The one-day expert forum on comprehensive approaches to community safety organized by the Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) will be devoted to a wide-ranging exploratory conversation amongst participants to identify law and policy research issues for a possible LCO project on integrated approaches to community safety. It is designed to bring diverse expertise to bear on how the promotion of community safety can be better integrated across ministries, departments, levels of government, sectors, agencies, disciplines and community organizations.
“Community safety” for the purposes of this forum is understood broadly. Safe communities are healthy, inclusive, cohesive and resilient communities, where members live free of crime and violence and the fear of crime and violence.
Community safety efforts include targeted prevention concentrating on risk-factors and protective measures, such as integrated wrap-around initiatives and neighbourhood renewal and design projects, as well as measures to address root causes of crime. The root causes that might be identified as priorities for action in any given community include social exclusion of marginalized youth; individual and societal attitudes normalizing gender-based violence; inadequate housing or homelessness; and inadequate mental health and addictions services as well as other social services and supports.
Comprehensive community safety actors include schools, mental health, addictions and other health agencies, child welfare agencies, housing and other service providers, municipal and provincial governments, and community leaders and organizations. The criminal justice sector may play a role, but its traditional members are not necessarily the drivers of (or in some cases even participants in) comprehensive policies or programs.
The LCO discussion will be informed by six guiding principles, which are attached as an Appendix and are described more fully in the Community Safety Background Paper. These principles confirm that comprehensive approaches to community safety must be locally responsive and appropriate; reflect the diversity of communities across Ontario; recognize the structural inequalities which give rise to risk factors for offending and victimization; and commit community safety policy and program responses to addressing the needs and circumstances of those most excluded.
B. Why a Forum on Comprehensive Approaches to Community Safety?
The forum starts from the widely accepted premise that no sector, in isolation, can address the root causes of crime. Similarly, risk factors for crime and victimization are most often multi-layered and complex. Integrated policy planning and initiatives are essential.
Yet as Forum participants well know, coordinated, cross-sectoral and multi-disciplinary work is difficult. Many barriers exist to overcoming silos.
The focus of the forum, therefore, is on questions of policy design.
C. Objective of the Forum
The LCO recognizes that there is considerable work already being done on comprehensive approaches and initiatives in a range of disciplines including crime prevention, health, education, poverty reduction and community engagement.
We are exploring the ways in which the LCO’s public mandate and expertise in law and policy reform can contribute to, and build on, research and work already underway in this area.
The overarching objective of the forum for the LCO, therefore, is to draw on the varied expertise of participants to assist the LCO in deciding what issues the LCO might usefully consider were it to undertake an innovative project on integrated approaches to community safety.
What laws, policies and government or institutional structures, support or hinder effective multi-agency, multi-sectoral policies and approaches in promoting community safety?
“Integration” for the purposes of the forum includes co-ordination and collaboration at a variety of levels, including
- policy integration, involving collaboration horizontally (across departments or ministries) and vertically (across levels of government);
- integrated research and collection and sharing of information vertically and horizontally;
- integration of service delivery; and
- multi-disciplinary teamwork within multi-agency collaboration or partnerships.
The scope of the forum is thus deliberately very broad. The LCO’s goal during this forum is to benefit fully from the breadth of experience in the room and the potentially wide-ranging issues identified by participants for future research and inquiry.
D. Three Themes
In order to focus the discussion, the LCO proposes that participants consider the key law and policy issues and gaps in relation to three themes:
- Municipal and Provincial Structures
- Shifting Organizational Culture – Leadership, Governance, Accountability and Incentives
- Collecting and Sharing of Information
1. Municipal and Provincial Structures
National and international research in the area of crime prevention has identified government structures (referred to by some sources as “permanent responsibility centres”) as essential to effective development, co-ordination and implementation of comprehensive approaches. The forum will ask participants to consider what structures need to be in place at the provincial and local/regional levels to effect a sustained integration of policy, planning and service delivery to create or strengthen community safety. The LCO guiding principles recognize that structural inequality and social exclusion are risk factors for offending and/or victimization. For this reason, the discussion of provincial and municipal structures may emphasize the necessary elements to address the needs of historically excluded groups, including (depending on the community in question) racialized persons, newcomers, Aboriginal peoples, women, and at-risk youth (recognizing that these identities often overlap). The forum will not specifically consider the necessary elements for comprehensive safety structures for the federal government or Aboriginal communities. These questions are reserved for a separate discussion. However questions of how provincial and municipal structures relate to these other levels of government are relevant.
Municipal and Provincial Structures: Questions for Participants
- What are the foundational elements of any municipal structure to best achieve comprehensive approaches to community safety?
- How can municipalities better facilitate and support community-based community safety initiatives?
- What are the benefits and disadvantages of mandating municipalities (whether by legislation or policy) to develop and implement comprehensive community safety initiatives?
- What role does the province have in supporting comprehensive approaches to community safety at the local level and what is the best design for it fulfilling this role (for example, an inter-ministerial safety secretariat)?
- What laws, policies or structures might improve vertical integration of provincial and municipal community safety policies and initiatives?
- Are there gaps in law and policy in this area which the LCO should consider in a possible project on integrated approaches to community safety?
2. Shifting Organizational Culture – Leadership, Governance, Accountability and Incentives
Increasing collaboration and partnerships across sectors and disciplines, within and outside of government, will require a transformation of leadership and organizational culture – from a culture of silos to a culture of collaboration. Increased collaboration and partnership may also necessitate new processes to ensure shared vision and goals, as well as new governance structures that impose accountability for achieving outcomes on integrated partners and reward or create performance incentives for effective collaboration. Identifying the criteria for good leadership in integrated settings or initiatives may be a necessary part of this process.
Shifting Organizational Culture – Leadership, Governance, Accountability and Incentives: Questions for Participants
- How can laws, policies or structures (or all three) support or advance a culture of integration and embed good leadership in integrated structures?
- What incentives, recognition and rewar