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New Indigenous-led justice centre opens in Kenora

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WINNIPEG -

An Indigenous-led centre has opened in Kenora, connecting people to social services with an Indigenous approach.

The Kenora Justice Centre is the latest of four Justice Centres in Ontario. This centre, led by partnering local Indigenous groups, focuses on both criminal and restorative justice.

"If we don't get it right as a community, everybody, we all suffer," Elder Barney Batise said during the Centers opening.

He says Indigenous people need to connect with teachings as they work through difficulties.

"They become lost and they become victims of circumstance."

People at the centre are hoping to make Kenora safer by addressing issues that could lead to crime.

The new space is offering Indigenous-led supports for people facing trauma, addictions, and homelessness.

"This building here today is going to give people an entirely different experience around justice," Ontario Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford said.

There's also a working courtroom.

"This benefits all justice system participants as a whole," Lise Maisonneuve, Ontario Court of Justice's Chief Justice, said.

People will reconnect with Indigenous teachings through the centre - something Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Derek Fox says will be key for Indigenous youth.

"That's what we have on our side: time. Generational change but hard work and unity also which is happening at the justice centre," Fox said.

The justice center expects to begin seeing its impact in six months.

Business owner and longtime Kenora resident Michelle Livingstone wants to see more action taken to spot and prevent crime in Kenora. She was attacked in her store, Island Girl, two months ago, saying she does not feel safe.

"Now my employees ask to go grab a bite to eat for lunch and I'm concerned for them," Livingstone said.

She says she now keeps her store door locked, saying other downtown businesses do the same.

Livingstone says she's seen more police downtown but wants more to be done.

Ontario Provincial Police's Kenora detachment commander, Jeff Duggan, is hopeful the center will make a difference.

"I just hope that it gives people the opportunity to make change. To get the services that they need," Duggan said. 

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