On October 18, 2019, a good number of community stakeholders attended a workshop under the banner “Community Safety and Well-Being.” Ever since the legislation of Ontario made it compulsory for municipalities to develop community safety plans, Kenora has been on the forefront by making a lot of changes in the community.
This was noted by the MD of Canadian Municipal Network on Crime Prevention, Felix Munger, who also facilitated the workshop. Kenora’s Community Safety and Well Being Plan was introduced in 2015, way before the mandatory law was introduced.
What topics are discussed in these workshops?
Kenora’s community members are proactively trying to identify the root causes of crimes in the community. In these types of workshop and forum, a wide range of problems and social issues are discussed at length. In this particular workshop, community members focused on these issues:
- Mental health and addiction – Mr. Munger comments that up to 80% of calls made to the police are related to social disorder. The calls that are crime-related almost always are a result of addiction and/or mental health issues.
- Youth – Sheri Norlen from the Creighton Youth Centre in Kenora emphasizes the need to connect with young offenders on a personal level. Ignoring their individual needs has a direct link to criminal behaviour. She suggested different measures, which includes child counselling, connecting with family, anger management classes. Through these programs, she hopes to get to the bottom of their criminal behaviours.
- Housing and poverty
- Human trafficking/sexual exploitation
Why does traditional criminal justice not work for young people?
According to data, the traditional criminal justice system is not effective for the young folks. It is because the traditional system primarily involves punishment of some sort and trying to correct the criminal behaviour.
It does not attempt to get to the bottom and isolate the reason behind the criminal activity. Ms. Norlen, who is a manager of services that works with young offenders in the age group of 12 to 18, says that understanding the needs of these erring youngsters as people is the best way to correct the behaviour.
She is of the opinion that most criminal activity has roots that can be traced to family problems as well as poverty. Along with her, the entire community of Kenora hopes to keep their youth in a stable environment through prevention programs as well as workshops. These can be a solace for young offenders to stay sober, regroup and make changes in their lives.