Who We Are
Peacebuilders is a non-proﬁt organization based in Toronto that seeks to improve access to justice for young people in conﬂict with the law and advocate for change in our justice, child welfare and education systems.
Through our supportive programming, training and advocacy, Peacebuilders promotes restorative approaches to justice as more developmentally appropriate ways to work with youth and adolescents in conﬂict and support their emotional growth, critical reﬂection and positive decision-making skills. Peacebuilders uses restorative programs in the youth court to oﬀer meaningful alternatives for youth and in the education system help students and teachers manage conﬂict, activate safer school environments for learning and support youth, adolescents and families as they navigate the child welfare system.
Restorative justice is a way of addressing conflict that enables the individual who caused harm, the people who were affected by it, and the larger community to work together to create a meaningful resolution. In contrast to criminal justice responses, which seek to punish each act of wrongdoing, restorative justice focuses on repairing harm and restoring relationships.
Restorative practices not only provide us with tools to deal with conflict more effectively and responsibly than punitive approaches, they also provide us with a better framework for understanding conflict—how it arises and who is affected by it. For young people in our education and justice systems, punitive responses, such as suspensions and expulsions or criminal charges, do not address the underlying causes that led to conflict, nor do they recognize that young people in conflict with the justice system or at school are often victims too.
Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act includes several provisions that are consistent with restorative justice principles and practices including Section 3 (Principles), Section 10 (Extrajudicial measures), Section 19 (Conferences), and Section 42 (Youth sentences).
At Peacebuilders, we use restorative practices to keep young people out of the criminal justice system, make schools safer places for learning and development, and build strong and healthy communities. We developed Peacebuilding Circles, which were adapted from the Peacemaking Circles practiced in many First Nations in Canada, in particular those used in the Carcross/ Tagish First Nation.
Young people with social and economic disadvantages and racialized youth are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Young people in the justice system have higher rates of mental health issues, learning and cognitive challenges, substance use issues, histories of trauma and maltreatment, and homelessness.
Their struggles often reflect deficiencies in our education and child welfare systems: in Ontario, 36% of youth in custody are not enrolled in school and 49% are in the care of children’s aid societies. Once in contact with the law, these challenges are exacerbated by the stigma associated with criminal justice involvement, strict bail and probation orders, and punishments that are antithetical to rehabilitation.
At Peacebuilders, we’re committed to ensuring that youth and families are not only provided with access to justice, but access to social justice. This means addressing the underlying factors that lead to youth involvement in the justice system and advocating for policy reforms that meaningfully engage youth, their families and communities, and make them stronger.
Awards conferred upon Peacebuilders
- 2015 Association for Conflict Resolution Marvin E. Johnson Diversity and Equity Award
- 2015 American College of Trial Lawyers Emil Gumpert Award
- 2009 Toronto Community Vital Ideas Award
- 2008 Toronto Community Safety Award
Awards conferred upon Peacebuilders’ Founder, Eva E. Marszewski
- 2019 York University Outstanding Achievement Bryden Award
- 2019 Ontario Bar Association Distinguished Service Award
- 2015 Order of Ontario
- 2013 McMurtry Community Service Award
- 2011 Ashoka Fellowship
- 2009 Dianne Martin Medal for Social Justice through Law
- 2007 YMCA Peace Award
Vision & Mission
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.
To increase the capacity of youth, communities and the education, justice, and child welfare systems to communicate and manage conﬂict through restorative 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
to support young people in conflict with the law or in trouble at school.
to facilitate Peacebuilding Circles to support youth conflict more effectively and responsibly.
by promoting the rights, needs and perspectives of young people.
by offering a different way to understand and work through conflict with young people.
Patrons & Advisors
The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean
C.P., C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D.
27th Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada (2005-2010)
The Honourable Louise Arbour
Senior Counsel, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP
The Honourable Warren K. Winkler
O.C., O.Ont., Q.C., LL.D. (Hon.)
Former Chief Justice of Ontario
The Honourable Roy R. McMurtry
O.C., O.Ont, Q.C.
Former Chief Justice of Ontario
COUNCIL OF ADVISORS
Professor Kathy Bickmore
Professor Anthony Doob
Professor Mary Lee
Professor Marsha Rampersaud
Justice Brian Scully
Justice Barry Stuart
Dr. Ashley Vandermorris
Professor Kim Varma
Justice Brian Weagant
Peacebuilders annual reports include an overview of our programs and activities for the year and financial statements.