Panel Discussion:
Stronger, Safer, More Just Communities

This panel focused on the gaps in the youth justice system and impacts on Indigenous, Black and equity-deserving communities in Toronto. The discussion addressed the complexity of the narratives that impact the identification and navigation of gaps in the academic, government and community sectors and include an examination of the intersectionality and opportunities to foster greater collaboration between academia, government, and community to address these challenges. What are the catalysts needed for such collaboration? What approaches can be used to break down silos and integrate a population focus, neighbourhood focus and other equity related considerations to this work? What are the knowledge gaps that require further engagement and research? Whose voice is and needs to be at the table to ensure full perspectives?

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 Alex Bezzina
Alex Bezzina
Fellow, Maytree Foundation

Alex Bezzina is a Fellow with the Maytree Foundation, an organization that works to advance systemic solutions to poverty through a human rights approach. In this role, he has been the editor for Maytree’s Advancing Justice series which explores the relationship between human rights, poverty, racism, and the criminal justice system. 

Between 1999 and 2012, Bezzina held senior positions in various Ontario ministries, including the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Government Services, the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. In March 2012 he was appointed Deputy Minister of Children and Youth Services (MCYS), a position he held until October 2016. As Deputy Minister of MCYS he had responsibility for a broad range of services for children and youth, including youth justice services. 

From October 2016 until June 2018, Bezzina was the Deputy Minister of Citizenship and Immigration where he was responsible for a range of programs serving newcomers to Canada, including refugees and asylum seekers.

Denise Andrea Campbell

Denise Andrea Campbell
Executive Director, Social Development, Finance and Administration Division, City of Toronto

Denise Andrea Campbell has been working nationally and internationally as an agent of social change since the age of 16. She is passionate about building conditions for greater equity with and for communities. Early in her career, Campbell helped establish The Students Commission as a leader in youth engagement nationally; advised on strategy development for leading foundations like the J.W. McConnell Foundation; and worked internationally on race and gender policies in numerous United Nations forums and more recently, the African Union. 

Campbell joined the City of Toronto’s Social Development, Finance and Administration Division in 2004 as the Coordinator for the Toronto Youth Cabinet. She quickly became a Community Development Officer with a focus on youth development, then Manager of Community Development, facilitating Human Service System Planning and Delivery in the City’s 13 priority neighbourhoods. Later, Campbell became Director of Community Resources with responsibility for Community Revitalization, Youth Development, Community Funding Programs for Toronto's community-based sector, and Community Development in under-served neighbourhoods. Today, as Executive Director of Social Development, Campbell brings a dynamic, community-based approach to advancing the City's robust social policy agenda. 

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Jody Yaa Dunn
Jody Yaa Dunn
Provincial Anti-Black Racism & Justice Programs Manager, Black Legal Action Centre

As the School-to-Prison Pipeline Project Manager, Jody Yaa Dunn is responsible for leading a team focused on combating anti-Black racism within the education and justice systems with the Black Legal Action Centre (BLAC). Dunn is motivated to address these disparities due to the visible inequities that Black youth continue to face. She believes that policy reform and culturally responsive engagement can shift educational outcomes for students across Ontario and beyond.

With a wealth of experience in team management and developing culturally relevant program models, Dunn has held positions within youth justice, and educational environments. Prior to her current position at BLAC, Jody was the Justice Program Manager at Peacebuilders Canada.


Dunn obtained a diploma in Early Childhood Education and then went on to pursue a BA degree in Psychology at Trent University with a Minor in Women’s Studies. She has specialized training in Afrocentric program design and Restorative Justice practices, facilitates international training sessions and mentors others in the field of youth justice.

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Carl James
Carl James
Professor, Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora, York University

Carl James holds the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora in the Faculty of Education at York University and is the Senior Advisor on Equity and Representation in the Office of the Vice President of Equity, People and Culture. He is Professor in the Faculty of Education and holds cross-appointments in the Graduate Programs in Sociology, Social and Political Thought, and Social Work. 

James is widely recognized for his research contributions in the areas of intersectionality of race with ethnicity, gender, class and citizenship as they shape identification/identity; the ways in which accessible and equitable opportunities in education and employment account for the lived experiences of marginalized community members; and the complementary and contradictory nature of sports in the schooling and educational attainments of racialized students. In advocating on education for change, James documents the struggles, contradictions and paradoxes in the experiences of racialized students at all levels of the education system. In doing so, he seeks to address and move us beyond the essentialist, generalized and homogenizing discourses that account for the representation and achievements of racialized people – particularly Black Canadians -- in educational institutions, workplaces, and society generally.

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David Mitchell
David Mitchell
Assistant Deputy Minister, Youth Justice Division, Ministry of Children, Community & Social Services, Government of Ontario

David Mitchell is the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Youth Justice Division (YJD), Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS). He previously held management roles in probation and parole, in numerous correctional institutions, and founded the Ontario Correctional Intelligence Unit. Throughout his career and as a volunteer, Mitchell has demonstrated leadership while working on youth and community issues. This includes playing a leading role in bringing together community stakeholders, with member associations representing the business, legal and policing sectors, to identify opportunities to prevent young people from engaging in gun violence and providing them with community programs and job training.

Mitchell was the Founding President of the Association of Black Law Enforcers (ABLE), a non-profit organization formed in 1992 to address the needs and concerns of BIPOC Police and Peace Officers and the communities they belong to. He was also the Chair of the Humber College Justice Studies Program Advisory Committee and is currently the Co-Chair of the Durham Regional Police Service Diversity Advisory Committee. Mitchell is currently the Executive Lead for the Anti-Racism, Diversity and Inclusion (ARDI) Table for MCCSS where he focuses on supporting the successful implementation of the Roadmap to Racial Equity within the OPS.