You are hereSkip Navigation Links > Home > Professionals > Ontario's Youth Action Plan > Roots of Youth Violence > Volume 1 > Accountability, Planning, Advice and Recommendations

Review of the Roots of Youth Violence

Volume 1, Chapter 10:

Accountability, Planning, Advice and Recommendations


Introduction

In Chapter 9, we put forward a comprehensive, structural approach to the roots of violence involving youth based on four foundational pillars buttressed, as necessary, by a community strategy for individual interventions. That approach represents a significant challenge, reflecting the spread and depth of the roots we identified. It calls for a comprehensive and aligned set of initiatives, but recognizes that some will take time to implement. We are confident that all of the roots we have identified need to be addressed, but we certainly are not saying that they all can be addressed right away.

We commend the Premier for giving us a mandate to undertake a wide-ranging exploration of these roots. In calling for a “roots analysis” of the violence hitting the front pages, he avoided the kind of short-term, simplistic “just get tough and it will go away” response that others have used to avoid the fundamental issues at stake. He has opened a door that others have not, and has invited a frank and independent assessment of what needs to be done to address the underlying issues.

Having opened that door, the Premier may be receiving in our report some advice that may go further and deeper than originally contemplated. We are nonetheless confident that the same foresight and resolve that led him to request this work will lead him to take on the political and other challenges that lie ahead in implementing what we propose. This will put Ontario on the path to safety and opportunity from the crossroads we identified in Chapter 5 and avoid the long-term and potentially very serious consequences of failing to do so, which we also identified in that chapter.

In moving forward on our proposals, the Premier will be able to build on the enormous energy and goodwill of those who have been working on these issues for many years, and those who are ready and eager to do more if the opportunity is made available. Our work, although focusing on a more fundamental analysis than has often been done, did not begin in a vacuum. At the provincial and other levels of government, and in communities across this province, work has been underway on various aspects of this issue for a very long time, and many individuals have combined compassion with passion to produce significant benefits for their fellow citizens.

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

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

In this chapter, we start by outlining the fundamental need for measurement, accountability and planning to support our proposed approach, then go on to provide our advice and recommendations. We conclude the chapter with some comments indicating how our advice and recommendations can be put into effect.

The Need for Outcome Measurements

Underpinning all that we propose are four key needs: information, measurement, targets and reporting. Ontario is well past the point where “go forth and do good” is an acceptable approach to public or social policy of this magnitude. We must first know where we are going, how we will get there, how we will know whether we are making progress and how we will know when we have arrived.

For these reasons, our proposed youth policy framework (Pillar 2) calls not only for a shared vision and agreed-upon principles, but also for specific outcome goals in a number of areas ranging from poverty and racism to education, mental health and interactions with the justice system. The value of outcome goals is that they measure results achieved, rather than work done. This means, for example, that rather than measuring how many youth a program has served, we measure what difference the service made in their lives. Instead of measuring the number of health or education programs or the spending on them, we measure specific indicators of whether people are healthier or getting a better education.

Ontario has moved towards some use of outcome targets in recent years, and so the shift we propose is one of degree. But it is a significant degree: to define the Province’s overall approach to youth using the outcome goals we discussed in Pillar 2, supplemented, or perhaps in some instances supplanted, by others that may be identified in consultation with those working with youth. Other jurisdictions have outcome measures in these kinds of areas. We are confident that a collaborative effort with community agencies and some other governments could produce a good initial set of measures within a year.

These measures do not have to be complete or perfect in the first round. Indeed, we have been told that, in other jurisdictions, valuable progress was made even when the first set of outcome measures had to be selected by what data were available, rather than by what an ideal set of outcome indicators would be. In Ontario, some measures are available now, and it should be possible to develop other ones as the ministry planning exercise we discuss below proceeds.

The important thing is to shift the culture towards measuring outcomes. That culture shift, and the energy and synergies it will produce, will drive improvements in the nature and quality of the information available in many domains, allowing the indicators to be increased and made more sophisticated over time. This is an area where the pursuit of perfection should not stand in the way of effective and needed action.

Three Principles for the Use of Outcome Measures

While the outcome goals and the data available to measure them will be refined and improved over time, three core principles, which we touched on in Pillar 2, can be stated now with considerable confidence.

First, it is of critical importance in our context that, to the greatest extent possible, the outcome goals include floor targets and not just use averages. We heard a great deal about floor targets in England, where they have become a core part of governance. Essentially, a floor target sets a minimum acceptable level of attainment. It is how we as a society express our fundamental bottom lines.

An example of a floor target would be that no neighbourhood should have an obesity or diabetes rate more than a defined per cent above the provincial average, or that no school should have a graduation or literacy rate below a certain figure. Using floor targets avoids the reality that if an average is used, the target can be met by having the best-off improve their performance even if the worst-off make no progress at all or even fall further behind. Averages hide a myriad of policy and program sins, and they fundamentally fail to identify the neighbourhoods or institutions needing the most help. More significantly, when addressing the risks for violence, it is those who are doing the least well and losing hope as a result whom we must identify and on whom we must concentrate. We cannot do this if we are distracted by averages.

We note in this regard that floor targets can be set by neighbourhood or by institution, or both. Often, both may be needed. For example, looking at graduation rates by school tells you where to look to see if there are issues with how youth are being taught or treated when they get to school; but looking at those rates by neighbourhood tells you where there are issues in the home or community environments of those youth — in what they are bringing with them to school. This is particularly significant at the high school level, where youth from one neighbourhood often go to a number of different schools. Floor targets are therefore particularly useful in taking policy-makers to the place where the problems are being created, and not just where they surface. When we measure against this kind of standard, we immediately see where extra help must go.

Measuring by neighbourhood can also support the kind of resident engagement we have called for. For example, England now has a website known as “floor targets interactive” (http://www.fti.communities.gov.uk/fti/) where all residents can see where their community stands in relation to many of the national targets. Just by entering in their postal code they can select from a large number of domains or indicators, and with a click of their mouse bring up a chart showing how their area compares to the national targets. As importantly, they can see whether progress is being made from quarter to quarter and year to year, and can become involved in efforts to press for more action where such appears to be needed most. Putting this kind of information in the hands of residents is a key way to support their informed participation in governance.

This brings us to the second important principle in this area: the need to track racial and other relevant differences in the achievement of outcome goals so that we can identify and address systemic barriers and thereby ensure that all members of our society have a fair opportunity to fulfil their potential. For example, depending on the makeup of its student population, a school might meet its outcome target of, say, a 90-per-cent graduation rate even though only 70 per cent of its Aboriginal or Black students were graduating. Floor targets that measure attainment by relevant groups allow this kind of issue to be identified. This permits remedial measures to be targeted where they are most needed and allows the response to focus on the circumstances of those who need the most help, or particular kinds of help.

We called for the collection of race-based statistics in Pillar 1, and will not repeat that analysis. We do, however, want to stress how integral such information is to addressing key sources of low self-esteem and alienation.

The third principle for the use of outcome measures is that, whether measured by groups, institutions or neighbourhoods, the outcome goals should, wherever possible, be supplemented by a further commitment to reduce the gap between the most successful and the least. This gap-reduction approach is an integral part of Britain’s strategy for its disadvantaged neighbourhoods. In our context, which focuses on conditions that produce alienation, a lack of hope or opportunity or sense of belonging to society, our efforts to address these conditions will be challenged if we fail to reduce these gaps. 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.

The Need for Indicators to Track Outcome Goals

Once outcome goals and gap-reduction targets are set, the remaining issue is to set annual or sometimes two-to three-year targets for progress towards the goals and targets. This is a political exercise, involving as it does a series of financial commitments, which are more time-specific and for longer terms than governments usually make. Indicators are, however, essential to fine-tuning the strategy and to accountability and maintaining public support.

In an area where some goals may take a decade or more of sustained commitment to achieve, public support cannot be maintained if there are no regular benchmarks of progress: the public is not likely to be motivated by a long march to a distant goal. A series of interim targets, by contrast, provides an opportunity to work towards commitments that can be seen and felt in the short run, and thus helps motivate service providers and the public alike.

We note in this connection that the public’s approach to these kinds of benchmarks is often quite sophisticated. For example, even though Britain fell short of its first poverty reduction target, many observers gave the government high marks for having come close and for renewing its commitment to the next target, even as economic times became more challenging.

Within government, it is crucial to track progress against periodic indicators to determine whether matters are on track or need mid-course adjustments in policies or resourcing. In this connection, we were told in Britain that the challenges of meeting a public interim target on poverty reduction led to modifications of its poverty reduction strategy at a point where they could make an important difference to the second interim target. In that instance, the focus of the neighbourhoods strategy was shifted to more heavily emphasize employment. Had there been no interim targets, it is quite possible that valuable time would have been lost before the need for this kind of adjustment was identified.

As a result, published interim indicators seem to us to be crucial both to maintaining public confidence and to efficiently managing the initiatives in question.

Reporting and Accountability

It is vital that the outcome goals and interim indicators be public and well-communicated. But members of the public cannot be expected to be able to assess progress towards those goals without access to contextual and analytical information on the progress being made and any barriers being encountered.

For that reason, we proposed in Pillar 4 that the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion and Anti-Racism be mandated to prepare for publication regular progress reports on the outcome goals and indicators. These reports should be reviewed in advance with the Premier’s Advisory Council, also proposed in that pillar, to help ensure that they are meaningful for members of the public who will use them.

Reliance on Ministry Planning

As we noted in Chapter 1, the period from when our work got underway in late August 2007 to when we began to submit our report for translation and publishing in early July 2008 was only a little over 10 months. We set out in Chapter 2 how many people we saw and the amount and nature of the work we were able to accomplish. The balance of our report shows the range and the complexity of the issues with which we had to grapple to address our terms of reference.

We believe that the success of the strategy we propose will be best assured if it falls to the involved Ontario ministries to build specific and coordinated action plans based on the advice we were able to provide in the time available to us. We are comfortable in proceeding this way because, right from the start, we received very positive support from a significant number of deputy ministers. We at no time sensed a resistance to our broad directions nor to the kinds of specifics we were able to share as our work progressed.

We are confident that, given the leadership and alignment mechanisms set out in Pillar 4, Ontario’s ministries have the staff, the required background, the expertise — and the commitment — to turn our proposed directions and our advice into detailed plans, and to develop and achieve the kinds of outcome goals and indicators we have just outlined. We stress, however, that strong leadership and coordination by the secretariat proposed in Pillar 4 are essential. This is not a process that can succeed by having ministries work within their silos to interpret our advice and develop their own separate plans. The solutions must be as interconnected as the roots they seek to address.

We believe that, in this process, the secretariat and the ministries should work with other orders of government to the greatest extent possible. We nonetheless repeat our view that, important as that collaboration can be, efforts to obtain it should not delay provincial action when, as we have seen, action is badly needed. There is a clear need to favour productive action over protracted negotiations.

Ontario’s ministries should also bring key community agencies and funders to the table to ensure they have the best possible on-the-ground appreciation of the status quo and how to respond to it. In many areas, there are also individuals with great expertise on particular topics who should be brought in to help the ministry policy and operations teams prepare their plans. The issues are sufficiently complex and the needs so great that traditional silo-based approaches to planning should not be maintained.

Given that support and its own considerable expertise, we believe the government could approve and publish coordinated ministry plans by next summer. This timing permits at least the initial outcome indicators to be taken into account in this process. It also allows time for ministries to join up through public service agreements, as discussed in Pillar 4, to ensure the required collaboration. And it means that we would not go into another summer without a comprehensive plan in place to address the roots of violence involving youth.

Recommendations for the Premier

Introduction

As will be clear from the preceding chapters, our core conclusions are that:

The structures required to act on those conclusions can be defined with considerable confidence, having regard to experience elsewhere, our research and our consultations. We accordingly make specific recommendations at the structural level. At the level of individual programs or initiatives we generally offer advice rather than providing detailed recommendations. We take this approach because of the clear need for coordinated planning and close work with communities, agencies and other governments to determine the specifics of what needs to be done in each community across this highly diverse province to address the very serious issues we have surfaced.

Fundamentally, we strongly believe that, starting this fall, the Province must put at the heart of its overall agenda a sustained, aligned and structural response to the roots of violence involving youth, based on the four pillars we have proposed, and complemented by an effective community-based intervention strategy for youth who are already involved in, or perhaps on the verge of, serious violence. In summary, the four pillars are:

A repaired social context to make Ontario’s social context work for all Ontarians by addressing the roots of violence involving youth, including poverty, racism, poor housing, youth mental health, education, the need for supports for families and youth engagement, and issues arising in youth justice.

A youth policy framework to guide and coordinate policies and programs for youth by reference to developmental stages and outcome goals.

A neighbourhood capacity and empowerment focus to strengthen communities through initiatives such as schools as hubs, supporting resident engagement and stable funding for agencies that serve disadvantaged communities.

Integrated governance to drive and coordinate work across the Ontario government and to work effectively with the other orders of government and with the strengthened communities.

To build and maintain support for the needed action, we are also convinced that the Ontario government must implement an effective communications strategy to bring the main findings of our report to the attention of the public. It should focus on the serious risks of failing to act now to address the circumstances that are producing alienation, a lack of hope and belonging and the other conditions we have identified as being the immediate risk factors for serious, explosive and unpredictable violence involving youth.

Structural Recommendations

  1. The Ontario government must immediately put in place a governance structure that can align and sustain over the long haul the work required from a dozen or more ministries, and at the same time can also support effective collaborative work with other orders of government and with communities.
  2. The governance structure should be headed by a Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion and Anti-Racism, or a central body with equivalent authority, with a clear mandate to develop a corporate agenda, approve coordinated work plans for ministries, monitor progress and report regularly to the public against published indicators of progress.
  3. The committee should be supported by a dedicated secretariat within Cabinet Office to provide policy advice and oversee, on the committee’s behalf, the work by ministries to produce and implement coordinated plans to effectively address the roots we have identified. The secretariat should also have a research capacity to identify emerging needs and responsibility for monitoring the effectiveness of the structural initiatives established to advance this agenda.
  4. The Cabinet committee should meet periodically with a small number of external associate members, who would bring relevant experience and expertise to its deliberations, and should be supported by a Premier’s Advisory Council on Social Inclusion and Anti-Racism to ensure that a variety of perspectives, including those of youth, informs the work of the committee on an ongoing basis.
  5. Internal alignment mechanisms should be put in place to ensure sustained and coordinated progress at the provincial level, including performance agreements for senior officials, impact analyses, public reporting, public sector agreements among ministries and a number of cross-ministry units.
  6. The Province should create a comprehensive youth policy framework for Ontario to provide overall direction for the myriad of programs affecting youth. The framework should be developed in consultation with communities, youth and service providers and should include a vision, a set of principles and a series of specific outcome indicators to align programs to meet common goals and to measure whether progress is being made over time.
  7. The Province should adopt the place-based approach we have outlined, in which a pivotal although not exclusive focus is placed on addressing the roots of violence involving youth by working within and with the neighbourhoods where those roots are concentrated and where they are producing a downward cycle of disadvantage and violence.
  8. To identify the neighbourhoods for the place-based approach, the Province should employ the Index of Relative Disadvantage we have proposed to determine on a provincewide basis the areas where disadvantage is most concentrated. Once the index results are available, the Province, through a lead ministry for community building, should immediately open discussions with the affected municipalities to identify local factors, such as the availability of services, for inclusion in the determination of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods and to define the boundaries of such neighbourhoods.
  9. Within the identified disadvantaged neighbourhoods, the Province should support and ensure the funding of the following structural initiatives:
    • Community hubs to provide space for community activities, including for meetings, recreation and the arts, and service providers. Wherever possible, these hubs should be based in or near schools.
    • Full access to schools for community activities and services, by having a body with facilities management and program experience lease the premises in school off-hours and engage with the community to identify priorities for the use of the space.
    • A Neighbourhood Strategic Partnership (NSP) to bring together the Province, other governments, community residents and service providers. The NSP would provide a forum for collaboration to develop and help implement a local plan to address the roots of violence as they manifest themselves in each disadvantaged community.
    • An arm’s-length funding board to support local initiatives to bring residents together to form networks of mutual assistance and community involvement, to plan the use of the hub and to participate in governance initiatives through the NSP, and also at least one youth-led organization to engage and serve youth based on local needs and priorities.
    • A local coordinating body to help improve access to the services offered in the neighbourhood and to move towards better coordination amongst them.
  10. With particular reference to the disadvantaged neighbourhoods, the Province should engage with community-serving agencies to develop a mechanism to provide streamlined and stable funding, and continuity of service, for agencies meeting key community needs.
  11. The Province should, by the summer of 2009, prepare and publish an integrated plan setting out how ministries, and combinations of them, will work at the provincial and at the local levels to address the roots we have identified.
  12. The Province should commit to measuring and publishing progress towards defined outcome goals as a central part of its approach to the roots agenda. To the greatest extent possible, the outcome goals should include minimum standards of achievement, a level below which no institution or community should fall (known elsewhere as “floor targets”). Progress towards those targets should be tracked by racial and other relevant differences.

Advice on Specific Initiatives to Address the Roots

Our report also offers extensive advice on how to respond to each of the roots we have identified. We primarily frame this as advice rather than as detailed recommendations because we believe that the most effective actions arising from our findings will be those taken with a full understanding of the capacities of Ontario’s ministries and their potential to work outside their silos, of the issues they are already pursuing, of the realities on the ground across the province, of the competing priorities, and also with the kind of engagement of other governments, experts and communities that was outside our mandate and time frame.

In our view, only an integrated and collaborative approach to the roots will succeed. That is why we propose a body at the centre of government with the mandate and resources to consider our advice, situate it within the context of the balance of the government’s agenda, determine priorities, make linkages among ministries and with other governments and manage a process of both building and being responsive to communities across the province. Only this kind of body and approach will be able to produce a coherent, long-range plan for the province capable of effectively responding to the intertwined and entrenched nature of the many roots we identified. This need not be a lengthy exercise: given a major focus by the ministries and with the leadership structure we propose, we believe that the planning exercise can be completed and the coordinated plans made public by the summer of 2009.

For ease of reference, we list below the major areas where we call for action and set out brief examples of the advice we have provided in our report, along with a reference to where our full advice can be found. Although these issues are presented individually, for ease of reference, actions to address them must be fully integrated if they are to be effective. To give but one example: providing a youth with even the best mentor will accomplish little if that youth goes home every day to a dysfunctional family and to cramped, substandard and depressing living conditions, attends a school that discourages their achievement, has an unaddressed mental health condition or lives in a neighbourhood where there is nothing to do but hang around aimlessly or get involved in anti-social activities.

  1. The Province must address the level of poverty in Ontario, its concentrations and the many invidious circumstances that accompany it. In addition to reducing the level of poverty, this should include promoting economic integration by ensuring that there is affordable, good-quality housing in many different neighbourhoods and by substantially improving and diversifying the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods so that people do not leave as soon as their economic circumstances permit. Among other initiatives we outline, it should also include ensuring that high-quality services, recreational and arts facilities, parks and schools are available to those who are the most disadvantaged, and that neighbourhoods are safe. Overall, where people live should not itself produce the immediate risk factors for their being involved in violence. (pages 229–238)
  2. The Province must articulate more effectively its commitment to anti-racism and should address this urgent issue as a major priority in its response to our report. As a key anchor for other initiatives, we suggest that the Province should require all ministries and public sector agencies to develop and publish a specific anti-racism plan with measurable objectives and timelines. (pages 238–245)
  3. The Province must take steps to bring youth mental health out of the shadows. The Province should enhance prevention through programs that promote health, engagement and activity for youth. It should also provide locally available mental health services that afford early identification and treatment for children and youth in the context of their families and schools, that are culturally appropriate and that are integrated with the community hubs we propose. (pages 246–247)
  4. The Province must remove the barriers and disincentives to education that exist for many children and youth. We suggest a number of ways in which this can be done, including by ensuring that teachers and administrators better reflect the neighbourhoods they serve, developing and providing a curriculum that is racially and culturally inclusive, addressing the continuing concerns about the safe schools provisions, better connecting schools to families and communities and providing ongoing educational and mentoring supports and incentives to encourage students to remain in school, engage in learning and seek further education, especially in priority neighbourhoods. (pages 248–251)
  5. The Province must implement local, integrated, culturally specific services for families of all forms. Our advice is that supports to families should begin with prenatal care and should include creative outreach to early-years programs and the new all-day learning initiative for four- and five-year-olds. Services for children and their families should be fully integrated, and particular attention should be given to youth who do not have, or do not live with, families. After-school programs should be available from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. to promote good nutrition and positive activity, and to help keep youth off the streets in what many consider to be prime time for crime. Among other initiatives, the Province should also implement programs to familiarize families, including new settlers, with and connect them to community structures and supports. (pages 251–256)
  6. The Province must increase the supply of decent, affordable housing units, diversify their locations and improve standards within both public and private accommodation. This should be accompanied by measures to improve transportation services for disadvantaged areas and ensure that the physical environment does not promote crime, but instead provides safe and welcoming places for gathering and play. Community markets and other ways of fostering cohesion should also be facilitated, and stores and businesses should be brought back to neighbourhoods that lack them. (pages 256–257)
  7. The Province must recognize the value of sports and arts in supporting learning, development and creativity of youth. The Province should work with municipalities, school boards and community agencies to remove barriers that include income level, transportation and a lack of usable space. The Province should move to immediately embed accessible sports and arts programs in the priority neighbourhoods. (pages 257–260)
  8. The Province must work actively with communities and agencies to assist every child and youth to have access to at least one adult who provides nurturing and support, and towards providing youth with a voice in matters that affect them. Among other initiatives to support youth engagement, the Province should put in place training, standards and supports for mentors across the province, and all sectors working with youth should adopt meaningful and sustained measures to include the youth voice in their governance structures. (pages 260–262)
  9. The Province must support the contribution of youth workers to initiatives that address the roots of violence involving youth. The Province should recognize that youth workers bridge the divide between youth and their communities and schools, provide counselling and connectivity to the most disadvantaged youth and serve as role models, especially when they are from the same neighbourhoods or share similar circumstances. (pages 262–263)
  10. The Province must work with and encourage the private sector to create meaningful, long-term employment opportunities for youth. The Province should adopt a broad strategy to prepare youth for work and to help marginalized youth obtain and maintain it. The private sector should examine barriers to opportunity and employment of youth and work with the Province to shape holistic programs that provide learning opportunities leading to meaningful sustained employment and leadership development opportunities for youth. (pages 263–267)
  11. The Province must bring coordination to the three ministries that operate parts of the youth justice system, ensure an overall policy focus and support a more balanced approach to resourcing by establishing a Youth Justice Advisory Board. The Province should also take steps to reduce the over-criminalization of Ontario youth compared with those in other large jurisdictions, and to reduce the ways in which the powers of the justice system can be misused to produce alienation, a lack of hope or opportunity and other immediate risk factors for violence. Overall, all parts of the justice system need to adopt a more strategic approach to youth. (pages 267–289)

Related Advice

  1. To complement the roots strategy we have put forward, the Province should adopt a community-focused strategy to enhance its capacity to successfully intervene with, treat and reintegrate those youth who have committed acts of violence or have a propensity to do so. This strategy should, to the greatest possible extent, rely on initiatives that have been proven to work in similar contexts.
  2. To reduce the risk of serious violence where those interventions have not been made or have not succeeded, the Province should continue to press the federal government to implement a handgun ban in Ontario, and should also explore every feasible initiative it might take itself to minimize the risks while the federal government continues to permit these guns in Ontario apartments and homes.
  3. Having regard to the practical and jurisdictional reasons why our review did not seek to study violence within First Nations in Ontario, the Province should meet with First Nations leaders to consider the potential applicability of our advice to those communities and to consider whether a specific additional review concerning them is warranted.
  4. Pending those discussions, the Province should act immediately to ensure that programs and safeguards are in place for children from First Nations communities who must move away from home to attend high school and to ensure that services are available to families who relocate to be with their children.

Perspectives on Implementation

As discussed earlier in our report, we believe that a comprehensive and coordinated plan is essential to make progress on the roots, considering their number, complexity and interconnections.

In that respect, we have provided a broad and multi-faceted framework to address the roots of violence involving youth. We appreciate, however, that our report is being submitted at a point in time when the Province faces economic challenges, when it must deal with multiple priorities, and when its flexibility to immediately implement a bold reform agenda will face limits. We similarly understand that the government, working with its partners, will be best placed to determine the optimal timing and sequencing for the recommendations that we have put forward.

While we are mindful of these constraints, we also believe that the government must respond proactively to implement the advice that we have provided. In general terms, it is our view that the Province can make substantial progress towards preparing its integrated plan by next summer. Within this context, and based on our discussions with stakeholders, we offer the following views on how some of our key recommendations could be advanced.

Recommendations for Priority Implementation

We believe that there are three key areas where progress can and should be made independently of the government’s overall planning process, in addition to the early action that we hope will follow release of the report of the Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction later this year. We accordingly make three further recommendations to the Premier for urgent action in the following areas:

  1. Children’s Mental Health: This issue affects many aspects of the roots: the stability of families and the ability of parents to work and parent, how youth develop with their peers, how they do in school, how they interact with the justice system and their life chances overall. We believe that one or more associations with expertise in youth mental health should be retained immediately to prepare a plan for universal, community-based access to mental health services for children and youth for the earliest possible implementation. They should also prepare plans for all interim investments that are feasible within the limits of the available professional expertise in Ontario. In a province with a health budget of $40 billion and a youth incarceration budget of $163 million, we believe that the $200-million estimate of the cost of providing universal youth mental health services is manageable within this government’s mandate.
  2. Anti-Racism: It is tragic — not ironic — that 30 years ago this November, Walter Pitman entitled his report on police minority relations: Now Is Not Too Late. Since that time, 30 separate groups of five-or six-year-old children have started Grade 1 and many have gone through their school years without seeing sustained progress on these issues. For many of them, now is too late — their lives marred, their futures circumscribed and their faith in this society quite justifiably shaken. And many of them are the parents of children in the system now, with little reason and sometimes no ability to instil hope in those children.

    To lay the foundation for the extensive action required to address this growing problem, the Province should proceed immediately to develop the methodology for the collection of race-based data in all key domains. As well, to ensure that action is underway before the summer of 2009 to address the pressing issues that arise in police-minority relations in a number of neighbourhoods, we believe the provincial funds that we propose for youth-police liaison committees and for front-line officer training programs should be put in place as quickly as possible.

    Additionally, the Province should take immediate steps to put in place measures that will ensure that teachers and school administrators better reflect the neighbourhoods they serve.

  3. Steps Towards Community Hubs: There is an overwhelming consensus in favour of building community hubs and, accordingly, no reason to delay action on that front. In neighbourhoods where it is clear that the Index of Relative Disadvantage will demonstrate a high level of disadvantage, or where similar methodologies have already done so, the Province should promptly initiate discussions with the municipal governments, to begin to plan for a hub if none exists and in particular to determine the availability of recreational and arts facilities. Where the latter facilities are lacking, the Province should work actively with the Ontario Realty Corporation and the municipality to lease alternative space for youth and youth services until a hub is developed. Another winter and spring should not go by in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods with there being no safe place for youth to gather and play.

Short-term Building Blocks

In addition to the three areas that we have just canvassed, we believe that the government’s implementation priorities in the short term must focus on putting a number of key building blocks into place, upon which the success of our advice will ultimately depend. The actions in question are set out below:

In the case of the first two items, the Province must move quickly to put in place the necessary governance structures. In the case of the other recommendations, and subject to discussions with municipal governments and community groups, we believe that substantial progress could be achieved within six months.

Short to Medium-term Initiatives

We believe the Province must also work to make steady progress on the following components of our strategy and appreciate that several will require more in depth consultations among ministries and with municipal governments, agencies and community groups.

Towards Full Implementation

We believe that, assuming good progress is made on the building blocks and other initiatives, other key components of our strategy, listed below, would then fall into place. While the availability of resources and the need to consult with partners will dictate the pace and timing of implementation, we believe that some work can occur to advance these objectives within the first year.

As we have noted, the roots we have identified will require sustained and aligned attention over the long haul. The government’s plans will provide the details of how it proposes to approach that task. For our part, we strongly believe that whatever those plans may be, the government should continue to engage and involve the public in this endeavour through regular and highly accessible public reporting of progress based on published outcome goals and interim indicators in all key areas.

Conclusion

Although we now formally conclude our work on this report, we emphasize that our commitment to the issues it addresses did not start when the Premier asked us to undertake this review, and it will not end with the submission of this report. Whether in official capacities, if the Premier wishes, or as private citizens, we will continue to be active participants and willing partners in the work that must be done to ensure all youth in this very rich province lead safe, healthy lives in healthy families and healthy communities.


Contents

Volume 1. Findings, Analysis and Conclusions

Volume 2. Executive Summary

Volume 3. Community Perspectives Report

Volume 4. Research Papers

Volume 5. Literature Reviews