Toronto City Council adopted the SafeTO: Toronto’s Ten-Year Community Safety and Well-Being Plan on July 14, 2021 with amendments.

The City is taking a bold and different approach to advancing community safety by working collaboratively across sectors, communities and governments. It will work  to bring about a safe Toronto that promotes and celebrates the well-being and resilience of all residents by:

  • expanding the definition of community safety beyond crime or policing to include well-being
  • redefining what trauma means and deepening the ability of the City and its partners to be informed by it and respond to it
  • enhancing our ability to act early and advance preventive approaches
  • developing innovative mechanisms to use multi-sector data to inform decision making and integrate investments
  • implementing an effective multi-sector governance structure that brings our critical partners into co-ordinated leadership and action
  • committing to a long-term vision of community safety and well-being and a comprehensive plan to realize it.

SafeTO will drive 26 priority actions across seven strategic goals: reduce vulnerability; reduce violence; advance truth and reconciliation; promote healing and justice; invest in people; invest in neighbourhoods, and drive collaboration and accountability. It provides a roadmap for how the City and social systems that serve Torontonians, such as community services, healthcare systems, education systems, justice systems, police and businesses, can work collaboratively across different sectors and across governments to support community safety and well-being. An implementation plan will be presented to City Council in December 2021.

The Community Safety and Policing Act, 2019, S.O. 2019, c. 1, Sched. 1 Part XVI mandates every municipality across Ontario to prepare and adopt a Community Safety and Well-being Plan by July 2021.

Legislative Requirements

Establish a Multi-Level Advisory Committee

Municipalities will form a multi-sectoral advisory committee comprised of representation from the police service board and other local service providers in health/mental health, education, community/social services and children/youth services.

Consultation

The Municipality will consult the advisory committee, affected communities and those that serve them on the prioritization of risk factors and to identify strategies to address them.

Outcomes Framework

The Municipality will use relevant data to identify and prioritize risk factors that contribute to crime, victimization and community safety and well-being; and will set out measurable outcomes that the strategies are intended to produce

Alignment with Police Service Board

Police Service Boards will implement business plans that align with and further the goals of the Municipality’s CSWB Plan.

Publish Completed Plan

The Municipality will report on and publish the CSWB plan.

Review Plan

The plan will be revised within a four-year time frame.

Our work leverages the Community Safety and Well-Being Planning Framework developed by the Ministry of Solicitor General in partnership with a broad range of sectors including the City. The Community Safety and Well-Being Planning Framework includes:

Social Development (Upstream)

  • Social development requires long-term, multi-disciplinary efforts and investments to improve the social determinants of health and thereby reduce the probability of harm and victimization. Appropriate investment in social development will experience the social benefits of addressing root causes of crime and disorder.

Prevention (Midstream)

  • Prevention involves proactively implementing evidence-based situational measures, policies or programs to reduce locally identified priority risks to community safety and well-being before they result in crime, victimization and/or harm.
  • Opportunities to learn from prevention efforts can advise on strategic investment in social development

Risk Intervention (Downstream)

  • Risk intervention involves multiple sectors working together to address and/or interrupt escalating situations where there is an elevated risk of harm
  • What is learned by mobilizing risk intervention can inform how investments and strategies are deployed in the prevention and social development areas.

Incident Response

  • Immediate and reactionary responses that may involve a sense of urgency in response to crime or safety.
  • Initiatives in this area alone cannot be relied upon to increase community safety and well-being.

The following areas have emerged from staff review of existing engagement and consultation data and reflect key principles in our approach to the SafeTO work – build on the existing community and institutional wisdom. It is important to note that, all of the prioritized challenges are interrelated and that there will be overlap in how the City responds to these areas.

Prioritized Challenge #1 – Community Trauma

Rationale

  • Communities and neighborhoods that experience higher levels of inequities and/or experience higher levels of violence are most vulnerable to becoming traumatized. Unaddressed trauma can manifest in physical, emotional, and psychological harm creating negative impacts on community well-being, health and safety. Systemic racism and inequity are primary contributing factors of trauma.
  • There is growing evidence that the experience of trauma, multi-generational or intergenerational racial trauma, and early trauma as a result of adverse childhood experiences can cause life-long harm, poor health outcomes and in some cases perpetuate violence.
  • Community consultations amplified the need for the City to prioritize addressing trauma. Recognizing trauma as a contributing root cause and directly addressing the impact of trauma on individuals and communities through culturally responsive approaches can help facilitate recovery from the consequences and manifestations of trauma.

Examples

  • Inter-generational and multi-generational trauma as a result of historic harms experienced by Indigenous peoples are often unacknowledged or unaddressed and can result in further traumatization as a result of negative interactions with government systems.
  • In recent years, Toronto has experienced attacks including the Yonge Street van attack and the Danforth shooting which resulted in mass casualties and victimization. Further, some communities experience more frequent exposure to community violence or adverse community experiences disproportionately. The compounding impact of these events can traumatize individuals and entire communities.
  • Preliminary data from the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario demonstrates there was a record-high number of confirmed opioid toxicity deaths in Toronto in 2020, with a total of 521 fatalities. This represents a 78 percent increase from 2019 and a 280 percent increase from 2015. There has been a notable increase in drug-related deaths since the start of the COVID-19 emergency. Substance use is often driven by trauma, and the increase in deaths has had devastating impacts on the loved ones of those lost and the frontline workers who supported them.

Prioritized Challenge #2 – Community Violence

Rationale

  • Community violence — including gun violence, gender-based and intimate partner violence — has been on the rise in Toronto and was declared a public health issue by the Toronto Board of Health in 2019.
  • The traumatic impact of gun violence in communities is not only experienced by individuals, it is experienced by communities which can contribute to negative long-term health outcomes and can be a contributing factor to the propensity to commit violence.
  • There have been calls to strategically mobilize short-term and long-term actions in coordination with multi-sector partners, community leaders, and residents to interrupt the immediate risks of community violence and continuously work to prevent it.

Examples

  • As of May 19, 2021, there have been 119 shootings in Toronto resulting in 46 injuries and 12 people losing their lives.
  • Incidents of gender-based and intimate partner violence are also increasing in Toronto, particularly through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prioritized Challenge #3 – Harm Reduction and Victimization

Rationale

  • Experiencing both immediate and life-long harms or repeated victimization can be a risk factor of complex conditions that threaten community safety (e.g. mental health crisis, substance use, human trafficking, and hate crimes). Continued exposure to such harms can negatively impact the social determinants of health and further exacerbate the risk to equity-deserving communities.
  • Advancing policies and programs to reduce harm and victimization and further understand vulnerability will ensure individuals and communities have access to resources and supports such as victim/witness, psycho-social and other relevant supports that promote community healing while also beginning to address the root causes of these harms.
  • Vulnerability extends to instances of acquired brain injuries and developmental disabilities; the lack of understanding of these issues combined with the lack of appropriate supports presents an increased risk of engagement with the criminal justice system.

Examples

  • The number of reported hate-related incidents in Toronto has increased by 51 percent in 2020 with clear calls from the community for the City to prioritize efforts to address systemic racism and inequity.
  • Mental health calls to police are occurring at a rate of approximately 85 per day, and 76 percent of all FOCUS Toronto situations respond to mental health issues.
  • Acquired and Traumatic Brain Injuries are another notable concern given their prevalence among populations experiencing homelessness; a study conducted in 2008 found that of 904 people experiencing homelessness in Toronto, 53 percent had sustained at least one traumatic brain injury.
  • In 2020, Toronto Paramedic Services responded to 3,861 suspected overdose calls, including 268 calls involving death. This is a 90 percent increase in the number of suspected overdose deaths attended by Toronto Paramedic Services. The criminalization of people who use drugs and limited access to harm reduction services, including safer supply, contributes to the increase of drug-related overdoses and death.

Prioritized Challenge #4 – Injustice

Rationale

  • The reliance on an enforcement lens continues to perpetuate the over-representation of Indigenous, Black and equity-deserving communities in the criminal justice system. There is a lack of consistency in terms of the application of a community justice lens in the approaches that address the root causes of community safety and well-being.
  • Restorative practices are an approach to justice that focus on addressing the harm caused by crime while holding the offender responsible for their actions, through providing an opportunity for those directly affected by the crime (victims, offenders and communities) to identify and address their needs in the aftermath of a crime in a culturally specific approach.
  • Reintegration is the support given to offenders during their re-entry into society following incarceration. It can include treatment, restorative justice and suitable community-based supports or treatment.
  • There are clear calls from the community to mobilize culturally responsive restorative practices and reintegration approaches that embody cultural identity and tradition as forms of intervention within communities.

Example

  • Nearly one out of every 15 young Black men in Ontario experienced jail time, compared to one out of about every 70 young white men, and incarcerated Black people were more likely to live in low-income neighbourhoods. A siloed approach to community safety that results in an over-emphasis on enforcement has been shown to perpetuate the over-representation of Indigenous, Black and equity-deserving communities in the criminal justice system.
  • Between September 2018 and October 2019, Toronto’s Metro West Court­house received approximately 306 youth cases from 23 Division and 312 from 31 Division. Taken together, 23 and 31 Divisions account for more than 40 per cent of all youth cases seen at the Metro West Courthouse.
  • Despite making up only 4.1 per cent of the population in Ontario under age 15, Indigenous children represent approximately 30 per cent of foster children.

 

Below is a list of the SafeTO goals and priority actions. You can also download a PDF version.

Goal #1 – Reduce Vulnerability

Reduce harm and victimization through proactive mental health and vulnerability support strategies, life stabilization, community-led crisis support models, and collaborative risk-driven approaches.

Priority Actions

1.1 Enhance Multi-Sector Mental Health and Vulnerability Supports

1.2 Implement Life Stabilization and Service Navigation Supports

1.3 Embed the Community Crisis Support Service as a Well-Resourced, First-Response Service
City-wide

1.4 Strengthen, Align and Expand Capacity of Collaborative Risk-Driven Approaches to Reduce Risk of Harm and Victimization

1.5 Advance Strategies, Programs and Services that Reduce Harm Related to Substance Use

Goal #2 – Reduce Violence

Implement dedicated strategies to prevent and reduce gun violence, interpersonal violence, gender-based and intimate partner violence through strategic and timely coordinated efforts across communities and systems with a focus on violence prevention, intervention, interruption, response and recovery.

Priority Actions

2.1 Develop a Comprehensive Multi-sector Gun Violence Reduction Plan

2.2 Develop a Comprehensive Gender-Based and Intimate-Partner Violence Reduction Strategy

2.3 Strengthen Community Crisis Response Protocols to Better Support Victims and Communities Impacted by Violence

Goal #3 – Advance Truth and Reconciliation

Advance actions and recommendations in the Path to Reconciliation report that improve community safety and well-being for Indigenous Peoples and advance Indigenous-led community safety and well-being priorities.

Priority Actions

3.1 Advance Indigenous-led community safety and well-being priorities

3.2 Develop an implementation plan to guide the City’s response to the calls for Justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

3.3 Strengthen Meaningful Engagement with Indigenous Organizations and Communities by Leveraging Lessons Learned on Relationship Building

Goal #4 – Promote Healing and Justice

Transform the City to embed trauma-informed, responsive and specific services, approaches and tools that are grounded and directed by a thorough understanding of the complete impacts of trauma, adversity, racism and violence on people, families and neighbourhoods.

Priority Actions

4.1 Become a Trauma-Informed and Responsive City

4.2 Embed Anti-Racism and Human Rights-Based Approaches into Policy Development and Service Planning across all City Divisions, Agencies and Corporations

4.3 Strengthen Access to Community Justice by Prioritizing Culturally-Responsive Reintegration and Restorative Practices, including Justice Centres

Goal #5 – Invest in People

Strengthen Support for families, children, youth and adults through investment, skill development and increased access to services and opportunities.

Priority Actions

5.1 Engage Residents and Build Community Capacity to Lead

5.2 Enhance Programs and Services that Promote Child and Family Development and Well-Being

5.3 Invest in Youth Outcomes to Ensure Equitable, Positive Youth Development

5.4 Increase Equitable Access to Supports for Seniors

Goal #6 – Invest in Neighbourhoods

Develop responsive and accountable place-based approaches to address the social, cultural, physical and economic environments that impact neighbourhoods and public spaces.

6.1 Embed Transparent and Accountable Monitoring and Reporting Practices into Integrated Place-Based Planning

6.2 Add more Safe and Culturally-Accessible Community Spaces and Advance Indigenous Place-Making

6.3 Implement Place-Based Economic Empowerment and Development Approaches

6.4 Enhance Local Cultural Development

Goal #7 – Drive Collaboration and Accountability

Reimagine core elements of community safety and wellbeing to build the necessary structure to use multi-sector data, evidence and lived experience to respond to immediate needs, enhance collaboration, inform service planning, advance policing and law enforcement reform, and integrate investments.

Priority Actions

7.1 Develop a Comprehensive Strategy to Share, Integrate and Analyze Data Across Multiple Institutions for the Purpose of Informing Real-Time Policy Development and Service Planning

7.2 Advance Policing and Law Enforcement Reform

7.3 Strengthen Multi-Sector Collaboration through Partnership and Integrated Investments

7.4 Develop and Implement Robust Communication Approaches to Advance SafeTO Goals

From November 2020 to April 2021, City staff engaged in an extensive community consultation process. Engagement included population-specific, issue-specific, and geographic-based consultations as well as internal discussions with 18 City divisions, agencies and corporations.

Community consultations were targeted to stakeholders providing services related to or directly experiencing challenges related to community safety and well-being. This was complemented by engagement with subject matter experts, residents and community thought-leaders. In total, more than 2,500 stakeholders were engaged, with written submissions also accepted.

A public survey was available from March 1 to 15, 2021 that received an additional 1,500 responses. A summary of the SafeTO consultation findings is available online.