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Proposed Kenora Justice Centre moves forward

A proposed new justice centre in Kenora has taken a step forward, with the Ontario government announcing the creation of an advisory council that will guide the facility’s development.

The Kenora courthouse. The northwestern Ontario city has been chosen as a pilot site for the province’s justice centre initiative, which aims to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the local criminal justice system. (Google Streetview)

A proposed new justice centre in Kenora has taken a step forward, with the Ontario government announcing the creation of an advisory council that will guide the facility’s development.

The goal of the Kenora Justice Centre is to “address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the local criminal justice system,” Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General said in a media release.

The centre will provide restorative justice options — they will run alongside criminal justice proceedings, the government said — and culturally-appropriate services aimed at allowing Indigenous people in northern Ontario to remain in their home communities.

“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 Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox said in a statement. “The co-development of this community justice centre with Grand Council Treaty #3 will create an environment where Indigenous people can access justice services in a culturally inclusive manner.”

“We look forward to building on this experience and working toward additional centres within the NAN territory.”

While construction on the new centre hasn’t begun, the province announced Thursday it would create a Kenora Justice Advisory Council, which will be made up of Indigenous leadership, legal professionals, housing providers, and health and social service organizations.

The council will help guide the development of the centre.

“To cut crime and make a community like Kenora safer we must address the repeat offenders who move through the revolving door of the system struggling with poverty, mental health, addiction, lack of secure housing, and unemployment,” Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey said in a statement. “This Justice Centre will bring together partners and services to ensure help is there when and where it is needed to hold individuals accountable, support victims, and break the cycle of offending.”

The Kenora Justice Centre is one of four justice centres Ontario is working to build, with two of those planned for Toronto, and the third for London.

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