Ontario Justice Centre opens in Kenora to support Indigenous communities

The centre will offer Indigenous-led programs and services to help individuals heal from trauma

Ontario Justice Centre opens in Kenora to support Indigenous communities

The Ontario government, the Ontario Court of Justice, Indigenous leaders, and community partners have opened the Kenora Justice Centre.

The centre aims to extend community-led support to criminal offenders through health care, education, housing, and other social-service providers. Specialized teams that include Indigenous-led organizations and mental health and addictions counsellors will deliver wrap-around programs addressing the root causes of crimes while supporting healing and growth for at-risk youth and young adults.

"In many Ontario communities, we see a revolving door of repeat offenders struggling with poverty, mental health issues, addictions, lack of secure housing and unemployment," Ontario attorney general Doug Downey said. "The Kenora Justice Centre will offer community support to address these challenges, hold individuals accountable, reduce the likelihood of future contact with the justice system, and help victims and communities heal from the effects of crime."

The justice centre intends to work with local community partners and elders to provide Indigenous-led support programs and services to help individuals heal from trauma.

"There are many barriers limiting access to justice for First Nations in the North. We need new, innovative approaches for our disadvantaged citizens that find themselves in the correctional system," Nishnawbe Aski Nation grand chief Derek Fox said,

The Kenora's Justice Centre is one of four sites recently established across the province, with the other three located in London and Toronto's downtown east and northwest neighbourhoods.

The Ontario government created the Kenora Justice Centre Advisory Council to guide the centre’s design process. International best practices from over 70 communities informed the centre's model. It has a courtroom configured to support rehabilitation and encourage dialogue among individuals, judges, elders, crowns, duty or defence counsel, victims, police and community members.

The centre also includes an elder or cultural liaison room, a primary health care room, a technology area for participants who lack reliable access to internet services, and a community room for ceremonies, workshops, and training.

Chief justice Lise Maisonneuve of the Ontario Court of Justice said that the centre seeks to deliver justice services in new and innovative ways, focusing on Indigenous restorative processes.

"The Court looks forward to the opportunity to continue to work closely with community partners to provide meaningful access to justice services for the people of Kenora and the people of Ontario," chief justice Maisonneuve commented.

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