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If the answer is not an UNQUALIFIED "Yes!", ask "Why not?" and proceed with extreme caution.

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MISSISSAUGAWATCH Highlights: Executive Summary of The report of the Review of the Roots of Youth Violence

December 26th, 2008  

Hey Missy Dudes and Dudettes,

I’ve been an observer of Mississauga municipal governance of over two years, researching various aspects of its conduct and operations through direct observation (thoroughly documented with audio and videotape) as well as through Freedom of Information.

I can tell you with certainty that a city’s Strategic Plans are much like a citizen’s New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight. Both are dependent on the sincerity of their drafters, commitment to follow-through —and most important, regular assessment of progress towards goals set.

It’s the time of the year when I, The Mississauga Muse must evaluate my 2008 New Year’s Resolutions and set those for 2009. To that end, it’s vital that I set down The WHY —Why it all matters. In that way, when I assess the progress (or lack thereof) of our 2008 Resolutions, I do so through the lens of The WHY.

And so, to that end…

It’s been well over a month since The Province released the McMurtry/Curling Review of the Report on the Roots of Youth Violence I’ve written three Blog entries on that report.  Click on any one of these links:

I felt that it wasn’t enough for me to simply write about the Executive Summary of The report of the Review of the Roots of Youth Violence —I needed to create an online Roots of Youth Violence resource, if only for myself.

What follows is a searchable summary —a Readers Digest, Coles Notes version of the McMurtry/Curling Executive Summary of The report of the Review of the Roots of Youth Violence.

Just so readers know, what follows is a cut-and-paste of what I marked with yellow high-lighter while reading a hard copy of the Executive Summary of The report of the Review of the Roots of Youth Violence on an exercise bike at the YMCA.

As such this MISSISSAUGAWATCH McMurtry/Curling Executive Summary cut-and-paste is highly subjective —what I considered important, viewed through the lens of My Mississauga Experience, the Peel Police Services Board November 17, 1994 (Youth) Community Summit – Final Report, as well as The WHY -The Peel Youth Charter.

To reiterate, this McMurtry/Curling Executive Summary cut-and-paste is not complete. I have excerpted the points I consider most important, and offered them without commentary for now. I use an ellipsis (…) to indicate omissions. This is a work in progress, and will over time include links to other Youth-related reports, articles, images and even YouTube videos.

So we begin:

MISSISSAUGAWATCH Highlights: Executive Summary of The report of the Review of the Roots of Youth Violence

Executive Summary


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

Overall, our analysis brought to light a number of underlying issues that call for attention in a structured and sustained way…

Roots Review •1

And that is what we call for, along with a governance structure to ensure that change happens in a coordinated and sustained way…

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

Ontario at a Crossroads

We acknowledge that Ontario has been making progress on certain of the issues we identify. Much of its work on early childhood learning is very much in the right direction, the full-day learning initiative for four- and five-year-olds has the potential to be powerfully transformative, the increased spending on education is impressive, and the appointment of a Poverty Reduction Committee at the Cabinet level is inspirational. And both before our work started and fairly frequently throughout it, the government made program announcements that are consistent with the directions we propose.

Roots Review •2

…because Ontario does not have a coordinated strategy for its youth. The very serious problems being encountered in neighbourhoods characterized by severe, concentrated and growing disadvantage are not being addressed because Ontario has not placed an adequate focus on these concentrations of disadvantage despite the very serious threat they pose to the province’s social fabric. Racism is becoming a more serious and entrenched problem than it was in the past because Ontario is not dealing with it.

…These trends are deeply troubling. They include the increasing concentration of violent crime among younger people, the increasing frequency with which guns and knives are being used in disputes that might previously have been settled with fists…

…violence, and a broader community inclined to write off these youth and these communities because they see them as the source of this problem rather than its victims.

…In these developments, we see powerful signs that core social bonds are being stretched beyond the breaking point. As those bonds break, violence is normalized, sensibilities are brutalized and communities are isolated. The sowing of the seeds for community retreat, the ceding of public space to violence and the silence that arises from the fear to speak out all increase the opportunities for violence.

Roots Review •3

…(Youth) becoming desensitized to violence, violence becoming an acceptable way of dealing with conflict, gangs proliferating, police presence increasing and leading to harassment, students having more difficulty focusing on school, teaching becoming more difficult, schools being unsafe, youth suffering from depression and social service agencies increasingly unable to keep up with the demand for services.

…What is particularly disturbing is that many of these communities are largely composed of members of racialized groups. We trace in Chapter 4 how racism and other barriers have concentrated poverty in these groups, and how the housing market has then driven them into concentrations of those who suffer from high levels of poverty.

When poverty is racialized, and then ghettoized and associated with violence, the potential for the stigmatization of specific groups is high. That stigmatization can, in turn, further reduce opportunities for those groups. If we allow these trends and impacts to grow in intensity and impact and fail to mobilize as a society to address the conditions that give rise to them, the prognosis for the neighbourhoods and for the future of this province could be grim.

…It is because this balance still exists, however precariously, that we consider Ontario to be at a crossroads.

Roots Review •4

Understanding the Roots

…as poverty were necessarily the roots of violence involving youth. If they were, we would be a far more violent society than we are now given the extent of these conditions and circumstances.

…We believe it is only if we find and address the conditions that give rise to that state of mind that we will be able to stop the growing number of youth who think that way.

It takes a certain desperation for a young person to walk our streets with a gun. The sense of nothing to lose and no way out that roils within such youth creates an ever-present danger. That danger arises from the impulsiveness of youth and the lack of foresight with which they often act. The unfortunate — and often tragic — reality is that it often takes very little provocation or incentive to trigger that latent violence once we have let the immediate risk factors develop. This most often puts other youth in danger’s way, but can do the same for any of us, because it creates a reality in which violence is unpredictable — unpredictable in location, unpredictable in cause and unpredictable in consequences…

What then are the immediate risk factors…

♦ Have a deep sense of alienation and low self-esteem

♦ Have little empathy for others and suffer from impulsivity

Roots Review •5

♦ Believe that they are oppressed, held down, unfairly treated and neither belong to nor have a stake in the broader society

♦ Believe that they have no way to be heard through other channels

♦ Have no sense of hope.

…For us, it is the roots — the conditions in which the immediate risk factors can grow and flourish — that require the urgent attention of the Premier and his government because the costs of failing to identify and address them will be ongoing, tragic and high.

What Are the Roots?

While we discuss each root separately, many, if not all, of them frequently interconnect and intertwine in ways that create devastating cumulative impacts for far too many of our youth…

Roots Review •6


Poverty does not directly cause violent crime. If it did, then given the extent and depth of the poverty among us, our levels of violence would be truly frightening. Most people living in poverty are working hard to hold down one or more uncertain, low-wage jobs, to improve their skills or education, to hold together families and communities against a bombardment of negative circumstances, or sometimes are doing all three. All Ontarians should admire their hard work and their strong commitment to a society that fails them in so many ways.

But poverty without hope, poverty with isolation, poverty with hunger and poor living conditions, poverty with racism and poverty with numerous daily reminders of social exclusion can lead to the immediate risk factors for violence…

…In our view, poverty can lead to a lack of self-esteem, the experience of oppression, a lack of hope or empathy or sense of belonging, impulsivity and other immediate risk factors through three different but linked pathways:

♦ The level of poverty: the depth of relative deprivation experienced by those in poverty

♦ The concentration of poverty in definable geographic areas, where negative impacts grow and reinforce each other…

♦ The circumstances of poverty, in which services and facilities that most of us take for granted are not locally available or are denied by reason of cost or accessibility, or both, to those who need them the most…

Roots Review •7


…We were taken aback by the extent to which racism is alive and well and wreaking its deeply harmful effects on Ontarians and on the very fabric of this province.

…Others, in particular Aboriginal people and African-Canadians, continue to also suffer from a seemingly more entrenched and often more virulent form of racism.

…And yet, there are fewer public structures in place in Ontario to address this reality than we had in the past.

Roots Review •8

But while race is not something that can create the immediate risk factors for violence involving youth, racism is. Racism strikes at the core of self-identity, eats away the heart and casts a shadow on the soul. It is cruel and hurtful and alienating. It makes real all doubts about getting a fair chance in this society. It is a serious obstacle imposed for a reason the victim has no control over and can do nothing about.

The very real potential for this to create the immediate risk factors should not be hard to understand. How can it not erode your self-esteem to feel that, no matter what you do or what you achieve, you can be excluded or undervalued simply because of your race? How can it not be alienating to know that you can be or have often been stopped by the police or followed in a store or denied housing for that same reason? How could your willingness to study and work hard to get ahead not be eroded by a clear sense of having more limited prospects than others, and how could that not reduce your sense of hope?

And, as well, when you look to society’s major institutions for leadership in confronting these insidious realities and find almost no focus on this issue, how can all those feelings not be made more deeply hurtful and exclusionary?

…When, as is so often the case, racism is combined with poverty and other sources of serious disadvantage discussed in our report, its central role in the issue that concerns us is all too evident.

Community Design

The conditions of the communities where young people live not only greatly affect the quality of their lives and the opportunities available to them, but also how they perceive themselves, society and their role in it.

Roots Review •9

…A major concern of those we met was the lack of anywhere for youth to go. We found neighbourhoods characterized by unwelcoming environments and a disturbing lack of places for youth to gather, play or create. This leaves youth with the greatest need for such facilities with no positive outlet for their energy and time, no space or facilities for creative self-expression and no place that fosters contact with coaches and other positive mentors. When these youth hang around, for lack of anything better to do, they are then often stereotyped and harassed for so doing, further driving their sense of alienation.

There is a similar lack of space for organizations seeking to work with youth, particularly organizations led by youth themselves. This further reduces the number of services and programs available to the youth who need them the most.

Issues in the Education System

…The safe schools provisions of the Education Act promoted a policy of “zero tolerance” for “bad” behaviour in schools. Some of that behaviour is indeed serious and requires a strong response. But, under those provisions, many youth have been suspended or expelled from school without a full consideration of their circumstances and without adequate supports to maintain their learning or occupy their time in positive ways. There is a wide consensus in the community that the safe schools provisions have had a disproportionate impact on racialized students, students with disabilities and youth whose parents are not adept or at ease in dealing with teachers and school administrators.

We recognize that the recent amendments to the Education Act in relation to the safe schools provisions are a positive step. But we believe they fall short of what is required to

Roots Review •10

…Another concern is guidance counsellors who have not been trained to have an in-depth understanding of the complexity of the factors that affect the ethno-racial youth who seek their advice. For many, guidance advice often appears to be given from a perspective of low expectations based on the ethno-racial background of the youth.

Similarly, students, families, communities and advocates have long been struggling with the low expectations some teachers have for racialized students and, in particular…

The last issue is criminalization. Expulsions and suspensions put many youth on the streets for extended periods and lead to more interactions with the police, increasing the potential for criminalization. At the same time, zero-tolerance policies have led many schools to call in the police for activities that would have been addressed by the schools alone in earlier times. This has also led to the increased criminalization of many marginalized youth, with consequences we discuss below.

Roots Review •11

Family Issues

Most families provide secure and safe places for children to grow and learn. But many do not. Families can be divided, abusive, or struggling emotionally or financially. Some youth have no family. Without the support of a strong family, alienation, low self-esteem, a lack of hope or empathy, impulsivity and other immediate risk factors for involvement with violence can set in and take hold of a young person, especially if the youth is also experiencing other roots of the immediate risk factors, such as poverty, racism or mental illness. A severely troubled home life can have a damaging effect on a youth’s interest in school, ability to learn and interactions with peers and teachers.

…In the result, it is not the structure of the family, but rather the stresses bearing on the family relationships that can create immediate risk factors for violence involving youth.

…Where a father is present, what is important to the outcome is not that presence alone, but the degree of responsibility the father assumes for child-rearing and his participation in imparting positive values.

…Parents who are recent immigrants or refugees dealing with urgent settlement problems may not be able to turn their attention to difficulties their children are having in school, or they may be unable to help because they cannot communicate with the teachers or are reticent to engage with authority figures. Schools often lack the capacity to help them adjust or the creative outreach that would make them welcome, and settlement services to assist them are often far short of what is needed.

Roots Review •12

…Youth who live on the street are often the victims of violence, and the harsh reality of street life can lead to these and other immediate risk factors for violence.

Children and youth in the child protection system often “cross over” to other systems, such as the criminal justice system. We were told that a disproportionate number of youth in the young offender system have been in the care of child welfare authorities in Ontario, and that there is a trajectory from the children’s services sector to the young offender system.


Across cultures, about one in five Ontario children and youth experience a mental health or behavioural disorder requiring intervention, but we were advised that 80 per cent of them do not receive mental health services or support. This lack of treatment allows the mental health condition to worsen and its effects on the youth (and their alienation, impulsiveness and self-esteem) to grow. It adds pressure and stress to the families of these youth and can lead to the youth disrupting the lives of classmates, friends and peers.

…The earlier the mental health intervention, the higher the chance of a successful outcome.

Roots Review •13

Lack of a Youth Voice

The sense that many youth already have of being alienated from society is reinforced when they do not have opportunities to be heard in areas that directly and immediately affect their lives. This can lead to a negative concept of self, a greater distrust of authority, a sense of powerlessness and a sense of exclusion from the broader community.

And yet, our experience over the past year was that youth brought many fresh insights and inspired solutions to the issues we were grappling with. In many ways, youth and youth-led organizations are best-positioned to know what will work for other youth. The absence of their voices in many areas of immediate importance to them sends a message of limited opportunity as well as excluding the youth perspective from many decisions.

Lack of Economic Opportunity for Youth

There are many barriers for youth from disadvantaged communities who seek opportunities… lack of transportation to get to a job interview and as deeply complex as racism. The experiences of parents being denied the ability to use all of their skills and experiences can also play a devastating role.

…or learn all too early that their postal code alone will act as a bar to employment.

…When these and other factors are combined with the high value our society places on economic success and possessions, the consequences for self-esteem and any sense of hope, opportunity or belonging can be serious.

Issues in the Justice System

…that Ontario’s youth justice system does not have an overall strategy or coherent vision for youth justice in Ontario. Three ministries operate parts of it, with no ministry in charge, no overall policy direction, and no ministry with the mandate to look across the whole system to identify the best ways to allocate the roughly $850 million it spends each year.

Roots Review •14

…We see this as leading to two ways in which the immediate risk factors for involvement in violence can be created.

The first is through over-criminalization… Criminalization can cause youth to see themselves as having no other future and can change for the worse the way they are seen by their peers, families, schools and communities. It can severely restrict both their opportunities and their own sense of those opportunities. It can lead directly to criminal associates. It can destroy hope and feed alienation.

…Where it is used unwisely, the youth justice system has the potential to create risks for future violence rather than reducing them.

…But some do not act professionally. It was made clear to us that when policing is done in an aggressive manner, when youth are singled out for attention because of their race and treated with a lack of civility, they can become alienated, lose self-esteem and feel that they have less hope or opportunity in this society. As well, the communities of which they are part can lose faith in the police and can cooperate less in the resolution of crime and the maintenance of public safety. When this happens, the approach to policing increases rather than addresses the roots of violence involving youth.

Roots Review •15

Concentrations of Roots

One of the central features of the advice we are giving the Premier is the need to focus attention and resources on specific locations across Ontario where the roots of violence involving youth are finding particularly fertile ground. It is clear to us that many of the circumstances that can lead to the immediate risk factors for violence involving youth — the roots of such violence — grow and are nurtured in specific places…

Collaborative: The place-based approach both requires and facilitates
collaboration among governments and with communities in ways that get the greatest value from the initiatives and assets of each.

Roots Review •16

In Toronto’s case, the city aligned its own departments around 13 priority neighbourhoods and now organizes itself at the local level to understand and meet the needs of those specific neighbourhoods through neighbourhood action teams. These are being transformed into partnerships with residents and agencies to further advance this work. This has not only brought renewed attention to these areas and the issues they face, but as well has driven greater collaboration and coordination at city hall itself. Both examples demonstrate the power of this concept to not only improve neighbourhoods, but also align governments around that important objective…

…Statistics Canada, compiles them into an Index of Relative Disadvantage…

…We propose that once those data are available, the Province then work with municipal governments where the highest concentrations are found to refine the assessment of disadvantage in light of local information. This local information could include the services available or not available to ameliorate the disadvantage.

Roots Review •17

Addressing the Roots

…four pillars is essential. These pillars will, collectively, provide a repaired social context, a youth policy framework, a neighbourhood capacity and empowerment focus and a new integrated governance system to align and sustain action to address the roots of violence involving youth.

Roots Review •18

…What we are unequivocally calling for is a firm commitment to making Ontario’s social context work for everyone and a move away from piecemeal and sporadic initiatives.

…As Pillar 1 makes clear, we see a pressing and vital need to reduce poverty and address the circumstances that accompany it. It is unacceptable that being poor should also mean having substandard services in a wide array of areas, ranging from housing to recreational and arts facilities to transportation.

Roots Review •19

…We believe that the collection of race-based statistics, as has been routinely done in England for some time, is an essential first step. We cannot ascertain where the problems are, how to address them, what the best solutions are and what is working if we have no data. We see such statistics being required throughout the justice system and in the domains of education, health, housing and employment.

We believe that the Province should require that all public sector bodies have action plans to address the systemic racism within their domains. In relation to policing, we also suggest short-term initiatives to try to address some of the flashpoints that continue to exist in the relationship between front-line police officers and many youth. These initiatives are the establishment of police-youth issues committees in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods and the provision of neighbourhood-based training on anti-racism for front-line officers. For the longer term, we note the need for a culture shift within policing and put forward the concepts that officers should be “assessed for competence” in matters of race and that the performance measures for local commanders should include community relations and support…

Roots Review •20

…Overall, we believe that Ontario, while moving in the right direction in recent years, is still overcharging youth and relying on incarceration to an excessive extent. We do not dispute the need for police interventions, nor for serious sanctions where serious conduct is involved. We are, however, very concerned that the justice system is invoked for many youth in ways that can increase rather than address the immediate risk factors for violence.

Roots Review •21

…It seems to us to be fundamentally wrong that an expensive and sometimes counterproductive formal justice system is universally available and can be invoked by any police officer at any time with a simple piece of paper, while the alternatives are funded only if and when discretionary funds are freed up, and are often difficult and complex for a police officer to access.

Our report notes that when the powers bestowed by the justice system are not used properly or wisely, the result can be alienation, a sense of injustice, a lack of hope and other immediate risk factors for violence involving youth. Based on past experience, we expect that what we say about the justice system and, in particular, the police, may well receive a significant amount of attention.

…We fully appreciate that the neighbourhood conditions we describe in chapters 4 and 5 create enormous challenges for those who police these communities, as well for as those who live in them. The same conditions that facilitate crime — rundown areas and buildings, limited through streets, poor sightlines, dead ends, dark stairwells and corridors, overcrowding — all create risks for police officers as well as potentially hardening their attitudes to those who are forced to live in these conditions. In light of these conditions, we applaud the countless ways individual officers go beyond the

Roots Review •22

call of duty to try to support youth and prevent crime, as well as carrying out their often-onerous enforcement obligations.

…This is especially so when policing or the justice system evinces racism or countenances excessive force or incivility or a lack of respect for basic rights and freedoms we all should enjoy. The police, in particular, have a great deal of discretionary power as well as widespread respect, and with that comes great responsibility to uphold high standards at all times.

Roots Review •23

Pillar 2: A Youth Policy Framework

…It is youth who must have key roles in the design and delivery of this strategy, as they will pay the heaviest price if it does not succeed.

Ontario does not have a coordinated policy for its youth and should be working towards one. We believe that the Province urgently needs a youth policy framework that is informed by research about the developmental and transitional stages through which youth pass and that focuses on desired outcomes for them.

The principles we propose include:

♦ Respecting youth by involving them in determining and addressing their needs

♦ Recognizing racial, gender and other differences among youth

Roots Review •24

♦ Reflecting the realities of the developmental and transitional stages youth pass through as they grow

♦ Ensuring that programs and services are increasingly based on proven best practices; make appropriate connections among youth, their families, schools and communities; and are truly accessible.

…To be meaningful, outcome goals must be accompanied by a commitment to measured and relentless progress towards them (published indicators), along with clear timelines and specific accountabilities for meeting those indicators.

Pillar 3: A Neighbourhood Capacity and Empowerment Focus

This pillar will enhance or create local centres, often based around schools…but just as importantly, will form hubs…

Roots Review •25

In addition to repairing the social context in which the roots grow, Ontario needs to address the lack of community cohesion and the fragmentation of programs and services that exist in many disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Areas of concentrated economic disadvantage all too easily nurture those roots and, if not addressed, will keep producing new generations of youth with the immediate risk factors for violence. The continuing violence and fear of violence that will result will have the obvious and tragic consequence of rendering those neighbourhoods ever more fragmented and isolated, and will perpetuate and deepen their disadvantaged condition, leading to yet more violence, and possibly an entrenched underclass…

…The first is by creating community hubs, wherever possible anchored in school facilities… We join with those who see schools as natural hubs. Schools are near most residents, have already been paid for by the public and go unused most of the time.

Roots Review •26

Governments have increasingly relied upon agencies to deliver services, but have done so through short-term contracts, which fail to cover the full costs of service delivery. This creates enormous problems for agencies, including making it very difficult for them to recruit and retain experienced staff…

…We also propose establishing at a university or college a Centre for Excellence through Program Assessments to conduct outcomes-based assessments of major programs and serve as a best practices resource for government, community service providers, funders and agencies. This body could also serve as a resource to promote good evaluations of smaller-scale programs.


Roots Review •27

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

…requires coordination across a dozen ministries…

Roots Review •28

…It also requires working effectively with the other orders of government, building local relationships and supporting community development in ways that the provincial government has not done in recent years.

Without governance mechanisms that cut across the many silos that now exist in the provincial government and facilitate aligned engagement in communities, any edifice of piecemeal change will rapidly collapse.

New provincial mechanisms are also needed to send a signal of resolve and commitment. Without alignment at the provincial level to break through the silos to prioritize, drive, coordinate, fund, monitor and report on the many provincial initiatives needed to address the roots of violence involving youth, there will be little reason to hope for anything beyond some modest ameliorations of the status quo….

…To do its job, the committee needs to be supported by a dedicated staff secretariat. We believe this needs to be positioned within the Cabinet Office to give it the profile and influence that will be required to manage this complex task. We see the secretariat being responsible for providing policy advice to the committee, but also for working within the bureaucracy on a day-to-day basis to ensure that the directions set by the committee and approved by Cabinet are carried into action. We also see it having a key role in ensuring good public reporting against defined outcome goals…

Roots Review •29

Planning, Accountability, Advice and Recommendations

…That is why our proposed youth policy framework (Pillar 2) calls not only for a shared vision and agreed-upon principles, but also asks the Province to articulate its overall policies for youth using specific outcome goals. We are confident that Ontario’s public service could produce a good initial set of such goals within a year.

…Essentially, a floor target sets a minimum acceptable level of attainment. It is how we as a societyexpress our fundamental bottom lines.

Roots Review •30

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 individuals needing the most help…

…We see it as vital that the outcome measures and interim indicators be public and well-communicated, with the communications materials including contextual and analytical information on the accomplishments being made and any barriers being encountered.

Roots Review •31

Recommendations for the Premier


♦ Only an aligned and sustained commitment, led by the provincial government, will effectively address the roots we have identified.

…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…

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

Roots Review •32

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.

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6.  The Province should create a comprehensive youth policy framework for Ontario to provide overall direction for the myriad of programs affecting youth.

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.

9.  Within the identified disadvantaged neighbourhoods, the Province should support and ensure the funding of the following structural initiatives:

♦ 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.

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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.

Roots Review •35

…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…

…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. (Volume 1, pages 229–238)

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…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…

Roots Review •37

19. The Province must recognize the value of sports and arts in supporting learning, 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. (Volume 1, pages 257–260)

20. 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. (Volume 1, pages 260–262)…

…23. 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. (Volume 1, pages 267–289)

Roots Review •38


Roots Review •39

…Recommendations for Priority Implementation

29. 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.

Roots Review •40

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.

30. 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…

Roots Review •41

…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

♦ Oversee continuing efforts of ministries to develop action plans having regard to directions set by the Cabinet committee and the advice in this report and establish working groups with key communities, agencies and experts to advance this work.

♦ Establish the fund for youth-police community liaison committees and for the initial short-term anti-racism training programs.

Roots Review •42

…♦ Begin discussions with the community agency sector on ways to streamline and stabilize their funding, involving municipal governments and other funders as appropriate…

Roots Review •43

…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.


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.

Roots Review •43


Roots Review •44


Just want to leave readers with the best quote I’ve ever read about Youth and a sad prediction.

“The truth is that we, as a society – all of us – simply don’t consider children very important. We talk a good game but we don’t think kids are as important as other things, like fixing the roads.”

– Jim Paul Nevins (Ontario Court Judge October 4, 2001 report)

Prediction: 2009…. Expect more talk talk talk talk talk talk…

Pastor Andrew King knows…


(Click here to go directly to the clip on YouTube or Google Video)

And here’s why the McMurty and Curling’s report and Peel-based Youth initiiatives will fail unless we get to the root causes of why governments fail, from none other than Mississauga Councillor Pat Saito (Peel Youth Violence Prevention Steering Committee)

“Thank you, Mr. Chair.  As Gael said, I think we’re all amazed –those of us on the Committee, at the success and how quickly we’ve been successful over the past two years…”

–Mississauga Councillor Pat Saito  PEEL REGIONAL COUNCIL (October 25, 2007)

(Click here to go directly to the clip on Google Video)


The Mississauga Muse

Malton March 3, 2008 Youth Meeting: MISSCORPSEC guard stops Youth from entering


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