Ontario Ombudsman Looking into Closure of Youth Justice Facilities

Judge's Gavel

Thunder Bay – The recent closure announcement of two youth justice facilities. the Creighton Youth Centre in Kenora and J. J. Kelso Youth Centre in Thunder Bay are now under investigation by Ontario’s Ombudsman.

Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé today announced that his office has launched an investigation into complaints related to the government’s abrupt closures of two youth justice centres in Kenora and Thunder Bay.

“We have received complaints that raised serious concerns about the fairness and transparency of last week’s closures of Creighton Youth Centre in Kenora and J. J. Kelso Youth Centre in Thunder Bay,” the Ombudsman said.

The investigation will focus on how the closure of these facilities was carried out by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, rather than on the merits of the government’s decision to close a total of 26 centres across the province, he noted.

“Concerns have been raised about a lack of notice and consideration for the vulnerabilities of the young people who were moved out of these centres – for example, whether their rights were respected and what planning was done for transitioning them to new facilities,” Mr. Dubé said.

“As always, if we find that the planning was adequate and the actions appropriate, we will say so. If not, we will make recommendations for improvement.”

Investigators will speak to the affected youths, involved staff and officials from the Ministry, and will review relevant documentation. The investigation team includes members of the Ombudsman’s dedicated Children and Youth Unit, established in 2019 after the Ombudsman assumed the investigative duties of the former office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth.

“I have formally notified the Ministry that our investigation will focus on the planning, consultation and communication of these closures, along with the youth transfer process and overall implementation of the transition,” the Ombudsman noted.

Anyone with information relevant to this investigation is asked to submit a complaint form at www.ombudsman.on.ca, to email info@ombudsman.on.ca, or call 1-800-263-1830. Although there is no set timeframe for the investigation, it will be completed as quickly as possible, Mr. Dubé said.

The Ombudsman’s investigation and reporting process

The Ombudsman is an independent, impartial officer of the Ontario Legislature who resolves and investigates public complaints about provincial government bodies, as well as French language services, child protection services, municipalities, universities and school boards. He does not overturn decisions of elected officials or set public policy, but makes recommendations to ensure administrative fairness, transparency and accountability. The Ombudsman’s recommendations have been overwhelmingly accepted by government, resulting in numerous reforms, including help for people with developmental disabilities who are in crisis, improved drug funding and newborn screening, and enhanced tracking of inmates in solitary confinement.

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