Kenora Justice Centre opens, will provide ‘Indigenous-led support programs’

By Amanda Jerome

Law360 Canada (February 6, 2023, 3:34 PM EST) -- A new justice centre in Kenora, Ont., opened on Feb. 6, was launched in collaboration with Indigenous leaders and will “focus on addressing the root causes of crime, while supporting healing and growth for at-risk youth and young adults.”

According to a government release, the centre will “work with local community partners and Elders to provide Indigenous-led support programs and services to help individuals heal from trauma.”

“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,” said Attorney General Doug Downey.

“The Kenora Justice Centre will offer community supports 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,” he added in a statement.

The Kenora Justice Centre will have “wrap-around programs” that will “be delivered by specialized teams that include Indigenous-led organizations, and mental health and addictions counsellors.”

Greg Rickford, minister of Indigenous affairs and MPP for Kenora-Rainy River, said the government is “improving the way we administer justice by implementing culturally appropriate and specialized wrap-around justice services that will enhance public safety across the Northwest.”

“By shifting parts of our justice system into a community-based setting, we are confident that healing will be front and centre while ensuring that individuals are held accountable for their crimes,” he added in a statement.

According to the release, the centre is in a building “owned by the Kenora Chiefs Advisory” and will be “working with community partners and the Ontario Court of Justice” to establish:
  • “A courtroom configured to support rehabilitation and encourage dialogue between individuals, judges, Elders, Crowns, duty/defence counsel, victims, police and members of the community
  • An Elder/cultural liaison room for participants to work with on-site Elders and interpreters to create healing plans
  • Access to on-site integrated social services to support individuals and families, such as housing, income supports, mental health, and employment
  • A primary health-care room to support Indigenous-led health and treatment services
  • A technology room to support participants who lack reliable access to internet services for court appearances, tribunal hearings or medical appointments
  • Smudging is welcome in all justice centre spaces and a community room will prioritize opportunities for ceremony, workshops and training for all community partners.”

Francis Kavanaugh, Ogichidaa (grand chief) of the Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty #3, said, it is “critical for the criminal justice system to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the system.”

“The Kenora Justice Centre has been created in collaboration with Elders and community to prioritize Indigenous-led healing and wellness for youth, young adults and their families. It represents a new path forward for our community,” he emphasized.

Derek Fox, Nishnawbe Aski Nation grand chief, also noted that “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.”

“The co-development of this community justice centre with Grand Council Treaty #3 has created a new environment in Kenora where Indigenous youth, young adults and their families can access justice services in a culturally-inclusive and trauma-informed space. We look forward to building on this experience and working toward additional centres within the NAN territory,” he added in a statement.

Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice, Lise Maisonneuve, said the “Ontario Court of Justice is pleased to recognize the opening of the Kenora Justice Centre.”

“The Kenora Justice Centre seeks to deliver justice services in new and innovative ways, with a focus on Indigenous justice participants, and an approach based on both criminal and Indigenous restorative justice processes,” she added, noting that 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.”

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips please contact Amanda Jerome at or 416-524-2152.