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.
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.
Board of Directors
Sammir Assaf is a wealth management executive with significant leadership experience in the investment industry and holds the Chartered Investment Management designation. Focusing on client relationship management, portfolio & risk management, and asset allocation for high net worth private clients and institutional clients.
Michael Bookman joined Babin Bessner Spry LLP as an Associate in 2018. Prior to joining the firm, Mike practiced at a global full service firm, where he acted for clients in a wide range of litigation matters involving commercial and shareholder disputes, securities, tort, and class action proceedings.
Mike has appeared before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the Ontario Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court of Canada. From 2012-2013, Mike served as a law clerk to Justice Andromache Karakatsanis at the Supreme Court of Canada.
Mike obtained his L.L.B./B.C.L. from the Faculty of Law at McGill University, where he served as an editor of the McGill Law Journal and was a research assistant to Professor David Lametti.
Prior to law school, Mike was a consultant for a global political risk advisory firm in London, UK and served as an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy.
He has served as Co-Chair of the Spring For Peace fundraising gala for Peacebuilders. He is also the Chair of the Order of St. Michael selection committee at St. Michael’s College School.
Communications and Public Relations
Anna Buchanan is a retired public relations and marketing consultant with several PR firms in Toronto and Australia. She has been the Co-Chair of The Toronto Botanical Garden’s largest fundraising event and organizer of the CRC Regent Park Drop-in Centre Lunch Program. She has a degree in journalism and public relations from Ryerson University.
Michael Ceccarelli is Executive Vice President of the Client Team at Waratah Capital Advisors. Michael is responsible for the management of high net worth individuals, foundation and institutional client accounts. Michael holds his Chartered Investment Manager designation and is registered as an Advising and Dealing Representative.
Adam Delva is a former lawyer and recent graduate of the MBA program at the Rotman School of Management, where he discovered a passion for business design and innovation. Adam is currently a Research Assistant with the Business Design Initiative at Rotman, where he uses design thinking and a human-centred approach to uncover stakeholder needs and tackle real-world business challenges.
Program Committee, Advocacy, Communications
Stephanie DiGiuseppe is a partner at Ruby Shiller Enenajor DiGiuseppe, Barristers. Her practice focuses on criminal, constitutional, and regulatory law, including professional discipline. She occasionally represents clients in select civil matters.
Andrew Freedman works in the financial dispute/litigation support field, has been the Treasurer on the Board of Peacebuilders Canada since its incorporation as a charity in 2006, and is an avid supporter of Peacebuilders.
Geoffrey Goad is a career investment professional at Leede Jones Gable Inc. Geoffrey is passionate about Peacebuilders and its restorative approach to challenging adolescent behaviour and conflict.
Program Committee, Development Committee, Advocacy
Eva E. Marszewski, O.Ont., L.S.M. is the Founder of Peacebuilders International (Canada), a Director on the Board and an Ashoka Fellow. A member of the Law Society of Ontario, formerly a litigator, arbitrator and mediator, the first non-practising lawyer to become a recipient of the Law Society Medal, the recipient of the York University Bryden Life-time Achievement Award, Eva is focused on connecting the dots between the Toronto work of Peacebuilders with the Smart Justice Network of Canada and globally with the work of Catalyst 2030 to ensure meaningful progress by 2030 towards the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
Amy Stoyan is Manager, Legal Counsel at Loblaw Companies Limited and previously worked at a large corporate law firm, with a background in corporate and commercial law, mergers and acquisitions, and financings. Amy serves as Peacebuilders’ Secretary, and is a former elementary school teacher with a passion for the intersection of law and education.
Program Committee, Advocacy
Gowtham Vijayakumaran is a child protection worker with the region of Halton. He is also a psychotherapist and has his own private practice called Humble Counselling. Gowtham has been working with children, adolescents and families for over a decade managing crisis, implementing policy, developing programs and providing hope. He has extensive experience working with people from diverse backgrounds in various settings including high conflict, behavioural, loss and crisis situations. His practice is informed by his work in the communities, criminal justice system, in-patient hospital, school board and child protection settings.
Media and Communications
Mark Wright owns Prisma Light Ltd, a media company founded in 1983 that produces factual programming for television, social media, conferences and a wide variety of other applications. Clients include multinational corporations, government and non-governmental agencies, broadcasters and not-for-profits organizations.
Peacebuilders annual reports include an overview of our programs and activities for the year and financial statements.