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Province invests in local initiative to help employ people with criminal pasts

Cambridge MPP Brian Riddell in Kitchener to announce second chance funding that will help 96 people with criminal records find jobs
Kate Crozier, Director of Programs for Community Justice Initiatives (second from left), Julia Castillo, Stride Circles Coordinator for Community Justice Initiatives (middle) with Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development and Cambridge MPP Brian Riddell.

The province is investing $120,000 in Community Justice Initiatives (CJI) of Waterloo Region to help 96 people with previous involvement in the criminal justice system find meaningful jobs with local employers. 

The initiative is supported through the government’s Skills Development Fund, a program that offers funding to a wide range of organizations for innovative projects that address Ontario’s labour shortage and stimulate growth in key sectors of the provincial economy.

It's estimated more than one million people in Ontario are living with criminal records, which decreases their chances of a second interview by 50 per cent. 

Even 15 years after release from incarceration, those with prior involvement in the justice system are five times as likely to be reliant on social assistance.

“Our government is committed to connecting people with the skills and training required to acquire a career in the skilled trades, manufacturing and technology sectors,” said Brian Riddell, MPP for Cambridge, in a press release.

“This important investment in Community Justice Initiatives of Waterloo Region will give a hand up to members of our community who are deserving of a second chance and are eager to work at a job they can be proud of.”

With the collaboration and participation of 15 local businesses, the CJI will provide hands-on training so participants can gain the skills to match the needs of employers, and opportunities to meet directly with those hiring in in-demand sectors.

Program participants have also been recruited from Grand Valley Institution, a cohort entirely composed of women.

“Our government believes in second chances,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. “Through investments in organizations like Community Justice Initiatives of Waterloo Region, we’re focusing on giving workers who have served their time or been involved with the justice system an opportunity for better jobs and bigger paycheques so they can build stronger families and a tomorrow that leaves no one behind.”

CJI will also provide a host of support to participants, many who struggle with feelings of stigma, shame and self-doubt during their transition to employment.

The program runs until March 30, 2024.

"As a restorative justice organization, Community Justice Initiatives believes that communities are safer when people feel included and their social and financial needs are met,” said Kate Crozier, director of Programs for Community Justice Initiatives.

“If we want people leaving prison to succeed in the community, then we need to build the community's capacity to receive them and include them in the workforce. By connecting employers with criminalized people, this grant allows us to co-create opportunities to address the barriers that prevent people from a career path toward decent work after prison."

The funding announced today is part of the government’s $700 million Skills Development Fund.

It  builds on the government’s mission to make Ontario the best place in the world to work, live and raise a family. In support of this effort, the province recently introduced the third Working for Workers Act and is launching a capital stream of the Skills Development Fund which will help build and upgrade training centres across the province.