serving agencies. Without policy coordination and coherence, duplication occurs, gaps exist, funding does not flow to evidence-based priorities, and both service providers and their clients are often baffled by what services are and are not available at any given place or time, and by the differences in what the available ones appear to be trying to achieve.

In a recent study of youth policy frameworks, Youth Policy: What Works and What Doesn’t, United Way Toronto reached a similar conclusion, stating:

...we also found system-wide problems, primarily the growth of an increasingly complex and fragmented youth sector characterized by incoherence in services, policies and funding sources...[T]he overall public policy response to youth issues has developed in a piecemeal fashion, with various supports and services set up in isolation from each other by different governments, agencies and departments. At a time when youth face big challenges, the programs and supports to help young people are not close to hand and easy to access (United Way Toronto, 2008: 5).

We are aware that individual units within the various involved governments and many service providers have worked hard to develop their own youth strategies, many of which serve a useful purpose. However, these strategies exist in silos and rarely address the broad developmental needs of youth. And yet, as the United Way study shows, other jurisdictions, including Quebec and British Columbia, have achieved positive results in moving to adopt broad coordinated policies for youth.

Based on our discussions, we believe that one of the best ways to provide policy coherence in an area where there are so many different actors is through an overall youth policy framework. A policy framework is not a substitute for the effective governance structure we recommend in Pillar 4. It can, however, play two important supporting roles.

First, a policy framework provides transparency as to the goals sought to be achieved through a new governance structure, and thus helps build support for and cooperation with it. And second, it not only establishes a “whole of government” approach to youth issues, but as well offers persuasive guidance for other orders of government, foundations and many service providers that operate outside a formal governance structure. It does so by providing a basis for determining which programs should be seen as core and mandatory and which should be seen as discretionary and by providing a common point of reference for the many public bodies and community agencies, allowing them to see where their existing or proposed programs fit or do not fit into a comprehensive strategy.

The policy framework we see as the most promising would be based on the early childhood development model used in Ontario and elsewhere. That model, which has served to inspire and coordinate actions for children up to age six by governments and communities alike, is based on the developmental stages of children. It provides an evidence-based framework on which governments and other service providers can situate their programs, and to which they can refer in setting their priorities. While it took a long time to develop, it enjoys wide acceptance in the field today.

Given the positive impacts of the early childhood framework, we are concerned that Ontario does not have, and does not appear to be working towards, anything similar for children over six years of age. To us, it is clear that Ontario’s work to address the roots of violence involving youth, and indeed all of its work with youth, needs to take place within a widely accessible evidence-based policy framework.

We have in mind something well beyond a policy framework that simply sets out aspirations for youth. We believe that the Province urgently needs a framework that is informed by research about the developmental and transitional stages of childhood and that focuses on desired outcomes. It would not be about who does what nor about control, but would set out an evidence-based, outcomes-focused framework to serve as a guide for program development and priority-setting by communities, agencies and the various orders of government.

We see such a framework as having three main components: a vision, a set of shared principles and an articulation of specific outcome goals, accompanied by targets and timelines to achieve them. Time did not permit us to design a youth policy framework, nor would it have been appropriate to do so without a significant degree of consultation with youth, service providers, funders, policy-makers and the public at large. We believe that the Province must undertake the research and consultations necessary to develop such a framework, a task we see as achievable by next summer. Nonetheless, to help readers understand what we believe such a framework might look like, we offer below our initial thoughts on each component.

1. A Vision

We propose a vision that would, of course, value youth as critically important for the ongoing strength of this province and recognize that their future is our future. It would be premised on ongoing generational renewal, and on a shared understanding that all youth should be safe, valued and trusted; have the opportunity to grow, learn, play and achieve their dreams in healthy, inclusive and seamlessly supportive neighbourhoods; be treated equitably according to their individual circumstances; be educated and nurtured; be mentored and supported in developing a secure sense of belonging; and also be listened to and involved and, as they grow older, given real responsibility, all so that they may reach their full potential and help the rest of us reach ours.

2. Shared Principles

The principles we propose would include respecting youth by involving them in determining and addressing their needs; recognizing racial, gender and other differences among youth; organizing programs and interventions around the strengths of each youth and the circumstances in which they live; reflecting the realities of the developmental and transitional stages youth pass through; and ensuring that programs and services are increasingly based on proven best practices, make appropriate connections among youth, their families, schools and communities, and are truly accessible.

a) Respecting Youth Involvement

We were struck throughout our work by the keen insights and valuable perspectives of the youth we met. Especially among those youth who do not fit the stereotype of the “young achievers,” but even among those who do, there is nonetheless a strong sense that their insights and views are not sought and, when presented, are undervalued. In our view, this is a serious mistake.

In many instances, youth have the best sense of the issues they face, and what will work to address those issues. They often have a remarkably subtle sense of how our society affects and is perceived by youth, and of the practicalities of supporting and nurturing youth in a meaningful and sustainable way. To fail to seek and consider these perspectives, or to fail to foster and build on the strengths of youth-led organizations, is to exclude a highly relevant source of expertise. It is also to risk wasted investments as well-intentioned programs founder on the lack of appreciation for the current circumstances, needs, priorities and ideas of youth.

b) Recognizing Differences

There are enormous differences among youth, both in their personal characteristics and in the environments in which they grow and live. A partial list of differences would include gender, race, sexual orientation, ability, mental and physical health, as well as their family or other living situations, their communities, their values, interests and friends, their socio-economic circumstances, their experiences in the educational system and sometimes their own family responsibilities.

Programs for youth that ignore or pay only passing attention to these differences cannot hope to succeed. These differences are often central to understanding the whole situation a youth may be facing. They are also central to selecting the services and programs that will be of the most benefit, and then integrating them effectively into the family, school and community settings in which youth are spending the vast majority of their time.

c) Organizing Services Around Each Youth

It is necessary but not sufficient to recognize the many differences between and among youth and to give these differences practical significance by respecting them in providing programs and services of general application. In addition, and vitally, service providers must look to those differences to understand the particular strengths within and available to the individual youth so that the focus can be on identifying, supporting and building on the strengths of youth rather than focusing on problems they may present.

Only once a youth’s own strengths, and those within his or her family, school or community, are understood, is it possible to effectively determine what services each youth needs and can benefit from. Service providers can then move towards the goal of seeking to find and coordinate those services or supports for the youth, rather than starting from predefined programs and trying to find one or more into which the youth can be made to fit.

d) Understanding and Respecting Developmental and Transitional Stages

From age six on, as well as in the earlier years covered by the early childhood development strategy, youth are going through some highly significant developmental and transitional stages. Understanding these stages helps those working with youth to appreciate what is “normal” at each developmental stage, what behaviour should be let alone and what calls for intervention. This understanding is also key to determining which interventions will work most effectively, since developmental stages tell us the periods of time when interventions will work, and the nature of the interventions that work best at each stage.

As well, youth go through several key transitions as they grow up. These include the move to full-time schooling, the transition from primary to middle and then to high school, and the end of their high school years. Each of these transitional stages, as well as the developmental stages, needs to be taken into account in dealing with youth, as they also profoundly affect how behaviour should be seen and responded to.

To a certain extent, just increasing the awareness of these realities among those dealing with youth will improve services and interactions because that awareness will encourage questioning and reflection about what is going on in a youth’s life at the time an intervention is being considered. However, to make real progress in this area, the government needs to marshal the available evidence about each developmental and transitional stage and its implications, and make that information available in an accessible form to those dealing with youth. The government also needs to commission and support additional research in these areas in order to support the development of further evidence-based approaches in the field.

e) Best Practices

It is important that any statement of principles for dealing with youth contain core standards for service providers. In our view, these can be quite simply stated and, indeed, have been by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services in the context of child and youth mental health. Such services and supports, the ministry says, should be: youth and family-centred; community-driven; accessible; coordinated and collaborative; evidence-based and accountable. To these principles we would simply add one more: youth should be meaningfully involved in the governance structures of bodies serving them to the greatest extent possible (Ministry of Children and Youth Services, 2006: ii).

3. An Outcomes Focus

Youth vary in their personal characteristics and in the family and community contexts in which they are growing. Ontario’s youth policy framework should accordingly not attempt to prescribe the specific means to help youth develop, but rather should address the desired outcomes for them.

This reflects the reality that programs must be flexible to meet the individualized needs of youth or defined groups of youth, and also to permit innovation so that best practices can continue to be created. Indeed, one of the longer-term benefits of an outcomes approach is that once there is agreement on the desired outcomes, programs need not adhere to a centrally developed, one-size-fits-all model, but rather can be developed in light of local needs and strengths. These local innovations can then be evaluated in terms of their ability to achieve the desired outcomes. This not only allows customization for local circumstances, but also leads to continuous improvement through an ever-evolving set of evidence-based best practices.

To be meaningful, outcomes must be accompanied by a commitment to measured and relentless progress towards them (published indicators), along with clear timelines and specific accountabilities for meeting those indicators. We will address targeting, measurement and accountability in more detail in Chapter 10. For now, we just want to note that, to be useful in this context, the outcomes and the indicators set for measuring progress towards them should meet three conditions.

First, they should be based on minimum acceptable levels of progress: they should be floors, rather than averages. Averages hide a myriad of policy and program sins; if the best-off improve their outcomes, the average can go up even if the worst-off are static or even losing ground. More significantly, in the world of addressing the immediate risk factors for violence, it is those who are doing the least well whom we must identify and on whom we must concentrate. We cannot do this if we are blinded by averages.

We accordingly strongly endorse the “floor targets approach,” in which we as a society commit to no individual, school or community doing less well than the applicable minimum standard. When we measure outcomes and indicators against this kind of standard, we immediately see where extra help must go, whether on an individual or school or service provider basis.

Second, the indicators should measure and track racial and other differences so that we can ensure that all members of our society receive the help they need to fulfil their potential. As one senior Ontario official put it, it is “madness” not to have this information.

And third, the outcomes should, whenever the context makes it possible, include a commitment to reducing the gap between the most successful and the least; we will not accomplish as much as we need to if we raise the bottom while the top is rising even faster. We will not nurture a sense of optimism, hope and belonging by raising outcomes for youth who see themselves still falling behind the rest of society.

With these important caveats as to the necessity and methodology of measuring progress towards agreed-upon outcomes, we put forward here examples of the key areas in which we feel outcome commitments are needed. In the time available to us, we could not develop the actual outcomes or targets; it will be for the government, in a collaborative way, to establish current baselines, along with long-term outcome goals and annual targets to measure movement towards them. These must be public, and progress towards them must be regularly reported in a clear and transparent way.

With that said, and being comfortable from our discussions in England and Ontario that measurable outcomes and targets are possible for each of them, we offer the following examples of areas in which outcomes should be defined within Ontario’s youth policy framework:


Building on the early childhood development framework, which has anchored programming for children up to age six, this pillar will provide an evidence-based framework to guide the policy and program decisions of all levels of government, the community and agencies. It will foster strategic decision-making and policy coherence across the numerous sectors concerned about the roots of violence involving youth.

The Third Pillar:

Building Strong Communities to Address the Roots of Violence Involving Youth


In Section 1 of this chapter, we outlined the first of our four foundational pillars: a social opportunity and anti-racism strategy to address many of the roots of violence involving youth. That pillar focuses on improving the province’s social context through action on issues such as poverty, racism, education, family supports, mental health and youth justice. It also addresses ways to improve services and facilities for the disadvantaged, wherever they live, and to foster social and economic integration to reduce concentrations of disadvantage.

But more is required if we are to address some of the most tenacious roots of violence involving youth, roots that grow from the lack of community cohesion and the fragmentation of programs and services that exist in many disadvantaged neighbourhoods. As set out in Chapter 5, areas of concentrated economic disadvantage all too easily nurture those roots. As a result, if the circumstances that these concentrations create are not addressed, they will keep producing new generations of youth with the immediate risk factors for violence. The continuing violence and fear of violence that will result will have the obvious and tragic consequence of rendering those neighbourhoods ever more fragmented and isolated, and thereby will perpetuate and deepen their disadvantaged condition, leading to yet more violence and possibly an entrenched underclass.

A key way to break that downward cycle and at the same time support the initiatives set out in Pillar 1 is by strengthening these communities. Indeed, if we fail to do so, much of the investment in more general reforms will fail to achieve its goals in the very neighbourhoods where reform is most needed. Positive change will be much more difficult to achieve because we will have missed the opportunity to create positive synergies around those investments, to improve their targeting on the greatest local needs and to ensure that local strengths are supported and built upon. And we will also have missed the opportunity to help break concentrations of disadvantage by making these communities more attractive places to live so that they can retain their stronger members and perhaps also begin to attract others who have a choice about where they live.

That is why we determined that it was essential that our advice to the Premier include a pillar devoted entirely to building strong communities. We believe that the best way to build strong communities is to adopt a comprehensive and sustained approach to advancing community cohesion by providing consistent supports and by increasing local engagement and control over priority-setting and service delivery. As we will see in the discussion of Pillar 4, a further benefit of this is that it supports a new integrated governance model, which will effectively drive forward relentless progress on reducing the roots of violence because it is able to increasingly rely on communities to determine how best to achieve that goal.

Overview, Principles and the Provincial Interest

1. Principles and Overview

Our third pillar looks at how to support residents of communities to come together to create local networks and organizations that allow them to identify challenges, opportunities and solutions and in which community cohesion is enhanced in the process.

Given our mandate, the focus of our analysis and proposals is on the most disadvantaged communities. We nonetheless note that the goal of strengthening communities, listening to them and devolving responsibilities to them is relevant in many other communities across the province. In no way do we want to be seen as suggesting that efforts in this direction should be restricted to the most disadvantaged communities. Our mandate leads us to focus on them, but we would, of course, have no difficulty with the government adopting this approach more widely. We do, though, propose that priority for implementation and funding be given to those communities where we must ensure a major turnaround as soon as possible to address the ways they are generating the immediate risk factors for violence involving youth.

Our advice centres on how the Province can help the most disadvantaged communities come together in ways that support and enhance their existing and evolving strengths so that they can become cohesive and vibrant places to live. We base that advice on the following premises:

Based on our research and discussions, we identified four linked ways in which these principles can be used to build cohesive and strong communities:

  1. Creating community hubs, wherever possible anchored in school facilities, not only to provide programs and services, but just as importantly to provide space and to facilitate connections so that communities can coalesce to play increasingly larger roles in setting priorities, developing policies and providing activities and services for their residents
  2. Actively assisting communities to come together to form stronger networks of mutual support and involvement
  3. Providing streamlined and stable funding mechanisms to maximize the responsiveness, capacity and stability of the many agencies on which governments now rely to deliver many of the core services that are necessary to address the roots of violence involving youth
  4. In disadvantaged neighbourhoods, ensuring that, in addition to the service-providing bodies, there is a) at least one general-purpose, youth-led organization addressing the roots of violence involving youth based on local priorities, b) a team of individuals who work to coordinate services and improve access to them, and c) funding made available to support resident engagement and community participation in planning and programming the community hubs referred to above.

2. Declaring a Provincial Interest in Community Building

The initiatives we outline in this pillar deal with strengthening Ontario’s most disadvantaged communities. For that particular purpose and in these specific communities, we believe that the Province must fund or ensure the funding of the required structural initiatives. We recognize that for other purposes and in other contexts there could be significant jurisdictional issues involved in determining who should support these initiatives. We make no comment on how in those contexts the responsibility should be determined. In the only context we were asked to address, the roots of violence involving youth, there is a super-ordinate provincial interest that calls out for the Province to ensure that these initiatives proceed.

For the reasons discussed in Chapter 5 and noted in the introduction to this pillar, there is a significant and ongoing link between disadvantaged neighbourhoods and the roots of violence involving youth. The Province’s financial responsibility to strengthen those communities to address this situation arises for several reasons.

First, while violence often takes place near its roots, that is not always the case. Large urban centres often receive troubled youth from elsewhere. And we were told by the police that increased enforcement in places like Toronto drives gang members to neighbouring areas, which are unprepared to deal with them. Particularly for the kind of violence we outlined in Chapter 5, which often results from alienated and disengaged youth walking around with guns, the risk clearly crosses neighbourhood or other jurisdictional lines.

The second basis for provincial responsibility lies in the need to address the roots everywhere they arise, including where local financial capacity may not be sufficient to deal with the pressing and urgent need to address these roots.

Third, in our view, the Province has all the powers needed to address the roots of violence involving youth, and all Ontario residents should be able to look to the Province for progress on providing a safe place to live by exercising these powers.

These reasons give the Province a clear and direct interest in developing vibrant, active and cohesive communities where disadvantage now fosters violence, and providing in an efficient way the supports and services it already funds in these neighbourhoods. But this is by no means to say that the Province must assume all the costs of services in disadvantaged communities.

The matters addressed in this pillar are matters of core social infrastructure, not services. They are the building blocks for the strong communities needed to address the roots of violence involving youth, and so stand in a category of their own. While the Province should strengthen the services it provides in these communities, we are not saying that it should assume service costs of other jurisdictions. And, to repeat, we are not saying that the Province’s financial responsibilities in even these limited activities are universal; they fall where there are concentrations of disadvantage in which the roots of violence can grow.

Our belief that the Province should fund the social infrastructure we propose for disadvantaged communities does not absolve the other orders of government of their responsibilities for services. There is an obvious need for the federal government to recognize the impact of its own cutbacks and to begin to invest seriously in the health of disadvantaged communities. The Province should continue to be vocal in this regard and to press for enhanced federal funding. The Province should also take every opportunity to nurture and build on the work municipal governments are doing in these neighbourhoods.

In the balance of our discussion of Pillar 3, we outline in greater detail our advice on each element of the proposed social infrastructure. While we address each element separately, they constitute an integrated approach, which would be significantly weakened if any one of them were missing.

The Four Elements of Pillar 3

1. Community Hubs

a) Hubs Defined

We must first be clear about what we mean by hubs, as the term is in wide use without a widely understood definition. To some, it means a place where there is space for residents to meet and fulfil basic social needs, such as recreation, learning or discussion. For others, it means a place where service providers, such as doctors, mental health workers, employment counsellors and many others, are clustered. For yet others, it means places where private sector businesses and services can be found, very much like some shopping malls or the main streets in some cities, towns and urban neighbourhoods.

Our focus is on the first two definitions. For us, community hubs are places that facilitate access to public services and programs and are designed and have the resources to promote interaction among residents. To the extent that such hubs can be close to or attract private sector activities, these purposes can be further advanced, but striving for such proximity should not take the place of urgent and immediate progress on developing places that meet the first two definitions.

While the two definitions of hubs that we have adopted reinforce each other, they are distinct, and we must be careful to achieve both. Indeed, given the focus that services often receive, it is particularly important to remember the need to create space where community and youth activities can be seeded and grow, and not just focus on providing space to cluster service providers, formal programs and established activities.

For ease of exposition, we discuss these two definitions separately, but we believe that, to the greatest extent possible, one hub should serve both purposes. Having explored the two definitions, we then go on to outline why schools often make ideal hubs under both definitions, and then to propose a mechanism to turn that long-desired goal into reality.

i) Clustering

As a prelude to discussing service clusters as hubs, we should stress that we recognize that clustering services will need to be done on an incremental basis. It should be a fundamental consideration when new services are brought to a community or as leases for existing ones come due, but we do not wish to be taken as proposing that existing services be uprooted at great cost to provide a hub.

That said, there are numerous benefits to clustering services, starting with the reality that one of the significant barriers to services being used is the difficulty of getting to them. When services are scattered and transit options few, people with limited resources, many needs and little time are actively discouraged from accessing them, whether for themselves or their families. Complexity of access blocks use. Even improved coordination of services through case managers, lead agencies or “navigators” to guide people through the services maze will not overcome that reality. The consequence is that many who need them the most, including children and youth, do not get to use even those programs and services that have the capacity to help them.

Moreover, when services and activities are scattered and hard to get to, not only do people use them less, but those who do use the services spend scarce and valuable time getting to and from them. As an obvious consequence, they have less time or energy to interact with their family or their neighbours. Indeed, family members and neighbours may also be engaged in the time-consuming process of getting to services or activities, and so also have less time and energy for engagement.

By contrast, once there is clustering, these barriers and negative consequences are addressed to a significant degree, and numerous other benefits ensue. To begin with, when they are clustered, the agencies providing services and programs can more easily understand the multiple needs of their clients and appreciate their family and community dynamics. To use the language of this domain, services can be more easily delivered in a “wraparound” way for each individual. As well, services for one family member can more easily be linked to services for other family members so that the “think family” approach we noted in Pillar 1 can be taken. It is easier to think family if the family is there.

Additionally, working in a cluster permits staff and volunteers providing these services to get to know each other. This provides a deeper understanding of the community and social contexts for many of the issues being addressed and can also facilitate mutual support for this often-difficult and stressful work. In these and other ways, clustering can encourage collaboration among services, which together with the stable funding we discuss below allows them to serve their clients more efficiently. There may also be other benefits, such as the capacity to share some common infrastructure.

From the perspective of the family, clustering supports family cohesiveness by allowing family members with different needs to get services or attend activities at nearby locations rather than having to head off in different directions to get to them. It also makes it easier to provide supports, such as interpretation or child care, and allows parents to more easily attend with their children, and therefore obtain a better understanding of the services their children are receiving.

At the same time, the simple fact of clustering exposes residents to the range of services available in their community. Seeing the services on the ground is a much better way to appreciate their nature and availability than reading a pamphlet or viewing a public service announcement. It also allows people to more casually explore what the services are about and to ease their way into accessing them.

From a safety standpoint, when many individuals converge to access services, these clusters can create zones of safety based on the well-known principle that an active, populated area is generally much safer than an isolated and empty one. This normalization and intensification of the public presence in public spaces takes back the streets and reduces both the need and the incentive we identified in Chapter 5 for youth to interact with gangs. By making public spaces safer, this then encourages more public use and more interaction. Clusters also encourage transportation planning to take the hub into account, and further improve access to it and the use of its services.

Finally, and of critical importance to our goal of stronger communities, the reality is that individuals and families will not only have easier and more convenient access to services, but the clustering will also create natural opportunities to gather: places where they can meet casually and informally, get to know each other and become engaged in the life of their community. Indeed, one of the best ways to help communities come together is to create natural patterns of interaction, where before there had been isolation. And, because the clustering saves the large amount of time otherwise spent in travelling to services, or overcomes the discouragement to even seek them out, this potential is reinforced.

ii) Community Space

While service clusters create natural places of convergence and conversation, the potential for this to lead to community cohesion can only be realized if there is space for unhurried conversations, regular discussions, forums and more casual gatherings to explore the design and delivery of community-generated policy proposals, activities and programs. This second sense of a hub is vital to our purpose and cannot be neglected when hubs are designed and when the space within them is allocated.

The lack of this kind of space was one of the most frequent concerns we heard. We cannot expect community residents to come together to play a role in the priorization, design and delivery of services if there is no place for them to get to know each other and to work together to do so. The provision of spaces for casual interactions and drop-ins, and also easy access to space to use when communities have programs to deliver themselves, will provide the foundation for cohesion.

We note in this connection that the need for space is particularly great for youth and youth-led organizations. As discussed in Chapter 4, these groups not only generally lack the resources to rent space, but also are often discriminated against when they seek it. Securing space for youth in these hubs so that they have the chance to coalesce and develop their role within the community must accordingly be one of the core public purposes for investing in community space.

For both youth and other grassroots organizations, it is essential to do more than just create the space. Even where space may be available, many youth-led and other grassroots organizations, and especially those trying to get them started, lack the funds to pay permit fees or rent. Existing service providers can seek and generally obtain funding to pay, or at least contribute to, rent for the premises they use. But the kind of general public space we envisage has no natural tenant and generally no source of funding. It is therefore vital that provincial funding for hubs ensures that space is truly available for community and youth meetings and activities.

As well, assuming that space is available for youth and community purposes, it is important to ensure that the best-organized and most-established groups within a community, or groups from outside the community, do not monopolize it and the programs to be delivered in it. It follows from this that funds must be available to support communities to come together for the specific purpose of making collective decisions about the use of this space and the activities to be offered in it in light of the community’s own needs and priorities. We pursue this issue later in this pillar.

b) Schools as Hubs

In this section we outline the many reasons why we believe that schools are very often the most natural and best hubs. We stress, though, that the concept of a hub is independently important and needs to be pursued whether or not it makes sense in a particular context to use a school for that purpose. As well, we note that the provincial funding role we identify for schools as hubs in disadvantaged neighbourhoods applies equally when hubs are located in other facilities. And we note that in some high-density areas local planning will be required to determine which of the local schools should anchor school-based or nearby services hubs.

In supporting the schools-as-hubs concept strongly as we do, we build on the work of many others whose efforts to advance this concept we acknowledge and endorse. In addition to the persuasive work of many at the grassroots level, major published reports calling for this go back at least to the Hall-Dennis Report of 1968 and include the 2002 Education Equality Task Force report (the Rozanski report). To cite the former:

School buildings are expensive resources of major importance, and the public has the right to enjoy their widest possible use. Many communities have already demonstrated the feasibility of extending the use of these facilities, and the program now envisaged is one in which the library resource center, the swimming pool, the gymnasia and the classrooms can all be used as part of a regular community program (Ontario Department of Education, 1968).

We fully agree and would only add that the facilities that could be used for community purposes extend outside the structures to include the playgrounds and sports fields.

While there is almost overwhelming support for using schools as hubs, the concept remains far from being realized in this province. There is a shortage of clear proposals about how that space should be made available, paid for and managed on the scale we believe is necessary. We hope to advance the concept of schools as hubs in part by being very specific not only about the idea, but about how it can be made a reality. Before providing these specifics, we will first outline the concept as we envisage it.

There are two core aspects to the concept of schools as hubs. The first and predominant one is the use of existing school buildings for this purpose. The second is the location of services and programs as close as possible to schools. Both are necessary given that, even if fully available for use as hubs after teaching hours, schools will not have all the required space and that many services need to operate during teaching hours. Community health centres, community recreation centres and public libraries come to mind; both their space needs and their hours of operation probably preclude them from being based in most existing schools, although facilitating this could and should be designed into many new ones.

We note in this connection that in Pillar 1, we called for an immediate investment in community recreation and arts facilities in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods that lack them. We have not included that and similar proposals as part of Pillar 3, but want to stress the value of locating these new facilities in school premises whenever possible.

Where location within or on the grounds of, or adjacent to, a school is not feasible, services should be located as close to the school hub and each other as possible. Where that cannot be done, satellite offices or even just information and outreach offices should be located in the school hubs to operate as seamlessly as possible in conjunction with the other after-hours programs or services being offered there. And providing free and scheduled transportation services between the school hub and services located elsewhere should also be considered.

As a general rule, however, and especially with a view to services, programs and gathering places for youth, we believe that schools are the much preferred hub. Elementary schools are in close reach of large numbers of community residents and, by definition, are places where youth spend large parts of each day. High schools, while not as plentiful, are also logical hubs for the communities near them. When schools are used as hubs, parents who may already be dropping off or picking up their children have easy access to services for both themselves and their children without extra transit time. With the coming of full-day junior and senior kindergarten, and with what we hope will be acceptance of our advice that schools be open for youth and full of positive activities until at least 6 p.m. every day and on weekends, the potential synergies are obvious.

We accept that schools are not always positive places for all youth at present, and that some may not be attracted to them after hours as places for programs and activities. We believe, however, that the right programming will serve as a magnet for many of these youth, removing any deterrence that the location in or near a school may have. Indeed, we believe that the right programming, the association with positive activities and more-engaged youth in the schools after hours, and potentially informal contacts there with teachers and administrators may well change the attitude of some of these youth to schools themselves.

In a similar vein, there will be parents whose own school years were not positive, or who for reasons of culture or language are reluctant to approach the school during the teaching day. Turning the schools into a place of positive engagement and useful services may well overcome these barriers, increasing the involvement of these parents with the life of the school and the life of their child within it. Both of these will serve to increase the child’s attachment to the school and, as the Rozanski report noted:

... when community groups, parents and others visit the school to participate in community activities and use the school’s facilities, they develop a sense of interest and ownership in local education. More public interest in and ownership of educational issues can only strengthen our education system (Rozanski, 2007: 17).

The potential benefits of making schools fully accessible to their communities are limitless. The potential uses and applications are as wide as the imagination. A school in Ontario’s Lambton County includes a dental clinic and visits from a midwife as well as family early intervention and infant development programs. One in Milton offers adult literacy and a fresh food box program along with space for a homework program and the local children’s aid.

Quebec’s school-based Community Learning Centres (CLCs) feature a paid coordinator who works over a three-year period to mobilize a community, create a community advisory council and plan programs and then an evaluation. Manitoba is piloting a similar community organizing approach. Interestingly, Quebec’s 22 CLCs have video-conferencing facilities, which have allowed collaborative programming across the province and have brought new learning opportunities to remote communities.

Saskatchewan’s Schools PLUS program is provincewide and provides integrated supports for children, youth and families to strengthen education success and well-being. It aims to bring together local health authorities, employment services, corrections, law enforcement, higher education facilities, Aboriginal organizations, early childhood teams and recreation groups to make services more accessible and support youth.

Ontario has made some moves in the direction of using schools as delivery points for services. More than 300 Ontario Early Years Centres are located in schools. So too are many of the province’s Best Start hubs, which integrate public health, education, children’s aid, programs for children from 0 to 6, and municipal and other services. Parenting and Family Literacy Centres are also located in schools.

Whether to make services accessible or to provide space for programs and community initiatives, using schools as hubs makes enormous financial sense. In many instances, the physical space in schools is used for teaching purposes only about a quarter of the available time assuming a 7 a.m.-10 p.m. year-round capacity. Others who have considered the potential to use the space for even longer hours have concluded that the annual use of school space is only about 15 per cent.

This space has already been paid for by the public. It is a veritable treasure of locally accessible space; not just space for meetings and other uses of classrooms, but as well frequently containing gyms, auditoria, computer labs, libraries, child care centres and other resources of huge value to disadvantaged and under-serviced communities.

To have well-located physical plants and the resources they contain used for only a fraction of the year is not acceptable. Schools represent massive public investments, and they should be available to their communities when not in use for teaching and other educational endeavours.

The Province seems to have accepted this principle, at least to a degree. It took an initial small step in this direction in 2004 when a modest amount of funding was made available to let some schools stay open longer, largely by allowing them to reduce the fees charged for using the facilities. We applauded this and suggested a significant expansion in an update letter we wrote to the Premier in January 2008, and were pleased to see an expansion of that program in March. Of note in that expansion was the future inclusion of some targeting in disadvantaged areas and the inclusion of some outreach capacity to encourage more groups to take advantage of the space.

There remain, however, serious problems with the Province’s approach to this issue. We have identified six:

In the result, while we recognize the steps taken in the direction of making schools hubs, we believe that much more needs to be done. At least in disadvantaged areas, we think that making schools available as hubs wherever that meets local needs should not be optional, nor should it simply consist of reduced fees and other modest measures.

Instead, we believe that there must be provincial funding to ensure that space in our schools is available in disadvantaged neighbourhoods for key community services and activities without charge and as a right. The priority for the services and activities to be offered should be for those that serve the local community. They should be determined in light of community strengths and needs and, increasingly, by the communities themselves. As we outline below, funding should be available to bring communities together to determine their needs and priorities, to increase needed services and to support active and creative outreach to make sure that the services are truly accessible to those who need them the most.

We think that the preferred way to make a school available as a hub is to fund a facilities management body to lease and operate school premises in non-teaching hours, with a mandate and additional funding to work with the local community to identify program priorities for the space. The managing body would provide on-site supervision of the premises and would be responsible for maintenance in the non-school hours. All operating, insurance and security costs for those hours would, in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, be a provincial responsibility.

The leasing body would have two key characteristics: facilities management expertise, and knowledge of community and other programming. Municipalities might want to use or establish agencies to do this, or organizations like the Y might well be interested. No doubt there are other service organizations with the skills and interest that should have this opportunity.

The reason for identifying an outside body is to avoid further complicating the already-difficult challenges faced by the school boards and principals. We believe that school principals should not have this administrative burden and should be free to concentrate on ensuring the best possible learning environment for their students. Of course, this generally already includes working to ensure school involvement with the community and the community’s activities within the school, and this should carry over into involvement with the body managing the facility during the hours it is being used as a hub. But it need not and should not involve the administration of the premises off hours nor the complex task of organizing communities so that they can help to determine needs, set priorities and allocate space.

In opting for an outside services manager it is nonetheless crucial that, if they are also a service provider, they not be allowed to favour their own programs over those of others seeking to use the space. The job of the facilities manager in a community hub model is to build the community, not provide its own services. They would not be retained to operate their own programs, but rather to fairly broker a process by which the community determined its priorities. In so doing, they would have to balance the scales so that the most articulate, largest and best resourced groups do not obtain all of the time and space. Indeed, a minimum guarantee for youth-led organizations and other less advantaged organizations should be part of the contractual arrangements until the community is fully ready to determine its own priorities.


Other provinces, including Saskatchewan and Quebec, seem to be ahead of Ontario in reaping the many benefits of turning schools into vibrant community hubs. We very much hope that this report will help put Ontario in the forefront of that movement, as we see an enormous potential to address the roots of violence involving youth through this approach. We nonetheless repeat that, if for any reason a hub cannot be built in and around a school in any given disadvantaged neighbourhood, a hub must nonetheless be provided.

2. Supports for Resident Engagement

The Need

We start from the premise that an active and cohesive community is a strong and healthy community and that a strong and healthy community does not provide an environment that easily creates the immediate risk factors for violence involving youth. Given that, the provincial interest in building strong and healthy communities is clear.

But that which is clear is not necessarily also easy. From the perspective of the immediate risk factors for violence involving youth, the communities that have the greatest need for strength and cohesion often are the least able to achieve them. This is so despite the dedicated, tenacious and often successful efforts of many of their residents to not only raise strong families, but also to build social networks within their communities.

Sadly, the circumstances we set out in Chapter 5 are such that these good efforts are all-too-often overwhelmed by negative forces. Many residents are already under enormous pressures just to survive on a day-to-day basis. Many are simply too tired and stressed to be able to make the time to work on community cohesion, or too determined to move away at the first opportunity to want to do so, even though they have the skills and knowledge. Long commutes to low-wage jobs, or the scramble to find and access services for their families, or the pressures of single parenthood on social assistance, or living in a climate of fear and mistrust all create real and present barriers to community building.

What Government Can Do

These barriers will not be overcome unless proven resident engagement techniques are put in place and supported. We do not enter into a detailed discussion of the various models and theories of community organizing. Community development and community organizing have been underway for a very long time, and many important lessons have been learned. Agencies and community groups have written in detail and repeatedly about how to build strong communities.

Our point in this section is not to debate those theories but rather to join those who believe that the provincial government needs to do much more than it has to date to support resident engagement in the life and functioning of the disadvantaged neighbourhoods. In our immediate context, this need arises from two linked matters.

The first is the vital way in which this community building can feed into a broader and more transformative approach to governance. The second is how at the same time it can help address the roots of violence involving youth.

Given its interest in both of these objectives, in our view, it follows that the Province must financially support the work required to grow and sustain resident engagement. This must be done in a way that discerns and respects the strengths, efforts and accomplishments of these communities. The core task for governments is to enable residents of disadvantaged areas to come together to address the conditions that are leading to violence in their community without disrupting and disempowering the sources of strength already in play in that community. Based on this sense of the task at hand, and without drawing a conclusion as to the best mechanisms, we note that the Action for Neighbourhood Change approach, which now operates in Thunder Bay as well as Toronto, offers several valuable lessons.

That program of resident engagement was begun as a national action research project in February 2005 to explore resident-led neighbourhood development. The action research model on which it is based helps communities identify the issues they consider most crucial to their well-being and then supports social and political work around those issues. Members of our staff attended the “Building Communities From the Inside Out” conference in Toronto in November 2007. Speaking at the conference, leading American exponent of community change Jim Diers noted that people come together around projects, not abstract meetings.

The action research approach seeks to embrace the unique needs of, and solutions required by, individual communities where poverty is deepest and growing. What distinguishes it from other Canadian neighbourhood initiatives is the degree to which the principle of resident-led change is embedded in all activity and decision-making, and the commitment that was made by all participants to do, reflect, learn, course-correct and share. The core idea is to help neighbourhoods become strong and resilient by connecting residents with each other and linking them to supporting organizations. This builds leadership capacity and creates a sense of “collective efficacy” as residents learn that they can influence decisions that advance the well-being of their neighbourhood (Makhoul, 2007: 4).

In addition to financially supporting this or other kinds of resident engagement work, the government must create a clear incentive for it. In our view, one of the best incentives is to make it very clear that the goal is to devolve real responsibility to a community as it becomes organized. If it is known that something real, concrete and meaningful will result from the inevitably arduous organizational efforts, they are more likely to succeed. The potential governance role and the more immediate work to shape a community hub will provide the kind of “projects” that, as Jim Diers noted at the conference mentioned above, are essential to drive resident engagement.

It is also important that the government send a clear message that it understands community development is a slow and messy process, and accepts that there will be frequent bumps on the road and many detours between the initial hopeful beginning and a strong and vibrant community. The government must be clear that it is willing to take some risks along the way in light of the importance of the goal, and that it will not abandon the process at the first hint of trouble. The funding mechanism we propose at the end of this part is designed to advance these principles.

As well, the government should strengthen initiatives already in place to assist grassroots work. As an example, we note the role that the community legal clinics play in bringing law and justice to the most disadvantaged areas and groups. Their core role has always included community development to these ends — social workers were part of the original model, for example — but this valuable work has often had to be sacrificed to the pressures of an intense need for individual legal services. The clinics are already located in many disadvantaged communities and have local boards and good connections with agencies, making it possible for a modest increment in their funding to be powerfully leveraged to support resident engagement.

Finally, it is important that the government ensure that there is community space to sustain this resident engagement work. This involves supporting the hubs discussed above, but, as noted, also ensuring that within them there is space for resident engagement efforts.

In summary, we see the Province’s role in this area being to support these efforts by making clear in tangible ways that they are valued, by providing structural and financial supports, by being active participants in resident engagement work already underway in municipalities and by demonstrating a continuing commitment to work in partnership as these efforts build community capacity. We emphasize the word “support” because, if communities are to be strong for the long haul and the tough issues, it is the individuals within them who must have the will, and invest the substantial time and commitment required, to function in more cohesive ways.

We speak largely about a provincial obligation in this regard because of the need for a provincewide approach to community building and because of the clear provincial interest in the outcomes to be obtained. Nonetheless, it is clear to us that this community development work needs to be done in close collaboration with the municipalities, which have an essential and central role at the local level. This is especially true in places like Thunder Bay and Toronto and others where this kind of foundational work is already underway. We discuss under Pillar 4 the concept of a Neighbourhood Strategic Partnership to facilitate this, but need to be clear here that the role we see for the Province in providing support and funding for these initiatives should be grounded in work with and should build on the expertise and initiatives of local governments.

A Role for Colleges and Universities

Outside the governmental sphere and in addition to the valuable related work that many funding bodies and municipalities are undertaking, there is another very important but largely untapped public resource, which can be brought to bear on this issue. We refer in this regard to the resources and talents within our colleges and universities, many of which are located near the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods, and all of which we know to be interested in building and supporting their local communities.

Indeed, one of the first people to contact us after we were appointed to conduct this review was Sheldon Levy, the president of Ryerson University. His offer to sponsor a forum led to an extremely productive session at Ryerson this February, which brought together presidents and senior leaders from 13 colleges and universities and a number of senior leaders from communities and community-serving agencies.

These educational institutions already have very impressive outreach and engagement programs to help bring disadvantaged youth into the learning environments they offer. These reflect the institutions’ understanding that education is critical for life chances and success and that education can help to break the cycle of poverty. These initiatives involve creating community access, building educational capacity and conducting outreach in the form of information, mentoring and supports for academic success.

We absolutely agree that higher education is a key way to improve the future for many youth and we acknowledge and applaud those efforts. For our more immediate purpose, however, we asked that the forum focus on the other ways in which colleges and universities can build their communities. This led to a very wide-ranging and stimulating session at Ryerson University in which we heard about the potential for colleges and universities to support their communities in three additional key ways.

The first lies in the enormous talent pool that resides in the faculty and students in these institutions. These talents can be of enormous benefit to new and emerging community organizations in areas such as strategic development, financial administration, drafting requests for proposals, serving on boards and preparing analyses and reports. These are all skills that come naturally to those in the colleges and university sector, but that are often in short supply and overstretched within the most needy communities. As well, beyond these direct supports to community organizations, students and faculty members can help strengthen the community’s residents by acting as coaches, advisers, mentors and volunteers.

In addition, colleges and universities have an enormous capacity for research. There are many opportunities to help community groups or agencies conduct evaluations, service mapping and needs assessments, reviews of relevant best practices and other small-scale research projects. And, on a larger scale, the community and the post-secondary sector can also work together, often with the local municipality, which knows well the longer-term research needs, to identify and carry out research agendas and projects to support long-term social investments. One leading example of this is the collective role a number of postsecondary institutions in British Columbia played with their communities in developing the evidentiary case for the early childhood learning initiative discussed in Pillars 1 and 2.

Finally, we expect that there are many instances where physical resources (e.g., classrooms, athletic facilities, computer labs) can be used by and shared with the community.

It is of note that what we are proposing is very much a two-way street. At present, the community can and does provide resources to the post-secondary sector by making available placements, internships, service learning opportunities for students and settings for community-based research. What was exciting about the Ryerson forum was the degree of energy and commitment we saw around the discussion of how colleges and universities could increase their reciprocation to the communities.

Now a framework must be developed to build on what is already underway and to shape the initiatives that will flow from the forum. Both pathways of access for communities and viable structures for sustained collaboration are needed. We think that this task is best left with the post-secondary sector and the communities, and are confident that the very powerful discussions and insights at this forum will provide a vital new impetus for further and better efforts in this regard.

3. Strengthening the Service and Program Providers

The Problem

To the same extent that racism and poverty predominated in what we heard about the roots of violence involving youth, the negative impacts of short-term project funding predominated in everything we heard about the agencies trying their best to work with youth and their families.

This topic could easily consume an entire report, and indeed volumes have been written about it. In short, the core of the issue is that over the last two or three decades, and for a large variety of reasons, governments have increasingly relied upon community organizations and the non-profit sector to deliver a myriad of important services. These range from mental health services for youth and sports and arts programs to youth justice services, and include a vast number of social programs in all imaginable domains. Indeed, it is likely that most services needed by disadvantaged youth, their families and communities are delivered in whole or in part through contractual services, with generally only the agencies at the “hard” end of the system such as police, Crowns, courts and jails or long-established bodies like schools having stable funding and permanent staff.

A recent document entitled Heads Up Ontario, commissioned by the Community Social Planning Council of Toronto, expressed the matter this way:

The ‘perfect storm’ facing community service organizations results from the confluence of three trends: an increased reliance by governments upon the sector as a deliverer of services, persistent under-funding of the sector’s program and administrative infrastructure, and the pressing requirement for increased service and community building initiatives to address the impact of growing inequality, poverty and discrimination in our communities (Clutterbuck and Howarth, n.d.: Executive Summary).

The reliance on this sector would not be a matter of grave concern were it not for the precariousness and fragmentation that results from the way these community and non-profit-sector services are funded. With most funding being based on a particular project, and being short term, these agencies find themselves spending a very high proportion of their time preparing applications for grants, juggling staff to fit the needs of various contracts and accounting for the funding they receive. Indeed, a multi-service Community Health Centre in Ottawa advised us that at one point they were managing over 50 service contracts on top of their core mandate, that they typically have more than 30 and that this would not be unusual for such centres.

This approach to funding also means that the core costs of most agencies are not supported, with the agencies being somehow expected to have administrative staff, premises, computers and other infrastructure ready to be put into operation for a six- or nine- or 12-month contract. No one seeks to identify where the resources for these core supports are coming from, even though in many cases the contracted-for service could not be provided without them, and they are an obvious cost of delivering the contract. Similarly, little thought seems to be given to the requirement for core funding if core staff are to be retained to develop relationships in the community and with other agencies, or to allow for board development and the kind of supports we identified earlier as being necessary to make youth participation on boards meaningful.

As a result, to again cite the Heads Up Ontario report,

The sector is now one of the most dependent areas of our economy on part-time precarious work arrangements; wage rates are consistently below those of other public and private sector comparators...; the administrative infrastructure of organizations has been hollowed out to stretch resources to shore up programs under-funded by government; large amounts of staff time that agencies used to be able commit to community building and service delivery are being siphoned off to attend to ever- increasing fundraising and administrative requirements (Executive Summary).

As well, the agencies in this sector find themselves in competition with each other for scarce dollars. The obvious efficiencies that would come from better cooperation in the field are actually discouraged by the funding model being used. Moreover, the competitive nature of the process by which grants are obtained can favour larger, established agencies, which have the resources and the experience to prepare attractive proposals and to absorb the cost of failing to win some of their bids. It has also been noted how valuing expertise in writing proposals over expertise in the issues facing a community can cut out the less-established and perhaps more nimble and innovative service providers, and can particularly disadvantage emerging youth-led organizations in these competitive processes.

Indeed, we were struck by the pertinence of comments in a recent Council of Europe publication on youth and exclusion in disadvantaged urban areas. Illustrating the reach of this problem, the authors noted how well the police and others work together in law enforcement and noted that, by contrast: “Within the prevention chain there is hardly any cooperation, network consultation or mutual harmonisation” (Hardiman and Lapeyre, 2004: 16).

For all of these reasons, we agree with the following conclusion from the Heads Up Ontario report:

In the absence of ... dedicated funding for administrative infrastructure to steward and sustain them, important new initiatives are also at risk of foregoing any intended lasting impact on community conditions. (Clutterbuck and Howarth, n.d.: 42).

Overall, these various impacts of the current funding regime, although largely unintended, mean that services cannot devote all of their limited resources to their clients when they are constantly losing staff to better-paying or just more stable jobs. And where the services themselves can come and go with each funding cycle, it is impossible for clients to build the rapport and trust necessary to truly benefit. Given the enormous need for services to address the roots we have identified, we cannot justify the many costs of providing valued services or trusted workers for a brief time period and then withdrawing them, something many have told us does more harm to vulnerable youth than had the services never been available.

These costs do not fall on the Province, except to the unmeasured extent to which the value received by the Province for its funds is eroded by the fragmentation and the process-intense nature of the funding system. Indeed, one of the reasons governments proceed in this way is to reduce financial outlays by paying only for the exact services needed for a defined period of time in a defined area. Instead, most of the cost falls on the service providers, their employees and, most significantly, the intended beneficiaries of their services.

Towards Longer-Term Solutions

These problems have been identified by service providers for a very long time, but have not been addressed by government. We do not propose to outline a detailed set of reforms in this report, but rather will offer some reflections on how those reforms could best be approached. We then put forward three interim proposals. The details of the longer-term reforms, we believe, need to be the subject of short, focused discussions among those involved in this sector on a day-to-day basis.

In terms of stabilizing the sector, it seems to us that the Province needs to accept the fundamental importance of these services to the goal of addressing the roots of violence involving youth. Then it must accept the corresponding need for a funding structure to support stability, sustainability, innovation and the flexibility to adjust to changing local circumstances. It also needs to commit to acting on that need and engage immediately with the service providers to develop the appropriate mechanisms.

A useful starting point may be to consider the different funding mechanisms and why they are or are not appropriate in any given circumstance. The main ones to consider in this regard are the following:

Some excellent advice on how to proceed from this kind of starting point is found in a recent report for the federal government by an independent blue-ribbon panel on grants and contributions programs prepared by Frances Lankin, CEO and chair of United Way Toronto, and Ian Clarke, a former secretary of the federal government’s Treasury Board (Lankin and Clark, 2006). That report made a number of valuable recommendations, of which for present purposes we cite only the following:

“[E]ncourage the multi-year funding of projects where projects or activities are multi-year in nature” (Recommendation 12). In essence, this means that governments should provide increased stability for their community partners when the tasks they take on extend over more than one fiscal year.

“[E]ncourage departments and agencies to revisit the issue of whether and in what circumstances core funding is warranted to supplement project-specific funding” (Recommendation 15). Again, this calls on government to consider the longer-range benefits of supporting a strong community base for the work government will want to do in communities over time.

“[E]stablish as a principle that, to the extent that the policy objective underlying the grant or contribution program is the delivery of federal programs through a third party, funding levels should reflect the full cost of program delivery” (Recommendation 16). This reflects the fact that too many project funding schemes seek a “free ride” on infrastructure others are paying for, or which is being provided by staff working well beyond the hours for which they are paid.

It seems to us that the discussions that could start from these and other core premises could usefully look at a collaborative funding mechanism involving two orders of government and a community funder, which was in place from the early 1980s to 1995 in Ontario.

Known as the Community and Neighbourhood Support Services Program (CNSSP), it brought the Ontario government, Metro Toronto and United Way of Greater Toronto together to address the lack of community supports in some parts of Toronto.

The purpose of the CNSSP funding program was to provide ongoing core administration funding to neighbourhood-based organizations offering programs and services that responded to the needs of the local residents. The program aimed to strengthen the capacity of neighbourhoods across Toronto to respond to local social service needs. Target organizations for the CNSSP program had no other form of secure funding for their central administrative expenses.

The CNSSP core funding program was designed to assist agencies that provide a variety of social services functions as a focal point within the communities they serve, and encourage resident participation and leadership development. Core eligible expenses under this program included administrative salaries, such as the executive director and secretary/bookkeeper; expenses related to volunteer coordination, program development and community development; building occupancy costs; and general office expenses. These costs were assumed by the three funding partners, with the Province paying half and the balance evenly divided between Metro and the United Way.

In the result, the three funders collaborated in ways that allowed each to contribute to core and sustained funding for community bodies while maintaining their own granting programs for particular projects. Among other significant advances was the use of a common application and review process, which streamlined administration by the agencies and freed up money and time to provide services in their communities.

Just as we were advised to avoid reinventing the wheel, it seems to us that the Province could usefully look back at the CNSSP years to find viable approaches to the very serious funding problems being faced in Ontario’s communities. Naturally, it must look beyond Toronto, and we believe that the governance mechanisms proposed in Pillar 4 will point the way to do so.

Immediate Measures

As noted, we do not propose to go further to make specific proposals about the required new funding structure for community agencies. We do, though, believe that the government needs to do three key things in the short run to take the roughest edges off the system, at least insofar as services for disadvantaged youth, their families and their communities are concerned. They are:

Streamlining the Funding Process

In terms of simplifying the process by which agencies receive and account for funds, the independent blue-ribbon panel mentioned above started from the premise that the reporting and accountability regime should reflect the actual circumstances and capacities of funding recipients and the real needs of the government. We agree and believe that the goal should be to reduce the reporting burden on community agencies and rationalize reporting requirements across ministries and, to the extent possible, among other funding agencies.

In this connection, the panel made a number of practical proposals, including reducing the number of cost categories, developing funding agreements that allow recipients greater latitude to shift funds between categories, moving towards standard application forms and focusing reporting to the greatest extent possible on outcomes achieved, rather than just on work done. There are existing examples of these approaches; what seems to be lacking is the desire to look to them as starting premises for a new vision of how Ontario funds its community partners.

We believe that, to move in this direction, the Province should assign a body the task of standardizing to the extent possible the application forms its ministries use as well as their reporting requirements. This could start at a relatively modest financial threshold and be extended as experience was gained. Overall, the objective should be to standardize towards simplicity, with the smallest number of acceptable categories for each reporting requirement becoming the norm. As well, the body should work with other orders of government to more closely align auditing standards and expectations for the funding provided to community agencies. Probity should not be sacrificed, but the measures used to achieve it should be proportionate to the risk and to the impact they have on a community agency’s ability to deliver the service in question.

Funding Alignment

The second short-term issue arises from our acceptance that the enormous reliance on project funding, and the wide array of issues and purposes it addresses, are such that it will be with us for some time to come. While the youth policy framework in Pillar 2 and the governance initiatives in Pillar 4 will together lead to enhanced structures for collaboration by funders, we believe that these can be accelerated, and many of the interim problems ameliorated, if the government takes some of the burden of its own complexity and lack of integration off the shoulders of the community.

It seems to us that the secretariat we propose in Pillar 4 should include a small staff component to seek alignment among provincial requests for proposals relevant to the roots of violence involving youth. It should use its knowledge of ministry programs and the new youth policy framework to promote funding coordination among ministries. It should do so in at least two key ways.

First, it should assess the government’s funding programs to ascertain common elements and themes, and areas of overlap or obvious gaps, with a view to encouraging ministries to explore whether they can align their various needs to support a more coordinated approach to the goals each is pursuing. We do not intend by this that there be an extra bureaucratic step in the funding process. The review would take place as programs were being developed within ministries, or could even occur after the fact with a view to influencing the next request for proposals. This would be an incremental learning process rather than a policing action. Over time, if these potentials for alignment can be seized upon by the Province, those responding to provincial requests for the provision of community services will increasingly be entering into a context that is already collaborative.

Second, in the many instances where a number of ministries or programs are funding one agency for distinct services, the secretariat could serve as a resource to sort out any contradictions and conflicts among the various project deliverables and reporting requirements, and facilitate a smooth flow of funding. It could also look for opportunities to provide stability by finding within the various funding envelopes the resources needed to support core costs, pending the establishment of a broader mechanism like the former CNSSP.

In addition to these initiatives within the provincial government, funding should be provided in each disadvantaged neighbourhood for a local coordination body to strategically coordinate services and improve access to them. The bodies funded for this purpose would work at the local level to encourage the coordination of service providers, undertake service mapping and provide easily accessible program information. This would help to counter the strain high-needs clients necessarily place on services, in part by avoiding duplication and gaps. It would also facilitate access by people who need multiple services precisely because they lead chaotic and unstable lives and are forced to live in conditions that increase the negative effects of their conditions and the difficulty of accessing services.

We believe that the local coordination bodies could be a natural place to offer advice to those responding to the government’s requests for proposals on collaborating in the greater interests of the neighbourhood, and encourage the reflection of that approach in their bids. If alignment and coordination could accordingly be driven from the bottom as well as the top, the potential for a powerful, positive convergence would be significant.

A Centre for Excellence Through Program Assessments

The third short-term initiative we believe is called for would address the need for continuous learning about what works in communities. As Chapter 8 demonstrated, there are thousands of relevant programs being delivered through hundreds of agencies and by countless community groups, but with almost no independent and reliable outcomes-based assessments. The lack of such assessments does not mean that these are not good programs, but it does mean that there is often no evidence-based way to allocate scarce dollars, identify reliable best practices or find ways to make good programs even better. In particular, without outcomes-based assessments, there is no way to identify which programs actually advance the goal of addressing the roots of violence involving youth.

At the level of broad systemic initiatives, as opposed to small local programs, we believe there is a need to fund an independent body to assess results against expectations and costs. This body could operate out of a university or college and would maintain a close working relationship with the secretariat we propose in Pillar 4. It would conduct outcomes-based assessments at the program or regional level and serve as a best-practices resource for government, funders and agencies. It could be encouraged to enter into similar arrangements with other orders of government to perform a similar service, and thus evolve into a centre of excellence for the province as a whole. And, as we outline in Pillar 4, the centre could play an important clearing house and advisory role as experience is developed with the Neighbourhood Strategic Partnerships across the province.

A related issue is evaluations at the level of smaller-scale local initiatives. At present, these are often resisted because, in an area where need inevitably outstrips resources, agencies are scrambling to keep up and often see real harm in taking scarce dollars away from immediately needed services to fund an evaluation. And, of course, short-term and uncertain funding is hardly likely to inspire support for an evaluation process, which will either come to fruition after the project is over, or may be used to cut an agency’s funding or disadvantage it against other bidders for future work.

To address these barriers, two things are needed (assuming initiatives run long enough to make an evaluation feasible). First, where the government wants evaluations it must provide dedicated funding for them beyond the cost of the specific services being funded. And second, an independent source of advice on how to conduct or contract for the evaluations must be established to take this burden off agencies, ensure the use of experts, promote independence and use common methodologies as much as possible. The centre of excellence proposed above would be well-placed to provide this advice.

Given this additional role, the centre could also act as a resource to ministries issuing requests for proposals so that evaluation standards could be included in the contracts when they are signed and so that the requisite data could be collected from the outset.

4. Core Funding for Community Development

In this pillar, we have identified a small number of key areas where we believe there is a clear provincial interest in funding social infrastructure in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. In most instances, this can be effectively done through line ministries. In two areas, however, the need for independence and a long-term focus, and the potential for controversy, suggest to us that an arm’s-length funding body is appropriate. These are the provision of funding for resident engagement and for youth-led organizations.

The resident-engagement funding would provide for outreach workers to undertake the kinds of engagement initiatives discussed in Section 2 above, including facilitating resident participation in community hubs and setting community priorities for their use. The funding for youth-led organizations would allow youth, subject to their accountability to the funding body, to determine their own initiatives, programs and priorities to address the roots agenda, and thus potentially create innovative models for emulation elsewhere.

The model we have in mind to deliver this new initiative could draw on the approach of the clinic-funding committee, which operated for over 20 years under the former Legal Aid Act. It built a network of more than 70 clinics to provide poverty law and advocacy services to communities defined by either geography or special needs. It had four key features, which we believe are appropriate here:

  1. Funding decisions were made by a body arm’s-length from government, on which the government had a minority of the appointees. It operated under a broad mandate that defined the core goal (poverty law services) and that gave it a great deal of policy and operational discretion on how to advance that goal.
  2. Each funded clinic was anchored in and run by a local community board. Generally, a board would come together to propose a clinic for a particular community, thereby ensuring both community origins and governance. However, the funding committee also took the concept of a clinic to communities that had not yet organized around one, and worked with them to develop a board, which would then submit a proposal.
  3. Within the broad parameters of being required to provide poverty law services, each clinic’s board of directors was free to choose local priorities based on needs and circumstances. One clinic board might choose to focus primarily on housing issues, while another might choose immigration and a third, income maintenance.
  4. Funding for the community clinics was both core and sustained. All operating costs were covered, and funding was assured from year to year unless the legislature declined to vote the needed funds globally or unless there was a serious reason to consider de-funding a particular clinic. In the latter event, a full hearing was required before funding could be removed.

Aspects of this approach can be found in the Province’s Youth Challenge Fund, and we believe something similar would work well for the new funding we propose. In this approach, the government would allocate an annual amount of money to be granted and overseen within broad parameters by an arm’s-length board. Those funds could be held in trust by a foundation to be disbursed on the direction of the new funding board.

Funding would be broadly assured for at least five years to allow this concept to evolve. Within that period, funding could only be removed from an organization by the funding body after providing the recipient with a hearing, or if the legislature cut or reduced the global funding for this initiative. The broad purposes of funding would be to support disadvantaged communities to address the root causes of violence involving youth, but the means to do this in a given community would be for the local organization to determine.

The funding body would accept applications from community groups proposing to employ outreach workers for resident-engagement work and from youth-led organizations, and determine which of each would best provide services in a particular community. Funding would be granted to bodies controlled by local boards of directors, which were broadly representative of the community.

Once funding was provided, it would be for the local board of each entity to determine its annual priorities. There would be clear requirements for financial accountability and working within the “roots agenda,” but program content and priorities would be set at the local level.

We think there should be funding for at least one youth-led organization in each of the 50-60 most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Ontario to reach the most disadvantaged youth and to advance the goals of a youth voice and youth engagement, which we outlined in Chapter 4 and in Pillar 1 of this chapter.

Similarly, we believe that each disadvantaged neighbourhood should have outreach workers to facilitate the kind of resident-engagement activities we also discussed above. This work requires time, commitment and stability to be effective, and accordingly needs at least a five-year commitment and a funder that is insulated from day-to-day political pressures. The ability to anchor this work around new community hubs should play an important role in facilitating resident engagement and at the same time it would help ensure that the Province gets the best return on its investments in these hubs.


The agenda outlined in this pillar is an ambitious one, but its elements are well-tested and widely supported. What is needed now is a recognition by the Province of the necessity to adopt a comprehensive and sustained approach to building strong communities in order to address the roots of violence involving youth before an entrenched underclass is created.

The Fourth Pillar:

Integrated Governance for Sustainable Progress Towards a Safer Ontario


While we come to the issue of governance towards the end of our analysis, we consider it to be our most significant and pressing set of proposals. Its positioning late in our report flows from the need to first outline our proposed course of action before describing the governance mechanisms needed to put it into place and to sustain it over the long haul.

There are three central aspects to the governance proposals we are making. Together, they will provide an effective and sustainable way to address the many deep and tenacious roots of violence involving youth which we have identified. All three are needed: addressing these roots is a highly complex task, and a simple exhortation to work in a more coordinated way will neither obtain nor sustain progress.

First, and fundamentally, the provincial government must organize itself to drive forward and sustain an integrated long-range strategy across the many ministries that have important roles on this issue. Without an effective governance structure at the provincial level, our experience tells us that no meaningful progress can be made.

Second, the provincial government must work with the other orders of government to create both the structures and the relationships that permit the coordination of the relevant activities across governments. We appreciate that this may be a challenge with the federal government, but there are no external impediments to the Province’s building a new governance relationship with the municipalities on these issues. As that is done, we believe that success will encourage the federal government to accept its significant and serious responsibilities in this area.

Third, the Province must begin to work with municipalities, and if possible the federal government, to bring communities into the governance framework in meaningful ways.

New Governance Mechanisms Within the Ontario Government

1. Why New Provincial Governance Mechanisms Are Essential

In our view, the creation of new governance mechanisms for the Province’s own operations is both a keystone and a benchmark. It is a keystone because the issues that must be addressed are not only large, complex and spread across many ministries, but as well interact with each other and play out in economically and socially diverse communities across the Province. Without the keystone of governance mechanisms that cut across the many silos that now exist in the provincial government, any edifice of piecemeal change will rapidly collapse.

New governance mechanisms are also a benchmark. Without alignment at the provincial level to break through the silos to prioritize, drive, coordinate, fund, monitor and report on the many provincial initiatives required to address the roots of violence involving youth, it will be clear to everyone working in this field that there is little reason to hope for anything beyond some modest ameliorations of the status quo.

All who are even generally familiar with governance these days know that ministries often operate as silos. The Province is not alone in that regard and it has taken steps such as Service Ontario and local health integration networks to address the issue in some areas. Still, we met no one familiar with the issues in our mandate who did not feel that Ontario’s silo mentality remains a real and present threat to sustainable change on the issues we have identified. We heard this as much from senior officials and ministers as we did from those on the ground, who struggle every day to try to cope with this governance gridlock to make progress on their youth initiatives.

Although we state this matter baldly, we note that the current government inherited rather than created this situation. Silos have come to characterize most governments in the last three or four decades, for a variety of similar reasons. Prominent among these are the scope and scale of government, the short timelines between elections, the ever-heightened demand for accountability and the understandable need Cabinet ministers see to demonstrate mastery of their own portfolios and to make their mark within their own domains.

Ministers carry intense, day-to-day responsibilities for a myriad of administrative issues, as well as for developing, seeking support and funding for and implementing the broad policy initiatives taken by their departments. In all of this, they are expected to build and maintain good relationships with their many stakeholders and the media. They must be ready to answer questions on a moment’s notice on remote details of their administration, and also on the workings of their policy initiatives and their impacts on numerous distinct interests. It is little wonder that most feel stretched just to stay afloat, steer their ministry and keep as many of their stakeholders as satisfied as possible. The result is that there is limited time for sustained collaboration with colleagues.

Even where time can be found for such collaboration, there is little incentive for it. Collaboration is difficult, takes considerable time and resources, and is very much less under an individual minister’s control than work within his or her area of direct responsibility. Visible failures can occur for reasons outside a minister’s control; success, if achieved, is diffusely shared with colleagues. In many cases, success may not attach to those who contributed the most, perhaps at some cost to their success in a portfolio where their accountability is immediate and highly visible. In this context, it is to the government’s credit that it is working in at least some areas to counter these circumstances.

But it is essential that those initiatives be intensified in the area of violence involving youth, given the nature and breadth of the issues. The still-pervasive silo reality will make meaningful progress on the issues we have identified in our report hugely difficult. This is so for three main reasons.

First, the complex intertwining of those issues and their impacts condemns to frustration and failure any initiative that is not structured to address that interconnectedness. Second, the size of the task and the time required to accomplish it are such that strong alignment mechanisms are essential to counter the inevitable centrifugal forces that otherwise would draw ministries back to their core agendas. And third, success is only possible if officials, communities, agencies and other orders of government are inspired to join these endeavours and motivated to commit their time and energies to a long-term strategy. They all have a keen ear for provincial sincerity and priorities. While they are prepared to work with the Province to ensure complementary directions for the public good, they know that the Province must focus its resources and commitments on a small number of large, longer-term objectives, and they also know what the signs of such a commitment are.

In an area as complex and wide-ranging as this one, the key sign for them, as it is for us, will be whether the Province has put in place governance mechanisms that manifestly can and will overcome the barriers that silos create to focused, sustainable, integrated and long-term progress on these particular issues. Doing so will have immediate, positive and galvanizing impacts. A failure to do so will certainly undercut the potential to harness the resources, goodwill and cooperation needed if progress is to be made in addressing the roots. Whatever the Province does or does not do about its silos will send a clear message, one way or the other, to all who have a choice about whether to commit their discretionary energy and resources to this area.

For all of these reasons, we do not believe that the roots of violence involving youth can or will be meaningfully addressed without new provincial governance mechanisms to counteract the silos and provide a coordinated, effective, sustainable and motivating focus for the work that must be done.

2. Our Proposal

Overview, Principles and Precedents

To help us grapple with the governance issues, we commissioned the Ottawa-based Institute On Governance to prepare a research report on collaboration within and among governments. In their report, the institute states it found a small number of pertinent precedents showing promise or success and distilled from them, and just as importantly from some unsuccessful coordination efforts, a number of ways to overcome barriers to increased coordination within one level of government. The institute then tested its findings with a focus group of senior Ontario officials and another of leaders of community organizations. As summarized in the report, the most promising governance structures include the following elements:

The institute then went on to outline the following key factors for success in implementing these kinds of governance structures:

We agree with this advice, which accords with much of what we heard both here and in Britain and, indeed, with our own experience in government. At the most basic level, we say to the Premier that new governance mechanisms are essential, for the reasons already outlined, and that the above findings should guide how they are structured. But in the interests of expediting progress and respecting the valuable advice we received from many quarters, we feel a need to go further to offer our advice on a governance model. We base this advice in part on our own experience, but primarily on the available research and on the detailed knowledge of the issues and considerations surrounding the roots issues, that so many have helped us acquire over the last year.

As we look back, we are struck by the progress made by the Cabinet Committee on Race Relations, which operated from 1979 to 1990 within several governments from two different political parties. As documented in the paper prepared by the Institute On Governance and published in Volume 4, that committee took on a wide-ranging, complex and very sensitive issue well before it was a matter of mainstream consideration. It made very considerable progress in building an effective response to racism within Ontario society. It was not a reactive committee, but instead generated proposals for action by ministries. It had staff who could and did engage with communities on issues like public housing and policing. It directly engaged with the private sector on issues like racial diversity in advertising, and issued occasional public reports, but primarily used its direct access to Cabinet to shape the race-relations agendas for a number of ministries and the government as a whole over its lifespan (Institute On Governance, Volume 4: 439).

For present purposes, the key lessons are that a Cabinet committee of this kind can have a galvanizing effect within and outside government and, if supported by a staff structure and led by a dedicated minister who has the Premier’s backing, can make a real difference even in complex, sensitive and groundbreaking areas. This is a very different role for a Cabinet committee than the role they have played in recent years, and care is required to understand those differences in assessing our proposal.

We have also been struck by the experience in England with the neighbourhood renewal strategy. It was developed by a Cabinet office unit and overseen by a body that reported to the deputy prime minister. The permanent secretary (deputy minister) at the Treasury and later the Cabinet secretary chaired the strategy’s deputy-minister level steering committee. Overall, the strategy accomplished the impressive task of not only focusing numerous departments on concrete ways to improve conditions in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in England over a period of years, but did so in large measure by having departments set public and measurable objectives in some considerable detail, connecting those targets to the departments’ own funding and reporting on progress to the public. While, in chapters 7 and 10 we endorse a similar substantive approach in Ontario’s disadvantaged neighbourhoods, our interest in this chapter lies in the governance lessons to be drawn from this initiative.

We are also mindful that Premier McGuinty has relied upon results teams for a number of key initiatives in the fields of health, education and climate change. These teams, which include the responsible minister, some senior officials and outside experts, have the great advantage of being led by the Premier and offer the attraction of the involvement of outside expertise. They seem to work well on issues that are more focused than the one we are facing, although we are advised that they do not report directly to Cabinet and that decisions taken by them have to work their way back up through the normal approval channels.

The fact that the results teams do not make formal decisions would seem to rule them out for the role we feel is necessary. As well, it is difficult to see how the wide range of ministries involved in our many issues and the need to manage collaboration with other governments and with communities could be accommodated in a results team structure. While we therefore do not see the results team model as the core governance mechanism, such teams could well play an important role if any particular issues arise that cannot easily be resolved within the core structure we propose.

If results teams are brought into play, we would suggest one change to their current operations. We believe that they should be able to take the results of their deliberations to Cabinet via the Cabinet committee we propose be established, rather than going through other approval processes. This would solidify that committee’s role in the governance of this agenda, and avoid the risks of separate decision-making tracks in an area where coordination and cohesion are essential to progress.

We have also noted that the Premier chose to establish a Cabinet committee to address his most recent signature issue of poverty reduction. While it appears to be primarily a policy and stakeholder engagement committee rather than the combined policy and operational committee we feel is needed for the roots agenda, we are encouraged by this approach to a related and very high-profile issue. It immediately sent a message of seriousness both within and outside the government, and has been seen as a powerful symbol of commitment. It has provided a significant reason for those with countless other pressures and incentives to once again devote time and energy to this important but generally unaddressed issue.

As well, the Premier established a Cabinet Office unit to support that committee, rather than relying on a lead ministry, and similarly early this year created a new Climate Change Secretariat with a strong mandate to work from within Cabinet Office to provide comprehensive corporate leadership and support government-wide collaboration to achieve results on that complex and important matter.

The following proposals reflect these developments in Ontario and also draw upon what we consider to be powerful and relevant approaches elsewhere and in Ontario’s own past.

Structures for Political Direction and Oversight and Public Participation:

i) A Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion and Anti-Racism

Considering the principles set out by the Institute On Governance and our own experience, we believe that Ontario can best coordinate and drive forward the work needed to address the roots of violence involving youth by establishing a Cabinet committee, supported by a strong and active secretariat, to manage, align and advance the required work. The active and sustained operational role we propose for this committee would be modelled on the Cabinet Committee on Race Relations, on which each of us served when we were in government. The policy and motivational aspects of the committee would also draw inspiration from the Premier’s recent establishment of a Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction.

We refer to this committee as one on social inclusion and anti-racism, as the former term reflects the long-term goal the Province must pursue to address all of the roots of violence involving youth, and the latter reflects the regrettable need to pay particular attention to racism. The Premier will, of course, decide on the name. We nonetheless note the value of a high-profile recognition of the importance of anti-racism to addressing the roots. We note as well its ability to give comfort and support to racism’s many victims while sustaining focus and resolve on a tenacious root, which many others prefer to avoid even discussing.

Our experience suggests that placing a Cabinet committee at the heart of the governance structure will send an immediate, positive and galvanizing message to those affected by violence involving youth. It will make it clear to ministers, deputy ministers, communities, agencies and the public at large that the Premier sees this as a high and urgent priority. As it has in the past, it will motivate real progress on this issue at all levels in our society.

Such a committee will, however, only be effective if its role goes beyond being reactive to proposals from ministries. Instead, it needs a mandate to set an overall agenda for the government and specific action plans for each ministry. It then must have the responsibility to vet ministry proposals for priority and alignment, set outcome measures and annual targets, advise on corporate funding priorities, and drive and monitor the resulting work. The specific mandate we envisage would be as follows:

We believe that this committee should be structured initially to drive the government’s response to our report, including the determination of the overall approach, the initial priorities, the process to put together a comprehensive plan around the outcome measures and targets we propose in Pillar 2 and Chapter 10, and the longer-term governance structure. In this initial phase, we would propose that the membership be quite small. It would not be a brokerage committee, but rather a very focused group of primarily senior ministers, who could situate the necessary work within the government’s overall agenda and fiscal plan.

Once these initial determinations were made, the membership could expand to include a larger number of ministers, but should still stay small enough to make the tough decisions with reasonable dispatch. With its expanded membership, the committee’s role would focus on refining the policy approach as necessary, proposing ministry actions, setting outcomes and their measures, approving policy proposals, recommending funding, monitoring outcomes, working with outside advisers and public reporting.

ii) Associate Members of the Cabinet Committee

As discussed, our experience and the advice we received suggest to us that the governing body within the provincial government should be a Cabinet committee and operate as such. This means confidentiality for its deliberations and for the advice it gives to Cabinet as a whole. At the same time, we see great value in the innovation the Premier has brought to his results teams by the inclusion of outside experts.

We accordingly propose that a small number of outside advisers be named as associate members of the committee to join its deliberations at periodic intervals. These would be individuals with a deep knowledge of the issues discussed in this report and of the challenges and opportunities in implementing them on the ground, rather than individuals whose expertise lies in a particular issue, as would be the case for those serving on a results team. They should also be individuals who can see the bigger picture and materially assist the Cabinet committee in grappling with some of the more difficult policy issues it may face.

The Cabinet committee meetings that included the associate members would not be for the purpose of making decisions, and any consensus reached would not be treated as a Cabinet decision. To make sure that the participation of the associate members is meaningful and makes good use of their time, they should have access to dedicated members of the secretariat proposed below for the purposes of briefing them and supplying them with information and support they may need to discharge their role.

iii) Premier’s Advisory Council on Social Inclusion and Anti-Racism

This council could number about 15-20 individuals, who would constitute an ongoing think-tank and also serve as a sounding board and monitoring body. A significant number of the members should be youth, primarily from or working within the disadvantaged neighbourhoods. To support its work, it should have a small dedicated staff component on which its members could draw to support their participation.

We think that this advisory council should receive updates and information from the secretariat established to support the Cabinet committee, and that the Cabinet committee should be able to refer issues or reports to the advisory council for its opinion. In addition, we believe that the advisory council should be free to develop its own agenda and issue its own reports. An analogous body established under Quebec’s Strategy to Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion gives its advice, opinions and recommendations to the government 10 days before public release, which strikes us as a realistic balance between independence and the maintenance of a good working relationship with the government.

iv) A Social Inclusion and Anti-Racism Secretariat

To best support the kind of sustained political leadership that is necessary to drive the complex agenda outlined in this report, the governance mechanisms should include dedicated, agile and influential staff resources. The core tasks for staff would include providing strategic advice to the Cabinet committee, conducting research and planning initiatives, driving Cabinet-approved change within the bureaucracy, addressing the day-to-day issues that will arise in implementing the roots agenda, and monitoring and publishing progress towards the agreed-upon outcome measures. These crucial staff resources could, in theory, be provided through a Cabinet Office secretariat, an interministerial committee, or by having a single ministry take on the task of supporting the political oversight structure in addition to its line responsibilities.

In our view, only a Cabinet Office secretariat will have sufficient agility and leverage within government to support on a sustained basis the kind of policy-making, oversight and direction that this initiative will need. It will also be uniquely placed to support an influential research and policy group, which is not subservient to the priorities of any one ministry, and to work in a neutral way with the assessment institute we proposed in Pillar 3.

We do not believe that these tasks can be housed within a lead ministry. No one ministry has an obvious lead on the wide array of issues involved in this matter. As well, ministries have important priorities of their own, with their ministers and deputy ministers being responsible daily to numerous stakeholders with keen interests in seeing progress on issues within the ministry’s direct mandate. It is simply not realistic to expect a ministry to be able to place a powerful long-term focus on issues arising within numerous other ministries, nor to have the resources, clout or perceived neutrality to drive work by those ministries and enforce standards.

An interministerial committee would be even less suited to the task at hand, calling as it would on the already stretched resources of individuals with a wide array of other responsibilities. More importantly, interministerial committees can spend inordinate amounts of time seeking common ground or balancing competing perspectives when what is needed is clear leadership. There is a vital difference between leadership that is informed by competing views and priorities and a governance process that can be held hostage by them.

But we do not come to our conclusion in favour of a Cabinet Office secretariat simply because the other options are unattractive. We see such a secretariat as having many advantages. First, it is positioned at the very heart of government, with close and ongoing contact with the most senior officials and the Premier’s Office. Second, that positioning is meaningful to the rest of the public service and many key players outside it, and leads to enhanced day-to-day influence. Third, there is the freedom of movement and independence of advice that comes from not being tied to one ministry’s mandate, but instead having a mandate to support a committee whose whole reason for being is to set priorities and promote alignment across a large number of ministries to achieve those priorities. Fourth, in discharging its alignment and operational-oversight roles, the Cabinet committee can rely on its own staff to serve as its agents on a day-to-day basis within the government without having to negotiate with ministries over staff resources and priorities for their work.

We are also encouraged in this direction by recent experience here and in Britain. In Ontario, we have already noted two of the Premier’s very recent initiatives. The first was the creation of a Cabinet Office team to support the new Poverty Reduction Committee. The second and even more pertinent example was the creation of a Cabinet Office secretariat for the express purpose of both coordinating and driving work on the climate change agenda.

In Britain, the Social Exclusion Unit (now Task Force) has operated from within the Cabinet Office or the office of the deputy prime minister for most of the last decade. While it has to a large degree functioned as a think-tank on issues involving the very most disadvantaged groups in Britain, its former leaders were clear to us that its positioning very much allowed it to act as an instrument of governance.

Based on that experience, and for the reasons noted above, we believe that the Cabinet committee should be supported in its leadership and coordination role by a Cabinet Office secretariat, headed by a dedicated deputy minister, with the mandate outlined above, including supporting the Cabinet committee by providing research, policy and analytical support in the development and review of policies and action plans, and also serving as its operational arm in ensuring timely and effective responses by line ministries to the decisions taken by Cabinet on the committee’s advice.

As well, based on the English model and having regard to the need to get at the deepest roots of violence involving youth, the secretariat should have a specific mandate to undertake or commission research for publication on issues affecting the very most excluded groups in Ontario. It should have the time and space to shine a spotlight on the most intractable problems given that no one else in government is mandated to do so and given that they are at the deepest core of social exclusion, and hence of the roots of violence involving youth.

The work of the Social Exclusion Unit in Britain in this regard has been impressive. They focus on groups like the hardest-to-reach families, or people leaving care, or the homeless, and have brought a focus to these groups that is otherwise lost in efforts to deal with larger groups of disadvantaged people. Without this kind of focus, and the resulting governmental and public attention, there is every likelihood that these groups will not be reached. Having this responsibility lodged within the secretariat will keep it in contact with issues and groups that may not yet be part of most ministries’ plans, and will help position the secretariat for a leadership as well as policy and management roles on the roots agenda.

Additional Governance Instruments

In addition to these core governance mechanisms, there are other proven measures that can be brought to bear on the complex task of advancing a sustained agenda to address the roots of violence involving youth. We will briefly outline in the following sections those that strike us as the most pertinent to our issues.

i) Impact Analyses

One well-known measure both in Ontario and other jurisdictions is the impact analysis. While this can take various forms, in the context of driving a cross-government response to the roots of violence involving youth it would require ministries bringing forward proposals, whether for policy approval or for financial approval, to provide a statement of how their proposals would affect progress on the specific roots agenda adopted by Cabinet. This requirement would apply regardless of whether the submission were focused on youth, and regardless of whether it was to be considered by the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion and Anti-Racism, some other committee of Cabinet or Cabinet itself.

Both positive and negative impacts would have to be identified, and where there were no impacts, the question of whether the policy could be modified to support the roots agenda would also have to be addressed. To the same end, where there were negative effects, a further statement of how the policy could be changed to remove or ameliorate them and, just as importantly, to create positive ones, would have to be included along with an articulation of any trade-offs involved.

In our experience, two matters are essential if these impact analyses are to be taken seriously and are to provide meaningful assistance with governance. First, there cannot be too many impacts to identify, or else the exercise risks becoming either too detailed to manage, or simply formulistic. We want the analyses to be a serious, credible and important part of all submissions to Cabinet and all of its committees. A short mandatory list supports this. We think that impact analyses should address the impact, or potential to have an impact, on the approved outcome goals for:

As well, if an initiative involves contracting with agencies for services, the impact statements should address the issues of whether funding and delivery alignment have been considered and whether the likely agency bidders have the capacity to deliver and sustain the initiative in question.

The second key to impact statements being of value is to ensure that there is an expert body that can offer advice to those preparing them and provide an assessment of them to Cabinet and its committees. We believe that the proposed new secretariat should assume this function. It should be responsible for ensuring that a dialogue is opened on the roots agenda whenever proposals are brought forward for policy or funding approval. This would apply regardless of whether a submission was going to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion and Anti-Racism and, indeed, could be most needed for those that were not.

We chose the word “dialogue” with care. The interactions with the secretariat should not be seen as a negative or confrontational process. Instead, the requirement to provide the analyses can and should be seen as an opportunity to spark the kinds of discussions that can lead to ways to advance the roots agenda without impeding progress on the particular initiative being advanced. Indeed, assuming that the government’s commitment to that agenda is strong and understood to be so, finding such synergies will soon be seen as a way to secure support for initiatives and will become a self-directed operational norm right across the government.

ii) Performance Contracts

We also believe that contributing to the outcomes and targets that Cabinet sets for the roots agenda should be in the performance contracts of deputy ministers and, through them, those of their senior officials. Performance contracts set out key objectives and deliverables for senior public servants and generally tie a portion of their compensation to meeting the agreed-upon deliverables. While we do not expect money to be the major motivator here, we do believe that the professionalism and sense of pride of senior public servants will cause them to give particular priority to objectives they have agreed to in formal contracts.

iii) Public Reporting

In Chapter 10 we address the importance of setting outcome measures and annual targets. We mention the approach here because of its value as a governance instrument. We note that Ontario is moving towards public targets in some areas (health care wait times, high school graduation rates and the Attorney General’s court-delay-reduction announcement being current examples) and seek to build on that work.

Outcome measures and targets are clearly useful for internal governance purposes, but they take on an added dimension when they are routinely made public. First, the publication allows public input into whether the measures and targets are appropriate. This is essential for targets based in specific neighbourhoods, but it is also important for broader targets. Opening a discussion around outcomes and targets helps promote an understanding of them and brings to bear expertise and experience that might otherwise be missed. Where this leads to a broad consensus around them, they will have enhanced credibility and there will be more motivation to coordinate and collaborate to meet them.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, when both the targets and the progress towards them are made public, there is an incentive to meet the targets, or to have a very good reason for not doing so. This is not just a way to put pressure on an individual ministry, though that may be a useful way to promote its adherence to the targets. The targets we contemplate would be corporate commitments, and a shortage of funding or of the collaboration required to meet them would fall at the feet of the government as a whole, not just affect an individual ministry. Ensuring that results are published can therefore play a significant role in the governance of the roots agenda, as it promotes the “whole of government” approach, which is at the core of how the roots must be addressed, and at the same time encourages ministries to cooperate and work towards the targets without constant internal oversight.

We believe that the outcome measures and annual targets should be released as soon as Cabinet approves them. The secretariat should then be responsible for preparing the annual reports on progress towards those targets. The Cabinet committee, with the input of the advisory council, would be responsible for ensuring that the reports provide a comprehensive, clear and fair assessment of progress before being released.

iv) Joint Ministry Work

All of the above mechanisms will play a significant role in creating alignments and synergies across the existing ministry structures to drive progress on addressing the roots of violence involving youth. We of course also thought about whether those structures needed to be reformed to advance that goal. Although there are interesting initiatives elsewhere, including the recent decision in Britain to combine in one ministry the responsibilities for schools, children and families, we decided not to comment on the structure of Ontario’s ministries.

Our reason for this is quite straightforward. Action on the roots agenda is needed now and it is needed urgently. Significant ministry realignments not only take time and energy to plan, but inevitably lead to substantive work being sidelined. It gives way to realigning responsibilities, building new teams, recruiting for new positions, and reestablishing relationships with stakeholders and with the rest of the public service, to name just a few of the inevitable complications. We believe that getting on with substantive change must be the priority and that any ministerial realignments should follow the building up of significant experience with the new, coordinated approach to this issue. In that way, not only is early progress facilitated, but also any realignment will be informed by the issues that have been encountered on the ground and by the collaboration with other governments we discuss in the next part.

While we are not proposing any ministerial realignments, we do feel it is important in the short run that ministries make two changes in how they operate. The first is to adopt public service agreements for a limited number of cross-ministry initiatives; the other is to establish a small number of joint policy units or advisory boards.

(a) Public Service Agreements

This concept comes to us from Britain, where it is a core part of how the entire governance structure works in that country. For reasons similar to those that led us away from proposing changes to the ministerial structure here, we are in no way suggesting that Ontario adopt a similar approach across all of its operations, or even for the entirety of its agenda to address the roots of violence involving youth. But we do feel that there is value in adopting it in certain key areas where there is a particular need to drive collaborative work if results are to be achieved.

In Britain, public service agreements (PSAs) are documents in which two or more ministries set down in writing, and publish, the shared goals they are committed to achieving, and how they are going to go about achieving them. This includes specifying the partners they will work with and support to that end. As described by the Institute On Governance, in Britain PSAs have the following characteristics:

Each PSA consists of a vision, performance indicators and the delivery strategy indicating delivery partners, priority actions, and accountability and governance....A lead minister is nominated for each PSA and the relevant Cabinet committee(s) monitors progress, holds departments and programs to account and resolves interdepartmental disputes where they arise. A PSA delivery board of senior officials comprised of all lead and supporting departments is also established which monitors progress and reviews delivery regularly. Each Department remains responsible for developing and meeting its Departmental Strategic Objectives covering the full breadth of its work (Institute On Governance, Volume 4: 438)

In Britain, the PSAs also drive further coordination at the local authority level, but that is not germane to our present analysis. Instead, what attracts us to PSAs for some of the roots issues is the fact that they require ministries to plan in advance, and commit to writing, the outcomes they will seek to achieve together, the methods by which they will achieve them, what other entities they will work with and how progress will be measured. The fact that these become public documents adds rigour to these exercises. As in Britain, we would see the PSAs needing to be approved by Cabinet, thus ensuring that they are indeed designed to achieve key corporate objectives, and also that they have the backing of the government as a whole. Funding allocations and also support from other ministries should then follow more easily, given this endorsement.

We therefore see the PSAs as being important ways to make concrete the measures that specific groupings of ministries must take together to achieve certain key outcomes. Without being definitive, we see these as potentially involving agreements on the operation of Ontario’s youth justice system; methods to reduce concentrations of poverty; youth development, including training, education and engagement; youth wellbeing and safety, including mental health; and support for the community hubs.

(b) Cross-Ministry Units

As noted, we have resisted the temptation to propose a lot of new bodies and structures in favour of reliance on the kind of alignment measures discussed above. We do, though, believe that there is room within Ontario’s governance structure for a limited number of joint bodies, both internal to and external from government.

An example of an external body would be the Youth Justice Advisory Board discussed in Pillar 1. We think that a highly credible external board, reporting jointly to the three justice ministries, could bring valuable coordinated thinking and objective analyses to how Ontario’s youth justice sector is managed.

An example of an internal joint unit might be one in which the critical issue of developing a response to systemic racism in the youth justice system and the criminal justice system was made the responsibility of an internal unit reporting to all three justice ministries. This unit would be responsible for bringing forward a coordinated response to the issue to ensure a seamless approach from the point of first contact with a police officer through to transition back into the community. Other joint units might be considered to develop provincial policies around supports for community hubs, ways to integrate youth mental health services into these hubs and other community settings, and ways to improve conditions in both public-and private-sector housing.

(v) A Lead Ministry for Building Communities

Pillar 3 proposed a broad strategy to build communities to advance the roots agenda. While much of the work to achieve that goal will be driven by the overall governance mechanisms outlined above, we believe that there needs to be a central point of contact within the provincial government for those doing that work. There also needs to be a clear responsibility for funding the Neighbourhood Strategic Partnerships and bringing the Province to those tables, as well as disseminating lessons learned, positive community stories and best practices.

We considered whether that could be done by the social inclusion and anti-racism secretariat. Our advice is against that approach, as the highly transactional nature of much of the day-to-day work is inconsistent with the more strategic focus of the secretariat. On balance, we believe that the ministry designated to lead the community building exercise would be best placed to carry out this function and the other responsibilities outlined in Pillar 3.

Towards New Relationships With Governments and Communities

In this section, we move to a discussion of the other two governance elements we consider essential to advance progress on the roots agenda. The first is the creation of both the structures and the relationships that permit the coordination of the relevant activities of the three orders of government, with an initial emphasis on work with the municipalities. The second is working with municipal governments to bring communities into the governance framework in meaningful ways as a core part of building new governance relationships.

The discussion in this section is premised on the provincial government having first put in place the alignment structures we have identified above, as without them any increased coordination at the local or federal levels will founder on the silos of Ontario’s own government.

The Primacy of Provincial Responsibility

There is no doubt that the number and complexity of the issues involved in addressing the roots of violence involving youth, together with the degree of local specificity and the extent of local expertise, make it highly advisable that the Province work hard to promote effective and leveraged efforts with other orders of government, communities and agencies. Before addressing in this section how we believe that might best be done, we must first make clear our view that the desirability of that goal does not supersede the fundamental responsibility of the provincial government to deliver an effective agenda to address the very serious issues outlined in this report.

We say this not to take away from the value of collaboration, but because experience indicates that there is always a high risk that calling for it will launch a well-intentioned but complex, resource-intensive and slow process of intergovernmental negotiations. We accordingly want to stress that, in pursing collaboration, the Province must not sacrifice the actions it can take or the initiatives that are within its power to deliver. It should pursue collaborative arrangements, but not at the expense of failing to do everything it can within its own powers to make this a safer and stronger province.

As outlined in Pillar 3, we base this on our belief that the Province has the ultimate accountability for addressing the roots of violence involving youth, and the responsibility to create a safe province with meaningful opportunity for all. We also believe that it has the powers needed to do so. Acting alone, if necessary, the Province can advance income security, equity, health, education, a more responsive justice system, strong communities and, indeed, most of what is required for sustained progress on all of the issues we have identified in this report as central to addressing the roots of violence involving youth.

In our view, notwithstanding the many advantages of collaboration, the Province must move vigorously to accomplish everything it can do on its own if collaboration cannot reasonably be obtained. In doing so, the Province should of course always value and seek cooperation with other governments, and even in its absence act in a way that respects the existing leadership and knowledge that reside there, especially at the municipal level. It should also always act in a way that builds community partnerships wherever possible and that leaves space for and encourages other governments to come to the table.

A Municipal Focus

It strikes us as particularly important that the Province not spend time seeking a comprehensive agreement with the federal government on addressing the roots of violence involving youth. There is no doubt that the federal government should play a major resourcing role in addressing this issue and that the Province should be more vocal in its expectation that the federal government become much more active in this area. The most obvious examples of where more should be expected from the federal government are immigration settlement, employment insurance, child care, housing and youth employment. Progress has been made with intergovernmental cooperation and agreements in some of these areas, and further progress should be sought there and in other areas as opportunities occur. We do not, though, see in the present climate much potential for a broad federal-provincial agreement to address the roots of violence involving youth.

We accordingly believe that, while the Province should pursue federal cooperation in the course of its ongoing business, the priority for seeking intergovernmental collaboration within the proposed governance framework should be with the municipalities. For reasons we will go on to discuss, we also believe that the major focus and locus for building that collaboration should be in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods discussed in Chapter 7. We believe that this focus will give priority to early action and local impacts over intergovernmental negotiations. It will favour achievements over structures and will create a platform and an incentive for the federal government to bring its ideas and resources to the table.

We will accordingly focus most of our analysis on building collaborative structures with municipalities in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Building Collaboration With Municipalities and Communities in Disadvantaged Neighbourhoods

i) Rationale and Approach

Collaboration with the regional governments and municipalities is paramount. This is due to the highly local nature of what has to be done, the knowledge municipalities have about their communities and what works on the ground, and the leadership many have already demonstrated on issues related to the roots of violence involving youth. The challenge is how to create and sustain that collaboration on matters central to addressing the roots agenda. Getting caught up in, or undercutting, the work to restructure the provincial-municipal relationship more broadly, or embarking on yet another complex and time-consuming process of structural negotiations with the large number of highly diverse municipal governments in Ontario must be avoided.

In the result, our advice is to combine the second and third aspects of our governance model by focusing on working with municipalities in and for the identified priority neighbourhoods. In this approach, the neighbourhood becomes the place where the provincial-municipal relationship on roots issues is built, not the place it is rolled out after having been negotiated somewhere else. In this approach, residents and local service providers are inside the governance model at the outset and integral to how it is built and operated. This approach will make sure that results flow early, with any structural agreements to anchor the local work made as needed, being tailored to local reality and forged from practical experience. Agreements, where required, would follow experience rather than preceding it.

This approach builds on the discussion in Chapter 7 and earlier in this chapter about the importance and value of focusing program and policy initiatives in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in the province. Chapter 7 also outlined a methodology to identify those neighbourhoods in conjunction with the municipalities. Among the many benefits of this approach are that it allows the Province (and other partners as well) to increase the return on investments by putting resources where they are most needed and by drawing on local knowledge and strengths. To these, we would add that it creates a natural forum for collaboration.

We expect that the proposal in Chapter 7 will lead to the identification of about 50-60 priority neighbourhoods across the province. The City of Toronto, using a more comprehensive approach than is possible provincewide at the moment, has already identified and undertaken important groundbreaking work in 13 such neighbourhoods. These should be the foundation of the Province’s place-based work there, as should any other defined, disadvantaged neighbourhoods in which other municipalities are already focusing work to address the roots of violence involving youth.

Within all of these neighbourhoods, the Province should, as a governance initiative, work closely with the municipality to engage with residents and service providers in ways that build community strengths and a provincial-municipal-community culture of collaboration. This work must, of course, be done with great care to understand what is in place and working already in priority neighbourhoods. As Britain’s former Cabinet secretary, who had been at the heart of the neighbourhood renewal strategy there, reminded us when we met, a number of past initiatives have foundered because their architects paid too little attention to what was already in place when they launched them. The neighbourhood action teams and partnerships in Toronto are a clear example, but there are other less visible and less well-supported community strengths that should be respected and built on across the province in new initiatives of this kind.

ii) Our Proposal

Based on the above premises, the core of our proposal is that the Province and municipal governments should come together with local agencies and community members in a partnership in each identified neighbourhood. They would do this by forming a Neighbourhood Strategic Partnership (NSP), modelled in part on Britain’s Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs), and in part on the City of Toronto’s neighbourhood action teams and partnerships. We will briefly provide background on each of those sources for our proposal, then turn to the role we see the NSPs playing.

a) Lessons from the Local Strategic Partnerships

In Britain, the LSPs play an important role in bringing together local and national government with key service providers, including the health service, the police and the fire service, as well as business, voluntary and community organizations. As one community activist we met described his LSP, it brought everyone to the table that the community wanted to talk to and allowed all of the key issues to be discussed at one table.

The initial concept of the LSPs was set out in the National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal, published in 2001. It proposed that the public, private, voluntary and community sectors come together in a single overarching local coordination framework, which would enable priorities to be set and services to be aligned, bring those who deliver or commission different services together with those who receive the services and ensure that other local partnerships know how they fit into the wider picture. The LSPs were seen as also having a role to go beyond neighborhood renewal, for example, preparing community strategies (Social Exclusion Unit, 2001: 28).

The core functions fulfilled by the LSPs in their first years of operations were described in the report by the Institute On Governance in the following terms:

[To] identify the needs of the local community and reconcile competing interests; to oversee and coordinate the community consultation and engagement activities of individual partners; to produce a Sustainable Community Strategy including a shared local vision and priorities for action; oversee the planning and alignment of resources in the locality — each partner remains accountable for its decision taken in relation to funding streams allocated to it; to review and performance-manage progress against priorities and targets (Institute On Governance, Volume 4: 449).

The LSPs in Britain operate at the level of the entire local authority and are not constituted specifically in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods. However, they have a vital role with respect to those neighbourhoods. We were advised during our meetings in London that the task of the LSPs in these areas was to:

...find the root causes of neighborhood decline, develop ideas on how organizations and individuals can improve things, and implement agreed upon actions. [They...also]...set local targets for improving outcomes in deprived neighborhoods...[and] provide a means to allow partners to link existing local partnerships and plans, bringing strategic functions together. Having an LSP in place [was] a condition of receiving [neighborhood renewal] funding... (Social Exclusion Unit, 2001: 28).

It is important, though, to stress that we are not proposing the adoption of the entire LSP concept. Indeed, LSPs now play a significant role in the negotiation of the local authority’s overall funding from the national government. They have the lead responsibility to negotiate Local Area Agreements, which are the mechanism through which the national government flows its funding of local authorities. As that funding can constitute in the range of 50 per cent of local authority budgets, the role and influence of the LSPs cannot be underestimated. By contrast, we do not see our Neighbourhood Strategic Partnerships as being involved across the whole of a municipality, nor as becoming involved in the whole provincial-municipal relationship. Our focus is on the roots of violence involving youth, and our interest in LSPs is focused on the vital governance role they can play on that issue, specifically in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

We draw upon the concept of the LSPs because of the way they bring together community members, service providers and both levels of government, and because of their role in developing community-specific plans. With relatively modest staff resources, they play a vital and vibrant role in many communities. We visited one in Tower Hamlets in London and were given a striking glimpse of what a community organization, with strong support from the local authority, can achieve by way of direct community involvement in governance.

Our meeting there took place in a police station, part of which had been dedicated to use by the community and was clearly a place people felt comfortable using. The partnership, with representatives from health, education, policing and community agencies and residents, had created a 10-year plan in 2001 and was now developing its second one. They had divided the borough into 10 planning areas, each with a strategic committee to identify local priorities.

Interestingly, each local planning committee has its own funding to spend on local priorities; roughly 25 per cent of the borough’s neighbourhood renewal funding is given over to their control. The community members of those local committees were, in turn, the source of community representation on the LSP, ensuring effective grassroots representation on the more senior body.

We found that the LSP and the local planning committees were involved in a wide array of issues. They were dealing with crime prevention, finding housing for ex-offenders, working with youth identified as being on the verge of criminality, creating mechanisms to keep schools open to address the needs of local families and youth, looking for ways to improve access to doctors and reduce smoking, improve job training, day care access and the number of local businesses — the list goes on from there. The fact that this breadth of activity had been maintained for the better part of a decade, with progress tracked regularly against clear targets and enthusiasm to meet them remaining high, showed us the power of this concept.

b) Lessons From the Neighbourhood Action Teams and Partnerships

Another leading example of neighbourhood-based governance initiatives is the Neighborhood Action Teams, which the City of Toronto has established in its priority neighborhoods. These were discussed in some detail in Chapter 7. They bring together at local tables a number of core parts of the city government, including economic development, children’s services, parks, city planning, shelter support and housing, social development, as well as the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, the Toronto Police Service, Toronto Public Health and Toronto Public Libraries.

The initial purpose of these teams was to ensure cross-divisional knowledge leading to better horizontal needs-identification, service planning and city service delivery at the neighborhood level. In this phase, officials in each of the neighborhoods worked together to identify existing services and service gaps, as well as priorities and desired outcomes. In the next phase, now underway, broader community stakeholders are being brought to the table. City officials have stressed to us that, in addition to the powerful role these teams are playing in the neighbourhoods, they have served to drive new levels of alignment and coordination at city hall. The teams have played an important role in allowing the city to cut through its own silos, and we believe that working in Neighbourhood Strategic Partnerships would do the same for the Province.

c) Our Proposal for Neighbourhood Strategic Partnerships

We believe that partnerships broadly similar to the local strategic partnerships should be established in each priority neighbourhood in Ontario. They should be anchored in representation from the provincial and municipal governments, and should also draw together the service providers in each neighbourhood and a number of community representatives. The federal government should be encouraged to take a seat at these tables and to play a significant role at them. The process we propose in Pillar 3 for helping the community to organize may initially bring forward the most appropriate community members, but in time the communities may well come up with their own means to select them.

The structure of these partnerships need not be and probably should not be identical across the province, but rather should be responsive to local circumstances, particularly pre-existing coordination bodies. The core idea of “bringing into one room everyone the community wants to talk to,” for our purposes to talk about roots issues, and providing a table where all of the relevant issues can be discussed, should nonetheless generally guide how the partnership is structured in each neighbourhood.

We see these partnerships being responsible for developing a local plan to address the roots of violence involving youth. They will need some resources to do so, which for the reasons we set out in Pillar 3 in our discussion of a declaration of provincial interest, we believe should be provided by the Province. These reasons focus on the provincial responsibility for safety and the need to address local roots to assure that safety provincewide, and on the centrality to that goal of many of the policy and funding levers the Province has.

As part of the work to develop the plan, we would expect that each NSP would map the services being provided to their residents if that had not already been done. This exercise has two elements: determine which services are provided in the area and also the extent to which they are actually accessible to the most disadvantaged of those for whom they are intended. The exercise would then go on to identify gaps, and priorities for addressing them.

Assuming that the youth policy framework proposed in Pillar 2 is developed and includes specific outcome measures, each NSP should be asked to focus its plan on ways to achieve those measures locally. What is important here is that, while the outcomes and floor targets would be set provincially, both the plans and the means to achieve them would be locally determined. For example, if one outcome goal is a minimum percentage of high school graduates, the local measures could vary from English as a Second Language programs to immigrant settlement services, and from homework clubs to parental involvement programs, depending on local needs. The goal remains the same, but the method is adapted to local circumstances.

The outcomes-planning exercise in each neighbourhood would start with collecting local baseline data for each outcome. In some instances, that data could show that the neighbourhood is at or above the floor target. That may not mean that the issue is set aside, as it still may be a local priority to advance progress further. But where the neighbourhood indicators fell below the floor target, the partnership would be expected, and supported, to prepare a plan on how to reach the objective. The plan would identify the time frame required, the means to be employed and the partners to be engaged. That plan should be widely available within the neighbourhood, as should regular reports on progress.

Once the NSP had come to agreement about methods and annual targets, it would then be incumbent on the service providers and governments, as partners in the NSP, to work together to prioritize and align their programs and funding to make that plan work. This would have the obvious benefit of promoting collaborative governance in the field, but as Toronto’s experience shows, also would have a powerful impact on countering silos within governments. For the Province, the internal alignment measures we propose, along with the public commitment to meeting the outcome targets provincewide, should already be achieving this, but those alignment measures would be strongly supported by the pressure for alignment being driven up from these partnerships. Similarly, the municipality, having endorsed this process and been at the partnership table, would also have a strong incentive to align its efforts and resources to help meet the targets.

The NSPs would be free to work on issues outside the roots agenda to further strengthen the community. Our particular focus on the roots agenda calls us to place that at the core of the NSPs and to call on the Province to underwrite the required work to that end, but does not preclude a wider approach to community needs and interests.

We see the NSPs as being key players in building the hubs we propose in Pillar 3 and helping ensure that the services and activities offered there are responsive to community needs as expressed in the community plan. On the assumption that the resident engagement workers discussed in Pillar 3 will be represented on the NSP, we are confident that the NSP will ensure that the hub provides space for community-cohesion activities as well as for services.

Whether to support and build hubs, align services, advance progress towards outcome goals or promote other community priorities, the essence of this approach is that neighbourhoods develop plans with governments, which governments then work to help them achieve. The alignment mechanisms we have proposed, including clear provincial targets and commitments and the public service agreements and the other mechanisms discussed above, are all designed to ensure a sustained and committed focus on these plans as they emerge. As well, we believe that the Province’s own planning will be powerfully informed by what it learns by working in these communities, ensuring a strong two-way partnership for policy development as well as service delivery.

Larger-Scale Collaboration

For all of the reasons set out above, our priority is on building collaborative governance at the local level through the NSPs. We nonetheless recognize that there are some roots issues that could benefit from coordination and elaboration on a larger scale than the disadvantaged neighbourhoods. These include the planning issues around fostering economically integrated and well-serviced neighbourhoods, transportation, youth engagement and economic opportunity, the justice system and various programs and supports for families, including mental health services.

We considered whether an additional structure was needed to support this larger-scale collaboration and concluded that it is not, for a number of reasons. First, we believe that the alignment mechanisms we have proposed for the Province will require all ministries to take the roots agenda into account in these larger-scale initiatives and drive collaborative work on them at the provincial level. At the same time, the provincial commitment to outcome goals will lead to an emphasis on doing the collaborative work required to achieve them in all areas and to work with other governments to that end.

Similarly, we believe that the municipal focus on the roots issues at the NSP tables will drive alignment on the roots agenda at the municipal level, as the Toronto experience has already demonstrated, and lead to a desire to collaborate with the other orders of government.

These inherent alignment pressures should mean that new structural mechanisms are unnecessary to bring governments together on the roots agenda. As well, as we have noted above in related contexts, the complexity of negotiating broad agreements encompassing numerous municipalities on the many issues relevant to the roots agenda would in all likelihood materially impede real progress on the many core issues.

We believe that if the Province and the municipalities, and ideally the federal government as well, start their collaboration on the roots agenda at the neighbourhood level they will address the most pressing needs and also begin to develop better working relationships on the ground. It seems to us that on the basis of those relationships, and experience in these communities, they will know better whether a broader structure is necessary, and will be better placed to achieve it if it is. We also think the structure, if needed, will be a better one if brokered through experience in working together as a body involving service providers and community members.

We do not, therefore, propose a larger-scale governance structure, but we do believe that the centre of excellence proposed under Pillar 3 could provide many of the possible benefits of a larger structure without imposing a new level of governance. That centre’s functions will include assessing progress on major initiatives within the roots agenda. In addition, it could be asked to monitor and report on the work of the NSPs.

For example, it could identify systemic issues or barriers arising at the partnership tables, serve as a clearing house for best practices and core learnings that emerge from those tables and provide ongoing advice to the NSPs and the governments on their work. It could allow the lessons learned on the ground to influence the broader governance relationship, as well as the development of the NSP model, and could serve as a conduit for the information and analysis required at all levels to sustain and advance the concept. It could, in essence, facilitate an ongoing conversation to advance this important part of the governance agenda.

For all of these reasons, we do not see a need at present for a new structural relationship among orders of government. We instead encourage governments to focus their energies in local partnerships with communities to advance the work that must be done to make this a province of safety and opportunity for all.

Buttressing the Pillars:

Two Related Issues

A Community Approach to Individual Interventions

Our report focuses on the roots of the immediate risk factors for violence involving youth. However, as we noted in the introduction to this chapter, we consider it appropriate to offer some thoughts on complementary approaches to the youth who have grown up with those roots and are displaying some of the immediate risk factors, including alienation, no sense of hope or belonging, low self-esteem, limited empathy, a sense of oppression and no way to be heard.

We note at the outset that we are not attempting to provide a definitive analysis of all of the different programs and initiatives that exist to deal with youth who are experiencing the immediate risk factors. In Chapter 8, we set out what the evaluation literature tells us about some of the intervention programs. Here, relying largely on the work of our chief researcher, Prof. Scot Wortley, we want to simply outline a community-based strategy that we find promising as a way to anchor intervention initiatives and strategies and to magnify their positive impacts on youth.

The youth we consider in this section are those who have been identified by the police and become involved in the youth or adult criminal justice systems and those who are engaged in “risky” or “dangerous” behaviours, but have not yet been formally labelled as a criminal offender. In this section, we also pay special attention to the youth who are affiliated with street gangs. Recent research suggests that street gangs are a growing phenomenon in Ontario and that gang-involved youth are especially vulnerable to serious violence, both as offenders and victims (Wortley and Tanner, 2007; Chettleburgh, 2007, cited in Wortley et al., Volume 5).

There are two main intervention approaches that can be taken to deal with street gangs and other youth we are concerned about in this section. The first involves the targeting of individual youth. This philosophy is represented in the structure of most current crime prevention programs and crime suppression strategies. The idea is that we can change society one youth at a time through the processes of deterrence and individualized treatment regimes. We were advised, however, that the research evidence suggests that this individual orientation is having very little impact on the size of the problem.

The second approach to violence prevention locates the more proximate risks of youth violence in local communities. A local community might be defined as a block, a neighbourhood, a housing project or an ethnic enclave. We agree with those who believe that the most promising and durable solutions to youth violence are to be found within our communities.

In the balance of this section, we outline a community strategy for dealing with youthful offenders in Ontario. This strategy calls for significant community involvement in six major activities: prevention, intervention, targeted law enforcement, sentencing, rehabilitation and community reintegration.


In addition to strategies to address the roots of violence involving youth, which can be seen as a form of prevention, it is also necessary to identify specific children from a community (typically from seven to 14 years of age) at particularly high risk of engaging in criminal or violent behaviour in the future. After being identified, these youth can be provided with additional services including intensive mental health counselling, behavioural modification, family therapy and adult mentorship. Many of these programs have been discussed in earlier chapters of this report. We understand that the effective delivery of these services, in the local community, can help ensure that childhood problem behaviours do not evolve into serious delinquency or gang activity.

To that end, the community hubs we propose in Pillar 3 can play a crucial role. They can anchor a “one-stop” resource centre in the community. This centre would be responsible for making prevention services known to all community members through creative and culturally specific outreach, for identifying the needs of specific individuals and families and for delivering culturally relevant services in an efficient manner that is consistent with the “best practices” literature. Without such a centre to organize and coordinate service delivery, there is a heightened potential for program fragmentation and duplication and for barriers to access by those who most need the services. Ultimately, this can dramatically increase program costs and reduce program effectiveness.


Intervention strategies target older youth (typically 14–24 years of age) who are actively engaged in gang activity, youth who are known to associate or affiliate with local gang members and other youth who are currently experimenting with different types of violent or criminal behaviour (in the balance of this section we use the term “youthful offender” to describe those youth). Intervention strategies attempt to reach these youth before they become involved in the formal criminal justice system. These youth may be first identified by teachers, parents, the police, social workers, community leaders, youth outreach workers or other local individuals who have intimate knowledge of the young people and the street gangs within a specific community. Once identified, these youth are the subject of intensive outreach to bring them to the available services.

These youth are then provided with a treatment regime that meets their individual needs. Individualized treatment regimes can include special gang exiting programs (see our discussion of the Breaking the Cycle program in Chapter 8 of this report). They can also include specific rehabilitation strategies (i.e., anger-management or life skills training), educational assistance, adult mentoring, job or career training, youth employment, or structured sports, recreation or arts activities.

The major objectives of these intensive, holistic intervention strategies typically include providing youth with social activities and positive peer group influences that can lure them away from the negative influences present in their neighbourhood, including street gangs; a way to help youth engage with mainstream institutions and pro-social role models; and support services for youth and their families that can encourage young people to make positive life choices.

Targeted Law Enforcement

Targeted law enforcement activities target those youth in a community who are consistently involved in serious violent or criminal activity and thus represent a threat to community safety and cohesion. It is often argued that, without first dealing with the most violent individuals from a community, prevention and intervention strategies will be less than successful. Targeted law enforcement efforts, therefore, often focus on identifying the most dangerous and influential gang members or other youth. We include this approach here only in the context of an integrated intervention strategy of which it is but one element.

Targeted law enforcement activities typically involve tactics that go beyond regular police patrol practices. They include the implementation of dedicated guns and gangs units, special task forces that coordinate the gang-related activities of different police services, specific anti-violence units that attempt to disrupt weapons use and gang activity at the street level, and dedicated prosecution teams that are focused on increasing the conviction rate for gang-related crime. The success of these activities most often depends on the development of a deep understanding of local gang cultures and structures in communities.

Without question, the cooperation and involvement of local community members is crucial to the development of this knowledge base. That is why we emphasized in Pillar 1 the need to be strategic when these measures are deployed in a community. The overall approach may need to be aggressive in some instances, but the treatment of the youth in question, and the community, must take into account the long-term consequences if the tactics employed smack of racism or are belittling in ways that lead the community to believe that there is little point, and often some risk, in cooperating with the police. We outlined in Pillar 1 the ways in which that unfortunate result can ensue.

As a result, great care must be taken to keep the community on side in these exercises. Part of this involves an emphasis on civility and the minimum degree of force and disruption consistent with operational imperatives. But part of it also involves mechanisms to bring the community on side after a major enforcement exercise has taken place. This means having good connections in the community and good relationships with service providers who can intensify services and supports after a major enforcement action.

It seems to us that the Province and the municipalities could usefully consider making available a fund to facilitate this. That fund could support crisis counselling for youth and families who may have been traumatized by the enforcement exercise. The fund could also permit an immediate boost to key programs and activities in a community where police action has taken place. The boost to community programs and services would serve two purposes. First, the community would see immediate positive consequences following the police action, and might be more inclined to cooperate with the police as a result. And second, the increased activity in the community and on the streets could help the community take back its parks and streets before a new gang starts up to fill the vacuum created by the enforcement action.


We discussed in Pillar 1 some of the issues that arise when youth are incarcerated. We noted there that this is nonetheless the right sanction for some offences, especially those of serious violence. But we also believe that, in appropriate cases, consideration must be given to increasing the involvement of the community in the sanctioning process. Such involvement can, in many instances, not only make the sanction more effective, but can also lay the groundwork for the community networks and supports that will be needed to prevent reoffending when the sanction ends.

Restorative justice is one well-recognized means to this end. Under restorative justice principles, both the victim and the offender, and those assisting them, meet with criminal justice officials and community leaders to develop a sentencing plan. The victim has the opportunity to discuss the pain caused by their victimization, while the offender has the opportunity to explain their situation and apologize for the suffering they caused. The restorative justice committee, including the victim and offender, then comes to a conclusion with respect to the type of punishment the offender deserves. Community members also become involved in the delivery of this sanction (unless the offender is sentenced to a period of incarceration) and the reintegration of the offender back into the community once the sentence has been served.

Restorative justice reflects the philosophy that because crime and violence hurts victims, offenders and entire communities, justice should heal, and especially should heal relationships. It is a democratic process in which all stakeholders have an opportunity to discuss the damage caused by crime, how this damage can be repaired, how the recurrence of crime might be prevented and how the needs of all community stakeholders might be met.

Following the 2000 United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders, in 2002, the UN Economic and Social Council adopted a resolution encouraging all nations to use the UN’s basic principles to develop and implement restorative justice programs. In recent years, even countries with the highest imprisonment rates in the world — the United States, China, Russia and South Africa — have produced important criminal justice innovations that are consistent with restorative justice principles. In Ontario, the implementation of many regional youth justice committees is evidence that the restorative justice philosophy is also being taken seriously by the provincial government. We believe that linking this work to the community hubs and Neighbourhood Strategic Partnerships we propose would encourage and facilitate the extension of this approach to more Ontario communities.


Many people feel that youth crime and violence could be reduced if we would only dramatically increase the severity of criminal sanctions. However, we were advised that thousands of criminological studies suggest that harsh punishment does not deter young people from engaging in criminal activity (Wortley et al.,Volume 5). The severity of punishment, in fact, appears to be a particularly ineffective strategy for young offenders. Many young people simply have not yet reached the level of maturity required to recognize the long-term consequences of their actions. A large percentage of young people are impulsive or are only focused on immediate gratification and cannot, therefore, conceptualize being caught and punished for their criminal behaviour.

As well, we discussed in Pillar 1 the ways in which a harsh sanction can increase the risks of future violence. These include self-stigmatization and stigmatization by others, learning crime skills and being recruited by gangs when in jails, and the likelihood of leaving jail with increased alienation and decreased hopes and prospects.

We maintain that Ontario should reserve harsh sanctions for cases where the need to protect society in the short run outweighs the potential longer-term consequences. To help minimize those consequences where custody is called for, we should not abandon these youth. Indeed, a large body of research suggests that even the most violent youth can be rehabilitated and re-enter society as productive citizens (Loeber and Farrington, 1998; Cullen, 2007, cited in Wortley et al., Volume 5).

The research literature suggests that properly delivered rehabilitation services — especially those based on cognitive behavioural therapy — can dramatically reduce recidivism rates. In other words, youthful offenders who receive high-quality rehabilitation services are much less likely to reoffend than youthful offenders who are punished without receiving proper treatment. In order to maximize effectiveness, treatment must first identify and target individual needs. Programs also need to be intensive and be delivered over an extended period of time.

Unfortunately, it appears that, within the Canadian criminal justice system, many offenders do not receive the treatment they require. Prof. Wortley’s research suggests, for example, that only two per cent of Corrections Canada’s $1.8-billion budget is devoted to the delivery of core rehabilitation services (including anger-management training, cognitive-skills training, sex-offender treatment and substance abuse treatment). As a result, waiting lists for treatment within federal correctional facilities are long. In fact, many inmates, especially those serving relatively short sentences, either never get the opportunity to receive treatment or never get the opportunity to complete the rehabilitation programs that they begin. We were not able to obtain corresponding figures for the provincial corrections system, but the even shorter sentences served there suggest that the issue would not be much different.

Long waiting lists for treatment within correctional facilities and low program-completion rates in prison are two reasons that we think rehabilitation services should be extended beyond prison walls. A third is that services for those who do receive them typically are cut off once the incarceration period is over. Research also suggests that rehabilitation programming may actually be more effective when it is delivered in the community rather than a prison (MacKenzie, 2002, cited in Worley et al., Volume 5).

In our opinion, it is crucial that proper rehabilitation services be expanded within the prison system, extended to those serving sentences in the community and provided to offenders once they return to the community after serving a sentence of incarceration. We also feel that, where possible, local communities should be closely involved in the delivery of these rehabilitation programs. Indeed, one-stop community centres or hubs, discussed above, may be good settings for coordinating the effective delivery of high-quality treatment programs for offenders returning to specific neighbourhoods.

Community Reintegration

The final stage of a comprehensive community strategy is the reintegration of known offenders. Reintegration usually targets serious offenders who are returning to the community after a period of incarceration. The major objectives of most reintegration efforts are to provide serious offenders with appropriate services and to monitor their behaviour and progress. Monitoring should involve community members (outreach workers, parents, teachers, employers, etc.), as well as law enforcement officials. The types of services that should be provided to these offenders are similar to those discussed above regarding both prevention and intervention. They might include specific gang exiting strategies, as well as employment, career training, education enhancement initiatives, sports and recreation programs, psychological counselling, specific rehabilitation programs and mentoring. Services must be designed to meet the needs of the individual offender.

The major goal of reintegration is to reconnect the offender to the community and provide her or him with a fresh start. According to the principles of restorative justice, before an offender can successfully re-enter society as a law-abiding citizen, they must feel (1) that they have paid their dues for the crimes that they have committed, and (2) that the community has forgiven them for their conduct and is willing to treat them as an ordinary citizen. Thus, in order to reduce the potential for further offending, communities must be organized to identify offenders returning to the community and help them in their transition back to “normal” life. Unfortunately, while a great deal of taxpayers’ money is spent on the incarceration of convicted offenders, little money is spent on helping communities reintegrate ex-convicts once they return to society.

Developing a Community-Based Action Plan

We believe that this community-based approach will work best if it is developed within the communities themselves. The Neighbourhood Strategic Partnerships we propose in Pillar 4 would appear to be the ideal places in which to engage in this planning. And the community hubs we propose would, as noted earlier, also provide a good place to anchor programs and services, subject to making alternative arrangements for certain offenders until their rehabilitation is clearly taking hold.

In general, these community strategies to prevent violence will need to draw on different types of expertise from mental health professionals, academics and other crime prevention experts, law enforcement agencies and the local community residents who know the details of their neighbourhood and the people who live there.

As the program is developed, key stakeholders must be identified and recruited to help establish definitions of local gang and youth violence and conduct a comprehensive assessment or environmental scan of local strengths and issues. The assessment should document the true extent and nature of local youth violence and gang issues. Individual, family and peer factors that are associated with local violence problems should also be highlighted. A comprehensive inventory of existing community programs and resources should be prepared to better identify community needs and assist planning. Once gaps have been identified, programs that can fill these gaps must be formulated.

Wherever possible, staff for this initiative should be recruited from the local community. The use of youth outreach workers, discussed above, can also be vital to ensure good contacts with youth in the community and to help project workers better understand community dynamics. As the program evolves, feedback from clients and community members should be collected and analyzed to help refine the programs being offered.

These programs should be fully evaluated after about 24 months of operation, with evaluation outcome measures fully developed before the program begins (pre-test or baseline measures) and continuously collected throughout the implementation stage. Evaluation results could then be used to redevelop the program, eliminate shortcomings and improve overall community safety. The program could then continue with the prospect of even more positive results. There is a consensus in the academic community that an ongoing cycle of program development, evaluation, assessment and redevelopment ultimately yields the most favorable outcomes.

The Need for Action on Handguns

We discussed in chapters 3 and 5 the risk to individuals, communities and the social fabric of this province that results when alienated and disaffected youth walk our streets and enter our schools carrying loaded handguns. We noted there the impulsiveness of youth and how it often takes very little to trigger their anger, alienation and frustration. To us, it is beyond dispute that adding a handgun to that equation immeasurably increases the risk of serious violence.

As a result, while guns are not a root of violence involving youth, we consider it necessary to add our voices to those calling for a handgun ban. The Province is squarely on the record in calling for a ban, as are chiefs of police and a number of mayors. Indeed, Toronto’s Mayor David Miller has been at the forefront of a strong campaign to get the federal government to recognize the risks that its refusal to ban handguns are creating.

The statistics are clear that a significant number of the guns being used to commit murders on our streets were legally owned — permitted to be among us because the federal government will not ban them. A ban will not eliminate handguns, but it will put nearly 200,000 legally owned Ontario handguns beyond the reach of youth who are prone to violence.

It is, of course, not tenable to assert that we can identify in advance all of the youth who have the immediate risk factors for violence — alienation, low self-esteem, no sense of belonging or hope, among others — and somehow incapacitate them before something triggers their inner rage or desperation. Given that, we need to do everything possible to try to ensure that they do not have a loaded gun in their pocket or backpack when a triggering event coincides with that state of mind.

And it is not only that guns make worse these impulsive acts of violence. The possession of a gun can also promote serious violence. Guns promote bravado and make it easier for those inclined to violence to act in lethal ways. Access to a gun may tip the scale between someone who is prone to violence and someone who acts violently. It is simply much easier to shoot someone from a distance than it is to confront them face-to-face with fists or a knife.

And, of course, when guns are used, the number of bystanders at risk is exponentially greater than if recourse were had to knives or fists.

Additionally, the presence of guns creates fear in the community, which can lead to people staying home or keeping their kids home and away from activities. When they do so, understandable as that is, they create the empty streets and other conditions that facilitate violence and also feed some of the alienation and lack of opportunity that lead to it.

We believe that the Province has put forward a strong position on handgun bans and has made clear the risks we all face because of laws that permit handguns to be stored in apartments and houses across the province. The Province has rightly emphasized that the problem is not just illegal guns, but the theft and misuse of legal ones as well.

We are not in a position to comment on whether there is room for the Province to act on this issue, given that Canada’s constitutional law reserves much of this jurisdiction to the federal government. We think, however, that the Province should look hard to see whether there is any room at all for action beyond calling for a response from a federal government that has been very clear that it will not provide one.

The City of Toronto, which shared some legal advice with us, has noted that Ontario has enacted legislation that supplements the firearms restrictions in the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act by regulating or prohibiting the sale of ammunition, deactivated firearms and imitation firearms to individuals under 18 years of age. The issue that intrigues us is whether there is scope to go any further, at least in relation to urban areas with recent records of gun violence.

The city also advised us of Quebec legislation, which as we wrote this was expected to come into force on or before September 1, 2008, prohibiting the possession of firearms in certain places (child care facilities, educational institutions and conveyances used for public transportation). This legislation includes special search-and-seizure powers. It also requires shooting clubs and ranges to have a provincial licence and imposes requirements respecting compliance with safety regulations and a register of users’ and members’ facilities usage. Anyone wishing to target shoot must be a member of a shooting club, meet the conditions for continued membership and obtain an attestation of competency in the safe use of firearms. Certain persons, including education institutions’ and shooting club staff, must report to the police any behaviour indicating that an individual may endanger the safety of the individual or another person by the use of a firearm.

We think the Province of Ontario should consider whether there is room to follow Quebec’s lead and perhaps go further in designated urban areas. This might involve exploring whether it is possible to require that handguns be stored at secure gun clubs or in public armories in those areas, or to permit the periodic inspection of private premises in which they are stored. Alternatively, the Province should consider whether the federal government can be asked to amend the federal legislation to allow the Province to impose these kinds of standards on the storage of firearms in specific geographic areas, such as large cities with records of gun violence.

In light of the seriousness of this situation, we urge the federal government to reconsider its position on refusing to ban handguns and, pending any change in the federal position, also urge the Province to explore every possible action it could take to exercise jurisdiction, or to seek jurisdiction to act, on this very serious issue.


Volume 1. Findings, Analysis and Conclusions

Volume 2. Executive Summary

Volume 3. Community Perspectives Report

Volume 4. Research Papers

Volume 5. Literature Reviews