Who We Are

About Us

About Us

Peacebuilders is a nonprofit organization based in Toronto, Canada that seeks to enhance access to justice for youth in conflict and advocate for  change in our justice and education systems. We use restorative practices to keep young people out of the criminal justice system, make schools safer for learning and development, and build strong and healthy communities.

Founded in 2002, by Toronto lawyer and mediator Eva E. Marszewski, Peacebuilders is committed to transforming the youth justice system from one that punishes and harms young people to one that supports and empowers them. Despite significant policy and legislative changes over the last decade, our youth criminal justice system still lacks meaningful alternatives to young people in conflict with the law. That’s where we come in. For more than a decade, Peacebuilders has offered programs and increased knowledge about restorative justice as a meaningful and effective way to work with youth in conflict with the law and support their rehabilitation.

Our programs provide alternatives to young people facing criminal charges, in conflict at school, or confronting issues in their community. Peacebuilders’ restorative court-diversion program provides access to justice to young people across the City of Toronto. We work in schools throughout the city to help students and teachers manage conflict to create safer, more supportive learning environments. We facilitate crisis response circles to support communities working through violence and trauma. All of our programs are supported by a dedicated team of trained volunteers and community members.

Peacebuilders also provides research and recommendations to assist advocates and policymakers in the important work of criminal justice and education reform. We create training guides and other educational materials, and our staff conduct presentations and workshops for students, teachers, legal professionals and community groups every year.

Vision & Mission

VISION

Youth realizing their full potential and building safe and peaceful communities.

What does it mean?
Peacebuilders envisions justice and education systems that are committed to helping youth, especially those who are vulnerable and marginalized. We foresee systems that adapt to young peoples’ needs—that meaningfully engage youth and communities and make them stronger. That’s why we use restorative practices to work with youth and empower them to overcome conflict and realize their full potential.

MISSION

To increase the capacity of youth, schools, communities, and the justice system to manage conflict through Peacebuilding dialogues.

What does it mean?
Peacebuilders promotes the use of restorative practices and principles in our justice and education systems, and in our communities through advocacy and restorative justice programs that use Peacebuilding Circles.

Achieving our Vision & Mission

We offer direct programs
to support young people in conflict with the law or in trouble at school.
We train others
to facilitate Peacebuilding Circles to support youth conflict more effectively and responsibly.
We advocate for systemic change
by promoting the rights, needs and perspectives of young people.
We change the way people think
by offering a different way to understand and work through conflict with young people.

History

In the late 90s, Eva E. Marszewski was invited by Justice Barry Stuart to observe a Carcross/ Tagish First Nation Peacemaking Circle in the Yukon. The Circle was convened to determine how to respond to a young person who was convicted of arson for burning down a home. During the Circle, the young person offered to rebuild the home he had burned down and the members of the Circle agreed to help him. Justice Barry Stuart, a pioneer of justice reform, agreed with the Circle’s recommendation and ordered that the youth would not be sentenced to jail if he helped rebuild the home. And so it happened: a man’s home was rebuilt, and a young person worked hard to take responsibility for his actions and make amends.

By the time Eva visited the Carcross/ Tagish First Nation, she had spent more than two decades litigating, arbitrating and mediating disputes in Toronto and across Ontario. She was troubled by the widening gap between societal expectations of fairness and the realities of the justice system.

The introduction of the Youth Criminal Justice Act in 2003 presented an opportunity to develop and implement more appropriate responses to address adolescent conflict using a restorative approaches based on those Eva had witnessed in the Carcross/ Tagish First Nation.

Shortly after the Act was passed, Peacebuilders launched a restorative justice court-diversion pilot project in Regent Park and St. Jamestown in Toronto. In the first year, Peacebuilders’ received 20 referrals. Since then, Peacebuilders had diverted hundreds of young people from across the City of Toronto out of the criminal justice system before trial. Peacebuilders has also brought restorative practices to dozens of schools to change the way the education system addresses student misbehavior and conflict. The organization has facilitated crisis response Circles to support communities working through trauma, and trained hundreds of community members to facilitate Peacebuilding Circles.

Awards

2015 Order of Ontario presented to our founder Eva E. Marszewski

2015 Marvin E. Johnson Diversity and Equity Award

2015 American College of Trial Lawyers Emil Gumpert Award

2013 Roy McMurtry Community Service Awards

2009 Toronto Community Vital Ideas Awards

2008 City of Toronto Community Safety Award

2006 YMCA Canada Peace Medal