The province has announced that is partnering with Marymound Inc. on a new youth justice program to provide culturally safe and supportive programming to help reduce the disproportionate number of Indigenous youth in custody and on probation.

“Our government is committed to working collaboratively with Indigenous leaders, community and non-profit organizations, and the business community to find innovative ways to support those most in need and build a future full of hope and opportunity for all Manitobans,” said Premier Heather Stefanson. “With a focus on reconciliation, healing and wrap-around supports, this innovative program is designed to improve the lives of youth in and out of the justice system while supporting stronger families and safer communities.”

“Research suggests that approaches leveraging culturally relevant components with conventional principles are the best ways to reduce justice involvement,” said Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen. “There are significant economic and human costs associated with crime and incarceration, so we are taking these important steps to help young people avoid future justice system involvement by focusing on resolving the issues believed to be major contributors to criminal behaviour.”

The new Indigenous Youth Justice program, developed by Marymound Inc. and community members, is grounded in Indigenous knowledge to help address the root causes of crime, connect youth to their culture and community, and help foster a more positive Indigenous identity, the premier and minister noted.

“Marymound is committed to the development and implementation of a ‘Reconciled Healing Model’ bringing Indigenous wisdom and healing practices together with Western treatment modalities to support a holistic approach to wellness and healing,” said Nancy Parker, executive director, Marymound Inc.

Parker noted the new program was given the Ojibway name Zaagiwe Oshinawe Inaakonigewin, which translates to Love (the) Youth (in) Justice, by Marymound’s Elder in Residence, Elder Louise Lavallee.

“Marymound has embraced a number of the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action,” said Lavellee. “The Indigenous Youth Justice program is one of the ways that Marymound is committed to providing culturally safe programming for Indigenous youth in the justice system.”

The Zaagiwe Oshinawe Inaakonigewin program is funded through a new social impact bond, operated by Marymound Inc., with the support of nine investors including the Reseau Compassion Network, Northpine Foundation, Laidlaw Foundation, Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada, Bealight Foundation and Loretto Sisters (Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary) Canada. The program will target a minimum of 45 youth, 30 in Winnipeg and 15 in Thompson, throughout the program’s three-year term. The return on investment is based on the reduction of days in custody for Indigenous youth. Under this innovative model, if outcomes are met or exceeded, Marymound Inc. will receive $2.25 million from the Manitoba government.

“Today’s announcement is an example of what we accomplish when we work together and I am confident this initiative will improve the lives of our youth and their families, and help make our communities safer for Manitobans to live, work and thrive in,” said the premier.

A social impact bond is an innovative social policy tool that brings together government, the private sector, not-for-profits and other stakeholders to create and deliver effective solutions that focus on prevention. Private investment is initially used to fund the programs and is then repaid if social outcomes and cost savings are realized. These types of programs allow the government to explore more innovative solutions, while reducing financial risk, with the ultimate goal of delivering better results for Manitobans.