Review of the Roots of Youth Violence:
Community Perspectives Report

Volume 3: Section 2: Neighbourhood Insight Sessions

Final Report

January 2008

Submitted to:
Review of the Roots of Youth Violence Secretariat

Submitted by:
Anjana Dooling &Nicole Swerhun

I’ve been told that I’m gifted
Free spoken and different
Though those in authority see a weed smoking delinquent
I got into hip-hop around the age of ten
Nobody knew that I’d never be the same again
Attended class
Teachers tried to cage me in
No entertainment as a youth so I played with a pen
Became a Poetic Prodigy
Constantly advancing like technology
But this life of Poverty
Had me turning to drugs and robbery
People tried to talk to me
And convince me to do it properly
But I was tired of hypocritical political policies
Man of the house at sixteen
I couldn’t save my allowance
So I hustled
And let my Future hang in the balance I
did what I had to do
Never was a bad dude
Went to school
Failed in the classroom
But made sales in the bathroom
Then I thought – damn
If I can Slaughter the language
Why shouldn’t I use my voice to make some positive
See, I believe everybody from the gutter
Has got a little bit of good in ’em
And everybody that’s got it good Has
got a little bit of the ’hood in ’em It doesn’t matter if it’s East Hamilton or Toronto
The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow.

Mike Goodale
McQueston Neighbourhood, Hamilton

A note on this report...

This report was written by Anjana Dooling and Nicole Swerhun, independent consultants retained by the Review of the Roots of Youth Violence in October 2007 to support the design and lead the implementation of the Neighbourhood Insights Sessions (NIS). It is intended to reflect a synthesis of the feedback and advice received from the eight neighbourhoods visited as part of the NIS process, and is based directly on the individual reports written by the facilitators retained to lead the insight-collection in each neighbourhood. A draft of this report was sent to participants in the Neighbourhood Insight Sessions for their review prior to being finalized.

The facilitators are an incredibly capable, passionate, professional and locally connected group: Waqar Khan and Nneka Perry (Kingston-Galloway, Toronto), Moffat Makuto (Fort William, Thunder Bay), Orville Wallace (Jane and Finch, Toronto), Wayne Robinson (McQueston, Hamilton), Ali Abdullahi (Jamestown, Toronto), Joshua Dills and Pat Howarth (Downtown Market, Kitchener Waterloo), Kaje Johnson and Leyland Gudge (Steeles-L’Amoureaux, Toronto), and Dave Farthing (Pinecrest-Queensway, Ottawa).

More than 400 youth and adults contributed their feedback and perspectives to the Neighbourhood Insight Sessions. From this large group, the facilitators invited approximately 15 people from each neighbourhood to smaller in-person meetings with the Review Co-Chairs to represent their neighbourhoods’ views on the questions outlined in the Discussion Guide (see page 3). This report is a synthesis of all the feedback received (i.e., from the 400+ participants), and not only the 15 people involved in the Co-Chairs’ meetings.

Lastly, we wanted to say that we consider it an important gift when people share their experiences and perspectives through processes like this, and we can’t overstate how much we appreciate that so many people gave the Review, the facilitators, and us enough benefit of the doubt to be a part of this work. It was a privilege to meet and work with you.

If you have any questions or comments on this report, please feel free to contact us: Nicole Swerhun ( or 416-999-2665) or Anjana Dooling ( or 519-927-0572).

Anjana and Nicole


In June 2007, the Premier of Ontario asked Roy McMurtry and Alvin Curling to lead a Review of the Roots of Youth Violence. Their task was to identify and analyze the underlying factors contributing to violence involving youth, and to provide recommendations to help Ontario become a better province for all of its youth and communities.

The Co-Chairs have shared their belief that lasting change will be built on the shared experiences, insights and wisdom of youth and others. As a result, one key component of the Review’s work involved learning from people whose daily lives are affected by violence involving youth. To facilitate this learning, eight neighbourhoods were visited, four in Toronto and one in each of Hamilton, Thunder Bay, Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa. More than 400 people were involved, including a mix of youth (in school, out of school, single parents, homeless, involved in gangs, employed, unemployed, and with or without experience in the criminal justice system) and adults (parents, teachers, parole officers, police, elected officials, social service agencies, and others).

This report documents the feedback and advice received. In summary, here’s what we heard:

We know that a one-page summary can help provide a quick understanding of a report, but in this case we thought three more pages summarizing key messages from the Neighbourhood Insight Sessions would also be helpful. The following pages address key messages in the following theme areas:

The Review process

The violence involving youth

What to do about it

Key Messages

...About the Review Process

1. People were wary about participating in the Neighbourhood Insight Session process and contributing to the work of the Review of the Roots of Youth Violence.

Several of the people who were approached to participate in this process said that they’ve been asked questions related to youth violence and community safety before, have given their advice to governments before, and still they don’t see anything happening. They’re tired of people dropping in on their communities to help and then not delivering what they say they will. The people who come to help don’t live where they live. Their friends aren’t being shot. Despite these sentiments, many people did participate. Many said they were prepared to put their hopes on the line one more time, in large part because of the credibility of the Review Co-Chairs, Roy McMurtry and Alvin Curling.

2. It’s not just the Review’s credibility on the line — it’s everyone’s who was involved.

When the Review sought feedback — particularly in local neighbourhoods — an expectation was created that the Review intends to do something with the feedback and advice provided by the neighbourhood. If nothing happens, it’s not only the credibility of the Review that’s at stake, but also the personal relationships and trust that were developed by the facilitators, youth leaders, and others who encouraged people to participate in this process. It’s critical that the community sees itself in the recommendations of the Review, and that the government encourages and resources communities to act on those recommendations.

3. The Review needs to build on the work already done on the factors that contribute to violence involving youth.

Participants in the process referenced previous consultations — some going all the way back to the 1992 Report on Racism in Ontario by Stephen Lewis — and many others referred to more recent work of organizations like the United Way, the City of Toronto, and the Toronto District School Board. There are many good recommendations already out there, and it’s critical that the Review’s work consider and build on them.

4. Take the time to do it right.

Understanding communities takes time. There were many participants who went out of their way to accommodate the tight schedule of the Review — some happily, some reluctantly. Some who were reluctant, or chose not to participate at all, said that the condensed timeline of the Review’s work perpetuated the disrespect that they feel governments and policy-makers often show communities. That being said, many people said they were encouraged by the Review’s decision to hire local youth as facilitators to engage the community in providing feedback to the Review, seek at least as much participation by youth as by adults, reach out to the hardest-to-reach youth, provide honoraria to youth participants, and provide the flexibility to facilitators to refine their approach to best meet their neighbourhood’s needs.

5. Please follow through and keep neighbourhoods involved.

People repeatedly asked for the Review to return to their communities with the recommendations and the resources to make them happen. And if the recommendations can’t be implemented all at once, that’s fine. Just explain why, and engage communities in making things happen — incrementally.

...About Violence Involving Youth

When asked about the roots of violence involving youth, people emphasized the importance of not stigmatizing youth as perpetrators of violence — many, many more youth are victims.

There were several common themes to people’s descriptions of the roots of violence involving youth. Some of the most frequently identified roots of violence involving youth included:

1. Living without much money — poverty.

When families don’t have much money, parents work long hours to make ends meet, and often don’t have a lot of time to spend at home. A limited budget forces tough choices between food, bus tickets, new shoes, or after-school recreation programs. Rent is a big expense, even in buildings that are decaying, moldy, roach- or rat-infested, and badly in need of repairs. It’s frustrating, and can be embarrassing and dangerous, to live in run-down, neglected places. Family relationships can become strained.

2. The systems designed to help youth “get ahead” often discriminate.

Many youth want to earn money, but because they’re young, or lack skills, or have the wrong address, or have the wrong skin colour, or are more ambitious than what they see as dead-end jobs can offer, it’s hard to find work. At the same time, post-secondary education can seem like an unattainable financial goal, and even less of an option if your teacher has already streamed you onto a technical or vocational path that doesn’t lead to college or university.

3. Good local programming is sometimes not available or accessible, usually not sustainable, and role models and mentors can be hard to find.

Successful community-based programs are too often supported by short-term funding and contract workers who work hard to engage youth, and then disappoint and disillusion because they disappear. Many programs that do exist are not relevant to youth and/or aren’t accessible because of fees, location, lack of transit, and because turf issues make it unsafe to leave the neighbourhood, even to travel to programming.

4. Violence is all around, and becomes an easy option.

Violence is all around youth as a way to resolve disputes — bullying, police raids, movies and television, domestic violence, war. It’s come to the point where some youth said they’d rather shoot someone than risk being beaten up, losing face or being embarrassed. Safety and belonging comes in numbers, and joining a gang for protection is an option. It’s also a way to make money selling drugs. Doing drugs becomes a way to self-medicate deal with a youth’s vision of a hopeless future. All this in a society that more and more defines your success by your material things — BLING.

5. And then when young persons make mistakes — at school or in the community — the system abandons them.

This approach is the opposite of what many communities say is needed. Being kicked out of school or put in jail takes away the supports, skills development and encouragement needed to put and keep young people on a positive track.

...About What Needs to be Done

It’s time to act! Participants at all of the Neighbourhood Insight Sessions expressed frustration with the inaction on the part of government in responding to community needs. The provincial government needs to:

I. An Overview of the Process

In June 2007, the Premier of Ontario asked Roy McMurtry and Alvin Curling to lead a Review of the Roots of Youth Violence. Their task was to identify and analyze the underlying factors contributing to violence involving youth, and to provide recommendations to help Ontario become a better province for all of its youth and communities.

The Co-Chairs believe that lasting change will be built on the shared experiences, insights and wisdom of youth and others. As a result, one key component of the Review’s work involved holding a series of Neighbourhood Insight Sessions to learn from people whose daily lives are affected by violence involving youth. The other two key components of the Review’s work were:


The Co-Chairs’ objectives for the Neighbourhood Insight Sessions were to gain a better understanding of:


Designing the approach to implementing the Neighbourhood Insight Sessions was a combined effort of the Review and the consultants retained to support the design and implementation of the sessions: Nicole Swerhun and Anjana Dooling. Anjana and Nicole also sought advice, informally, from a number of youth with experience leading youth-led, youth-serving organizations in Toronto.

The Review established the following criteria for the design of the process:

The Neighbourhoods

The Review selected eight neigbourhoods for visits:

In selecting these neighbourhoods, the Review was striving to learn from areas located both inside and outside Toronto that have different experiences with violence involving youth, that are at different stages in responding to issues related to violence involving youth and using different approaches, and where youth facilitators had the credibility, knowledge, and networks required to complete the work within tight timelines.

Terms of Reference and Discussion Guide

Guided by the Review’s objectives for the Neighbourhood Insight Sessions and the logistics of delivering the work, Nicole Swerhun and Anjana Dooling developed Terms of Reference for the process in collaboration with the Review of the Roots of Youth Violence Secretariat and a Discussion Guide for distribution to participants.

The discussion questions in the Guide asked participants the following questions:

  1. Describe the violence involving youth in your neighbourhood. What impact is it having?
  2. What do you see as the roots of violence involving youth?
  3. Tell us about what’s happening in your neighbourhood to help address violence involving youth. What’s working? Why?
  4. What isn’t working? Why?
  5. What are the two or three most important things that could be done to address violence involving youth in your neighbourhood?
  6. Describe the capacity that already exists in your neighbourhood to address violence involving youth (e.g., people, knowledge, programs, other resources that the community already has). What additional supports would help existing and proposed activities succeed?
  7. Beyond what can be accomplished locally in your neighbourhood, what do you think can be done across the province to address violence involving youth?
  8. Do you have any other advice for the Review?


Participants in the process included the team of facilitators contracted to lead the discussion in each neighbourhood, and the 50 people (on average) they each connected with to seek feedback and advice. In total, more than 400 participants were involved (see Participant List in Appendix).

The participants all lived and/or worked in the eight neighbourhoods. The youth included were in school, out of school, single parents, homeless, involved in gangs, employed, unemployed, and with or without experience in the criminal justice system. The adults included parents, teachers, parole officers, police, elected officials, social service agencies, and others.

II. Violence Involving Youth

There are many types of violence involving youth. Most of the time, youth are victims; some of the time, they are perpetrators.

“I’ve seen mothers come from war zones and go back to war zones because they don’t want their kids to be here.”

Jamestown meeting

The summary below describes what we heard about the violence experienced in the eight communities we visited (listed in no particular order). It is meant to illustrate the range of experience we heard about. Not all communities experienced the same types of violence and not all the violence we heard about is `prevalent in all communities.

III. Impact &Consequences Of The Violence

In talking to communities about the violence involving youth, the line between the roots and the impact was often blurred. It quickly became clear that this was the case because many of the impacts of violence eventually become roots of more violence and a negative cycle is created. The consequences of violence, described below, are felt by youth, communities and our society as a whole.

“I hear sirens like nursery rhymes;
if you don’t hear them something is wrong.”

Jane-Finch meeting

IV. The Roots

What are the roots of violence involving youth? It’s complicated. Not all reasons fit all situations, and discussions in different neighbourhoods focused on different things. But the key messages were clear. Every neighbourhood we visited traced violence involving youth back to the basics — the experiences youth have growing up in their communities.

“Poverty is not about geography because it can happen anywhere. When we as community members enrich the experiences of youth — culturally and educationally — then we really get at the problems.”

Ottawa meeting

a. Having little or no money

Many people talked about poverty being a root of violence involving youth.

Poverty is linked to violence involving youth in many ways.

b. Not all youth are treated equally

Systems are supposed to be in place to level the playing field. Systems — especially employment and school — are set up for everyone to access, but youth often can’t access employment because of their skin colour, address, age and lack of experience, or because they have made mistakes and have been in trouble with the law. In school, they’re streamed in a particular direction based on preconceived notions of their capabilities. Many people told us that they see discrimination present in many systems, institutions and programs that have an impact on youth.

c. Lack of supports and people who care

Most people agreed that parents are perhaps the most important role models for young people, and that they need to spend more time at home with their families. For many youth, however, parents are not able to be effective role models or mentors because of many competing demands or because they have their own problems that they are unable to address.

Violence at home sets the standard of behaviour for youth.

If youth are seeing domestic Violence or other violent behaviours in the home, and parents are the only mentor/role models they have, they will learn that violence is acceptable, a way of life, a way to resolve conflict, and they will use violence to solve their conflicts outside the home, too.

If they don’t or can’t see their parents as role models, youth turn to others in the community in the hope that someone else will fill that empty space. But for many youth, the only people they have to turn to for support are perhaps the worst role models of all.

When youth seek other role models to rely on, disappointment can be found in every direction.

who should be there
to mentor youth and guide
them through challenges, but who
very often don’t look like the youth,
don’t seem to relate to youth
or care about youth, and who
seem to stereotype them.
who are good kids,
but who may be turning
to violence or crime to get
themselves out of their situation.
Peer pressure is very powerful, and
to have a sense of belonging, youth
might do something they
later regret.
that youth see as
successful because they have
money and respect. Maybe they are a
bit like youth and they seem to
understand where they come from. They
offer youth support, safety, money,
a sense of belonging
and youth go to them because they don’t
know where else to turn. But when
youth realize it isn’t the life they
want, it’s hard to get out.
Police officers...
who should be there
to protect youth, to keep them
safe, to take care of the community.
Instead, they are only there when a crime
happens, and they’re suspicious of youth.
They harass youth for hanging around the
neighbourhood. They don’t respect them.
Youth are afraid of them and do
not trust them.
Television and other media...
that glorify gangsters, mobsters,
and criminals and show youth role
models who are famous and wealthy.
Youth look up to sports and music stars
and actors who are successful. But
youth eventually find out that their
chances of living that life
are slim.
Youth workers...
who relate to youth and
support youth in the way they
need, but as soon as youth start to
trust them they are gone from
the neigbourhood because their
funding was cut and there
was no money to
pay them.

d. Mental health

“When a kid dies in school they send a crisis worker but we had the biggest police raid a while ago and families and people were traumatized but there were no crisis workers. [The raid got reported] in the media but the damage done by cops was not reported on.”

Jamestown meeting

Mental health and coping with stress are very serious issues among the youth population. A young person’s mental health and his or her self-image can be dramatically affected by violence. In many cases, it is shaped entirely by that violence, and through the images and messages they internalize because of their experience of poverty, discrimination, and marginalization. Most youth don’t know how to cope with these issues, and either don’t have access or are too embarrassed to access resources to help them. Some deal with issues on their own — through violence, substance abuse, gang involvement and other criminal activities. Many are in total isolation from society, and they become criminalized and even further marginalized and harder to reach.

e. Having things to do, being engaged

“There are no funds to engage the youth that most need it; 90% of the time the funds do not to trickle down to the youth that really need it.”


f. Youth see violence as a way to solve problems

Many youth see violence as part of their lives from the time they are very young. Domestic violence, violence in the media and on TV, violent clashes in school and with police become the norm for resolving conflicts. Everywhere youth look, they see that violence is solved by violence, and fear, intimidation, and violence become the only tools that many young people can use to gain power, respect or recognition, or to solve their own conflicts.

g. When youth get in trouble, the system abandons them

“Tougher sentences are a finishing school to make better criminals.”

Thunder Bay

When violence leads youth to be expelled from school, or transferred to the criminal justice system, they often feel that it is just another institution that does not care about them or believe in their future. The systems created to support them very often abandon and marginalize youth, when they most need respect, education, support and skills development to gain a second chance.

h. No hope

Youth lose hope because of the many factors outlined above that work against them. The following is an attempt to illustrate the path of many youth who find themselves hopeless in the face of many, many challenges. While it is not directly quoted from the youth consulted, it is an amalgamation of the many voices heard during the Neighbourhood Insights Session.

A cycle of poverty

What’s the use of me working hard when I see my parents doing it and they don’t get ahead?

I’m embarrassed and ashamed about where I live but we can’t get out of social housing.

I’m told I need all these material things but I can’t afford to buy them.

I want to go to school but know I won’t be able to afford it.

The only job I can get is at a fast-food place and for minimum wage.

I might as well deal drugs because I can make more money.

It’s easier to deal drugs, get a gun and be a thug than it is to get a decent paying job.

Why bother trying when I know I won’t succeed?

Isolation, stigmatization, marginalization

I am discriminated against by school, police, employers, media, all systems that have an impact on me.

I have no one who really cares for me, who listens to me, who I can trust and turn to when I have a problem.

My teachers tell me I can’t go to university and push me out of academics.

My youth worker, the one person I trusted, no longer works in my neighbourhood.

Police harass me and think I am up to no good.

The only thing people know about me and where I come from is violence and criminals.

No one believes I have any potential.

I am alone in the world.

Systems are broken

My mom can’t make enough money to support us and there is no support from anywhere else.

I need help but I have to go to six different places to find it and I don’t fit with any of them.

I can’t get a job because I have a criminal record.

There are no services in our neighbourhood and the one community centre costs money and is too far away.

The one program I loved and that was good for me got cut last year.

I am powerless to make anything better.

Politicians and people in power cannot be trusted

They keep coming back and asking me what to do and tell me it will change and then it doesn’t.

They produce reports that no one reads.

They are not accountable to my community and don’t really care about what we need.

Nothing ever changes.

V. What To Do About It

Participants in the Neighbourhood Insight Sessions spoke again and again about the need to create communities where youth are, and feel, valued; where they get respect and have a sense of belonging. They also talked about the need to build a feeling of trust in each other, in communities, and in institutions, and the need to treat the community like a family.

“Putting the money in the right hands makes a huge difference. We tend to put it into the wrongs hands of huge institutions, but in terms of reaching the hard-to-reach, the money is better used by quickly moving, adaptable, grassroots organizations who can make a difference immediately.”

Kitchener meeting

They said that Band-Aid solutions are not the answer. Addressing the roots of violence involving youth requires a dedicated, long-term, well-resourced effort on the part of the provincial government, communities and others, that recognizes the value of community action and supports it. It also requires making improvements to the larger systems — like education, housing, employment, recreation, criminal justice, and other services supporting communities.

They also said that, most importantly, addressing the roots of violence involving youth requires putting words into action — collaborative, sustainable, creative, asset-based action.

1. Recognize the value of communityaction, and support it

“You need real people who live in the hood to tell you straight what is wrong. We want action now. Is there really going to be change? Because we want change; at the end of the day I live in the hood and I want change, not another report to sit on a shelf. We’re talking now and in two weeks another kid will be dead.”

Jane-Finch meeting

The provincial government and communities both have a responsibility to engage youth and empower them. Neither group can achieve this without the other. As many communities have shown, success comes when communities are accountable and take action locally; successful government support comes when governments support the things that communities and youth know are working. Communities not only need financial and structural support, but also they need to know there is a shared philosophical approach to addressing the challenges they face, and that the governments are listening to their needs and their advice on how to make positive change.

“You need real people who live in the hood to tell you straight what is wrong. We want action now. Is there really going to be change? Because we want change; at the end of the day I live in the hood and I want change, not another report to sit on a shelf. We’re talking now and in two weeks another kid will be dead.”

Jane-Finch meeting
  1. Involve youth and communities in understanding and addressing the problem.

    Any effort to better understand and address violence involving youth needs to make youth and the community an integral part of the solution. The people living in neighbourhoods are the most valuable assets of the neighbourhood, and their ideas, insights, experiences, and vested interest in the future of their neighbourhood can be enormous contributions to the process.

    Participants in the Neighbourhood Insight Sessions often focused on the importance of involving youth locally, and involving both youth and communities in provincial policy. Ways to do this could include: establishing a Youth Secretariat or Youth Cabinet, within the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, with a strong focus on providing planning and evaluation models/ tools and methodologies to communities; supporting youth-organized, youth-led forums to engage youth from various neighbourhoods in focused, problem-solving and action-oriented sessions; and encouraging youth input into their own programming.

  2. Strengthen the programs communities have said they need.

    Participants told us that their neighbourhoods need programs that are positive and relevant. These programs need to include recreation-based activities, but must also go beyond recreation to meet the educational, cultural, vocational and life-skills needs of neighbourhood youth. This means providing a continuum of services that offer programs to all individuals, at all ages and stages of development (including parents). That includes income-generating or experience-gaining programs — like apprenticeships and co-op employment.

    There also needs to be an emphasis on mentoring. Youth need that one person in their life that gives them attention, believes in them, supports them. It is important to connect youth with both peer mentors and one-on-one relationships with adult/ older role models. This is especially important for youth that are hardest to reach. Gang exit programs are also needed, as are programs for youth who are newcomers to Canada and who need violence trauma counselling and supports.

    Participants often talked specifically about the value of youth drop-in centres, as they provide a safe haven for kids to hang out with their peers, youth workers and positive role models after school.

  3. Support the effective delivery of those programs.

    Sustained, long-term, holistic, flexible funding is key to making any difference — starting with the organizations, programs and services that we know work. Competition for funding needs to be reduced, so that youth-serving organizations (and especially youth-led youth-serving organizations) can devote their energies to delivering programs and working with youth instead of fundraising. There is also a vital need for sound evaluation of agencies serving youth (to be carried out by funding bodies) to ensure effective delivery of programs and services. It was also suggested that consideration be given to establishing a Youth Entrepreneurial Fund.

    The other key to effective program delivery is hiring the right people, offering a good wage, and making a commitment to the employee for the long term. Youth-serving organizations need to hire people who relate to youth, look like the youth from the neighbourhood, understand the neighbourhood, are credible in the neighbourhood, and have a vested interest in the future of the neighbourhood. Most of the time, these are youth. It’s more important to find someone who can connect with youth, and then train them, than to train someone and then hope that they can connect with youth.

    Effective delivery also means youth-friendly delivery, and accessible delivery. Programs need to be available and youth need to be aware of their availability. Participants also talked about program accessibility in terms of cost (zero or low cost), location (on what turf the program is offered), timing (when the program is offered), the types of programs offered, etc.

2. Recognize the influence that big systems have on communities, and fix the parts we know need fixing

Many participants talked about the need for large-scale provincial measures to address some of the long-term, systemic issues that contribute to the roots of violence involving youth. Those systemic issues related to such things as housing and community infrastructure, education, and the criminal justice system. The points below summarize the recommendations put forward. Additional details related to these recommendations can be found in the individual reports from each Neighbourhood Insight Session.

  1. Housing and Community Infrastructure. This includes upgrading the living conditions of people who live in subsidized housing, and looking at opportunities to rebuild social housing and reintegrate social housing residents with middle income residents. It also means installing more lighting and safety features, and helping change perceptions about neighbourhoods (e.g., by considering renaming them).
  2. Social Service Agencies. There’s a need for longer hours and shorter wait lists at youth-serving agencies, as well as more partnerships and/or effective coalitions among agencies serving youth to make sure youth get the help they need when they need it. The co-location of youth services in one place would be helpful in providing youth with a “one stop shop.”

    Culturally sensitive training programs also need to be provided (both cross-cultural and those with an emphasis on anti-black racism) to staff working with culturally diverse youth.

  3. Employment. This includes increasing minimum wage and increasing apprenticeship and/or co-op employment opportunities.

  4. Immigration. This includes providing new immigrant youth with settlement support, sometimes post-traumatic stress support, and supports for new immigrant parents who have credentials and need to have those credentials recognized.

  5. Education. The things that are working in the education system need support and strengthening, including: Pathways to Education and other alternative education programs; student involvement; anti-bullying programs in schools; and school uniforms (they avoid issues related to material things and youth wearing gang colours). An emphasis on anti-bullying initiatives has been used in one of the elementary schools and has led to a 25% reduction in the amount of suspensions.

    Other key recommendations from participants included: be more flexible; put more social workers and counsellors in schools; change the Safe Schools Act; and create more post-secondary options for kids who are not interested in college or university. It is also important to recruit more teachers who reflect and care about the kids they teach (“teachers that look like me, understand my culture”), and to stop discriminating — just because a kid is from a different cultural background, it does not mean the kid should have fewer opportunities than other kids, especially when it comes to post-secondary education.

    Finally, a number of people talked about the importance of making schools community hubs.

  6. Police. There needs to be improved skills training for front-line officers, including diversity training, cultural sensitivity training, anti-discrimination training and customer service skills training. More minority police officers need to be hired so that police reflect the people in the community. It’s also important to fund more community police officers whose job it is to go into schools and develop relationships with youth, and there needs to be some consistency in the police officers working in specific neighbourhoods so that relationships can be built. Quicker responses are required to youth calls, and there’s also an opportunity to better educate youth about what 222-TIPS (Crimestoppers) is really about (there are a lot misconceptions about what the program is about and youth think police come over to their home and hand over a cheque in front of the whole neighbourhood).

  7. Criminal Justice System. The justice system needs to focus more on prevention than on punishment. Investments in alternatives to incarceration need to be made; as one neighbourhood specifically put it, “Building a youth super jail is not the answer.” More diversion and restorative justice programs are needed, and every attempt should be made to keep youth out of the courts and placed into restorative justice programs instead. There needs to be more counselling for victims and offenders, and supports for youth when they get out of jail.

  8. Media. The media needs to stop glorifying violence, and stop stereotyping and stigmatizing communities and youth. They need to highlight the positive things that happen in communities.

  9. Unique challenges faced by youth in small, isolated, northern First Nations communities need to be addressed. There are 90 First Nations communities in northern Ontario, spread over an area covering two-thirds of the province. The communities are separated by vast distances, with sparse populations, and are often accessible only by air. Schools in remote communities stop at grade eight, so all Aboriginal young people who want to continue past grade eight must relocate. When these 13-year-olds entering grade nine get to urban centres for high school, often without their families, they have exceptional support needs that must be met.

  10. The government. Participants repeatedly talked about the importance of breaking down the silos between youth-serving government ministries and departments, because better communication, coordination and partnership will lead to better serving the needs of youth and communities. It was also suggested that the province identify a point person for issues related to violence and crime involving youth. The importance of sticking to government commitments was also stressed — governments need to see things through to the end.

    Finally, a lot of advice focused on the value of youth workers and the important role of the province in supporting specific and comprehensive training programs for youth workers.

VI. Advice On What To Do With This Advice

All of the Neighbourhood Insight Sessions paid a lot of attention to process, including advice and requests regarding the role, responsibilities, and approach of the Co-Chairs and their Review team. Many participants made the following points:

“The best antidote for frustration is positive action.”

Paul Ifayomi Grant (from SLAM meeting)

Expanding on the previous points, participants also provided the following additional advice on next steps for the Review:

Demonstrate ownership, openness, accountability and commitment. Many participants requested that the Co-Chairs make a commitment to producing a report, with recommendations, that reflects a prioritized, phased developmental action plan with a specific timetable. They also would like to see the Premier respond to the Review’s work with a clear commitment to action on approved recommendations.

Keep youth and communities involved in the Review’s work. Review Co-Chairs should consider involving youth in a public event to present the Review’s report to the Premier. This will demonstrate that youth made a significant contribution to the work, and recognize the value of youth having ownership over the results. It was suggested that the Co-Chairs do a press conference when the report is released (and ideally a press conference in each of the eight neighbourhoods visited) —especially since the Review’s work is about roots. Prior to submitting the report to the Premier, a number of neighbourhoods requested that the Co-Chairs return to provide an overall perspective of their recommendations to each community.

Keep people engaged in the ongoing work related to the recommendations. In some communities, people said that it doesn’t really matter what comes out of the Review, since communities will continue doing their work. Others said that the Review can help strengthen neighbourhoods by identifying things that neighbourhoods can do on their own as a result of the Review’s work and by engaging them in this work.

Appendix: Participant List

The following list identifies the majority of the over 400 participants in the Neighbourhood Insight Sessions, including over 200 youth and over 130 different organizations. All participants were assured that they would remain anonymous. This list is provided solely to indicate the breadth of the consultations.

Action For Neighbourhood Change
African Canadian Legal Clinic, Community Worker
Agincourt Community Centre, Executive Director and Youth Coordinator
Algonquin College, Professor
Alliance for Children and Youth
Area Residents (from each of the 8 neighbourhoods, no names provided)
Bay Mills, Outreach worker
Blacus Ninja Inc., Hip Hop Artist Borden B.T.I, three Youth
Boys and Girls Clubs, Executive Director and Youth Worker
Breakaway Relief Care
Breaking The Cycle Gang Exit Program, Executive Director
Britannia Woods Community House, 11 Youth, Youth Worker and Executive Director
C.L.A.S.P. (Community and Legal Aid Services Program), Director C.W. Jeffreys CI - Stay Connected Program
Cameron Heights CI, Working Against Youth Violence Everywhere
Carefirst Chinese Youth Program, Executive Director and Youth Coordinator
Carleton University, Two Professors and a Researcher
Centennial College, Consultant and Student Centennial College, Placement Student
Central Toronto Youth Services
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Education and Health Promotion
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Mental Health Court
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Discipline Chief of Addiction Therapy, also a member of LGBTQ
Chester Le youth residents
Children’s Centre Choices for Youth
City Chief Executive Officer
City of Kitchener, Downtown Community Center City of Kitchener, Youth Council
City of Ottawa Parks and Recreation
City of Toronto Councillor, Ward 39
City of Toronto, Community Development Officer, Parks and Recreation Staff, Youth Outreach Worker, City Development Unit, Community Safety
City of Toronto, Steeles-L’Amoreaux Community Outreach Worker City of Waterloo
Community Activist
Community Justice
Community Justice Initiatives, Resolve Program Coordinator Community Self led
Conflict Mediation Services Downsview
Correctional Services Canada, Intern
Crime Prevention Board of Directors
Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School Student Consultation, six students
Dilico Child and Family Services, Youth Worker Dilico/Children’s Aid
Downtown Community Centre, Youth Services Coordinator Drop In Services, Manager of Food Program
East Scarborough Boys &Girls Club, Manager, Youth Facilitator and Executive Director
East Scarborough Boys &Girls Club, Provincial Youth Outreach Worker
Elementary school, Two Youth Elevated Grounds, Youth and Parents Elizabeth Fry Society of N-W Ontario
Evergreen Action for Neighbourhood Change
FGDM (Family Group Decision Making) and Stride, Program Coordinator
Firmfaith Ministries, Church Leader
Gate Way Café, Employment Worker
George Brown College B.E.S.T Program, Placement Student George Brown College, Placement Student
Glendower, Outreach Worker Grand River Hospital Mental Health Griffin Centre
Hamilton Wentworth Detention Centre High School Student
Hinks Dellcrest
Humber College, Placement Student
Involve Youth
Islamic Chaplain
Jamaican Canadian Association
Jane and
John Howard Society, Community Aftercare
St. Mary’s
Justice for Dustin
JVS Toronto, G.E.D. Program
JVS Toronto, Placement Student
JVS Toronto, Youth Reach
Kitchener-Waterloo Counselling, OK2BME
Kitchener-Waterloo Sexual Assault Support Centre, Public Education Coordinator
L’Amoreaux Community Centre, Executive Director &Youth Coordinator
Lakehead Public Schools
Lawyer - AG’s Office - Civil
Lawyer - Criminal Defense
Leave Out Violence Local Auto Mechanic
Maplewood High School, Vice Principal
Margaret Best M.P.P Scarborough Guildwood, Office Staff
Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School, Principal
Mary Ward Catholic Secondary, Students
Mayor of Thunder Bay
Mennonite Immigrant New Life Centre, Executive Director
Mennonite Immigrant Resource Centre – Birchmount &Sheppard Avenues, Executive Director
Midnight Basketball at Michelle Heights, five Youth Mothers, three Single
Muslim Community Leader
Nishnawbe Aski Legal Services Corp.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation
Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fidler Ottawa Police, Community Liaison Officer
Ottawa Police, Detective, Youth Unit
Ottawa Police, Staff Sergeant, Youth Unit
Ottawa Probation, Three staff from the Youth Unit Ottawa University, Two researchers
Ottawa Youth Gangs Working Group, Chair
Ottawa Youth Justice Services Network, Chair
P.E.A.C.H., Youth Outreach Worker
Pinecrest Queensway Community Health Services, 13 Youth
Pinecrest Queensway Community Health Services, four Youth Workers
Por Amor, Co-Director
Probation and Parole
Provincial Youth Outreach Worker
Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada,
Ray of Hope
Real Estate Agent, Scarborough
Regional Multicultural Youth Centre
Revive, Program Coordinator
ROOF (Reaching Our Outdoor Friends), Kitchener
Ryerson University, Criminologist
Salvadoria Canadian Community of Waterloo Region
Salvation Army Church, Birchmount Avenue, Youth Coordinator
San Romanoway Revitalization Association
Scarborough CAN (Civic Action Network)
Service Canada, Supervisor
Shop Community Initiative
Sir Robert L. Borden High School, Guidance Counsellor
Sir Winston Churchill Collegiate Vocational Institute, seven Students
Somali Youth Basketball League, 14 Youth
SouthCore Improvement Committee
St. Patrick High School, 25 Students
St. Paul’s High School, Principal
St. Stephen’s Community House Mobilizer
Stephen Leacock Collegiate Institute, Principal
Stephen Leacock Collegiate Institute, Students
Storefront Services, Community Worker
Storefront Services, Manager and Volunteer Coordinator
Sweda Inc., Part time Community Worker
Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre
Thunder Bay Police Services
Thunder Bay Police Services, Police Chief
Thunder Bay Shelter House
Thunder Bay Shelter House, Youth -Ex-gang member
Timothy Eaton Secondary School, Principal
Timothy Eaton Secondary School, Students
Timothy Eaton Secondary School, Teacher
Toronto Community Housing (Orton Park), Property Manager
Toronto Community Housing, Community Worker
Toronto Community Housing, Head of Security
Toronto Community Housing, Health Promotion Officer
Toronto Community Housing, Manager
Toronto Community Housing, Recreation Coordinator
Toronto District School Board, Teacher
Toronto District School Board, Youth Boost – Pre Employment Program
Toronto Parks &Recreation, Curran Hall Manager and Youth Outreach Workers
Toronto Police Services Division 42, Community Relations/Youth Program Officer
Toronto Police Services, 31 Division CPLC Officers
Toronto Public Library – Children’s Services
Toronto Social Planning Council - Community Planner
Toronto Victim Services
Unemployed Youth
United Sisters, Eight female Youth
United Way of Thunder Bay
United Way, Kitchener-Waterloo Area
University of Toronto, two Students
Urban Aboriginal Strategy
Waterloo Catholic District School Board, Teacher
West Hill Community Services, Youth Worker and Manager Westgate High School, Student
William Creighton Centre
William Hayes Centre, five closed custody Youth
Woodroffe High School, five Youth
Woodroofe High School, Principal
Woodroofe High School, Teacher
YAY (Youth Assisting Youth)
YMCA Employment Centre
York University, Student
Youth - Alternative education
Youth - Alternative education
Youth - Attending special education
Youth - Attending special school
Youth - College Student
Youth - Computer Intern
Youth - Confederation College
Youth - Co-op student doing community hours
Youth - Ex gang member
Youth - Former President of Youth Council at Boys and Girls Club
Youth - George Brown College
Youth - High School Student
Youth - Hillcrest High School
Youth - In Treatment
Youth - Part Time Dancer
Youth - School drop-out
Youth - Singer in a Rock Band
Youth - Single mom
Youth - Student at Confederation College
Youth - Studying to become a Police Officer
Youth - Studying to become an automotive mechanic
Youth - University Student
Youth - University Student
Youth in a TCHC Program
Youth Job Action Centre
Youth Outreach Worker
Youth Services Bureau, Executive Director
Youth Centre Volunteers, two Adult
Youthinc. JVS Toronto
Youthlink, Provincial Outreach Worker
54 Youth (no affiliation provided)


Volume 1. Findings, Analysis and Conclusions

Volume 2. Executive Summary

Volume 3. Community Perspectives Report

Volume 4. Research Papers

Volume 5. Literature Reviews