Advancing justice

“Advancing justice” explores the relationship between human rights, poverty, racism, and the criminal justice system. To deepen our understanding of the issues, we talk to and publish contributions by researchers and practitioners. We explore themes such as the historical roots of the present-day realities, the challenges associated with the lack of race-based data, issues specific to Indigenous communities, lack of access to justice, as well as potential solutions and promising practices.


Featured article and podcast

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Indigenous Peoples and the injustice of justice​

In the 1990s, there were signs of progress for Indigenous people’s relationship to Canada’s criminal justice system. A landmark Supreme Court decision and reforms to the Criminal Code gave cause for hope. But almost 25 years later, that relationship has only deteriorated. In her contribution to Advancing justice, Laura Arndt uses data, storytelling, and history to talk about what went wrong and how it could be made right.

Laura is the Chair of Indigenous Studies at Centennial College, but she is currently on secondment as Chief Operating Officer of the Survivor’s Secretariat, which is investigating unmarked graves associated with the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School near Brantford, Ontario. She is the former Director of Strategic Development at the Office of the Ontario Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, and she is currently completing her PhD in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University.

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Advancing justice podcast: Interview with Laura Arndt

In our eighth episode, Laura Arndt talks about the relationships between human rights, racism, and the criminal justice system from the perspective of Indigenous people.

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Confronting anti-Black racism through the courts, community activism, and government action

In this month’s contribution to “Advancing justice,” Anthony Morgan joins Elizabeth McIsaac to talk about the issue of anti-Black racism in the criminal justice system in Canada and the role of municipalities in confronting anti-Black racism.

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Rethinking community policing: Civilian partners in public safety

In this contribution to “Advancing justice,” Akwatu Khenti, Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, argues that community-led health and safety initiatives can optimize public safety. He explains how a 24-hour mobile crisis response program in Eugene and Springfield, Oregon, United States, contains lessons for other municipalities’ non-police efforts, including a soon-to-be launched pilot project in Toronto.

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Expanding the talent pool: Why the criminal justice system needs more diversity and inclusion

Maytree president Elizabeth McIsaac speaks to Dr. Tanya (Toni) De Mello, Assistant Dean for Student Programming, Development and Equity at the Lincoln Alexander Law School at Ryerson University, and Harsimran Sidhu and Kaylee Rich, both students at the law school, about the barriers obstructing access to justice for Indigenous, Black, and racialized people.

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“Guilty until proven innocent”: Tyrone’s story​

In this contribution to “Advancing justice,” Maytree president Elizabeth McIsaac speaks to Tyrone, a 25-year-old man who grew up and still lives in Scarborough. Tyrone talks about how his interactions with the criminal justice system began at the age of 13, when he was illegally stopped by the police in the community. At age 15, he was charged, arrested, and held in remand because the police mistook him for another Black youth. Now, as a young man, he’s looking to share his story and give back to his community.

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Beyond gatekeepers: Fostering accountable justice

As Sabreena Delhon writes in this month’s contribution to “Advancing justice,” the pandemic provides an opportunity for transformation. We need to seize it – to enhance not only the quality of justice, but also how it is perceived, engaged, and secured in our society.

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Race-based data in the criminal justice system​

In this month’s contribution to “Advancing justice,” Dr. Mai Phan writes about the importance of collecting race-based data in the criminal justice system, and about the conditions that need to be in place before we collect and use race-based data to inform the work of achieving public safety and justice. As she writes, significant culture change is required to prepare the justice sector to responsibly use race data and achieve equity goals.

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Understanding the impact of racism, colonialism, and poverty on Canada’s criminal justice system

In a conversation with Maytree president Elizabeth McIsaac, Akwasi Owusu-Bempah explores the historical roots of racism in the criminal justice system. In particular, he talks about how racism and colonialism contribute to the social and economic inequalities and discrimination experienced by Indigenous, Black, and racialized communities in Canada, and in turn shapes their interactions with the criminal justice system.

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Advancing justice

Advancing justice: Human rights, poverty, racism, and Canada’s criminal justice system

The criminal justice system – from police to courts to prisons – is intricately tied to our economic and social rights. Failure to fulfill these rights creates poverty, giving rise to and deepening cycles of marginalization and vulnerability. All this, of course, is exacerbated by systemic racism. In “Advancing justice,” researchers and practitioners will explore these issues as well as potential solutions and promising practices.

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