Right across Ontario an increasing number of people who are socio-economically disadvantaged or neuro-divergent are becoming involved in tragic incidents with law enforcement – many that could have been prevented with the proper interventions beforehand.
By July 1, Kawartha Lakes will have a community safety and well-being plan in place that recognizes and assists vulnerable groups and neighbourhoods throughout the city to lessen the severity of these interactions in the future.
Brenda Stonehouse, strategy and performance specialist for Kawartha Lakes, shared with council that as part of the Police Services Act a community safety and well-being plan needs to be in place “that will provide the social infrastructure that will focus on vulnerable groups and neighbourhoods.”
“There will be multi-sector involvement,” Stonehouse said, “that will involve the police, health care, mental health services, education, community and social services and child and youth services.”
“The plan will focus on a definition of health as someone who feels safe, has access to education, housing, employment and social networks they can rely upon,” Stonehouse said.
“We want to reduce harm and victimization and ensure that necessary services can be accessed easily. We want people to feel safe and less fearful. We want to prevent negative incidents from occurring in the first place. We don’t want to be reactive, we prefer to be preventative.”
Council was supportive of the presentation, and after listening to Stonehouse the city approved establishing an advisory committee who will update the city in the second quarter of 2021 on their progress with the safety plan and then present a draft plan in June 2021.
Councillors including Emmett Yeo, Patrick O’Reilly and Doug Elmslie had specific questions for Stonehouse about the breadth, membership and level of public involvement this safety plan is looking for.
Yeo questioned why this plan would get involved in the expulsion of a student from an area school, wondering what purpose that has in assisting vulnerable groups and neighbourhoods.
“We are looking to identify gaps in the system,” Stonehouse said. “That expulsion could be a sign of an individual at risk. The expulsion is simply a trigger that would get us involved.”
O’Reilly wondered who would sit on the final committee beyond representatives of the Kawartha Lakes Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police.
Stonehouse assured the councillor that mental health experts and individuals from the educational community will be involved, but she did not have specific names to release to the public.
Elmslie asked how broad-based a body of representation the advisory committee was looking for. Stonehouse was hopeful that people from right across the city will become involved in crafting this plan.