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An end-of-year message from OJEN’s executive director

2022 was a busy year for OJEN. As we transitioned from pandemic to endemic, opportunities to offer core OJEN programs in person became possible once again. We wrapped up our three-year, province-wide Youth-Police Dialogues project, along with the Family Law for Young Parents pilot programs in Hamilton, Navigating Police Encounters initiatives in Ottawa and the new Francophone youth-focused Défi de la Charte program. The OJEN board and staff conducted 18 interviews and 12 focus groups, reviewed dozens of reports and stakeholder surveys, before coming together to produce a new four-year strategic plan.

OJEN also turned twenty this year. It amazes me that I have been a part of this wonderful organization for fourteen of those years. In 2008, I left my immigration and refugee law practice to join OJEN and develop newcomer youth-focused justice education initiatives. I was delighted to discover a community of talented educators, legal professionals and community workers who all shared the same passion for public legal education and social justice. My OJEN colleagues were there to celebrate my wedding, the birth of my twin daughters and all of the happy (and challenging!) milestones that have marked these last fourteen years. I have learned so much from them, grown with them, and I’m grateful for the kindness and support I’ve received from them. In many ways, they have been family.

That is why with considerable poignancy, I announce that I am leaving OJEN in 2023. It has been such a great pleasure and honour to be part of this organization, but it is time to move on and make space for new leadership at OJEN. Happily, I am not going very far. In late March, I will walk down the hall and join our friends at Community Legal Education Ontario. I’m excited to take on new challenges, as well as learn from and grow with a new group of talented colleagues. Hopefully, we can also continue to find ways in which OJEN and CLEO can work together! Thank you, to OJEN’s many stakeholders, partners and volunteers, for the time, effort and support you have given to OJEN during my tenure. I truly appreciate it.

As we head into the holiday season, I ask that you consider making a donation in support of OJEN’s end-of-year fundraising campaign. I know first-hand how much we are able to accomplish with limited resources. You can be assured that going forward, OJEN will always be able to count on my support, as I transition from “staff” to “friend” at OJEN.

Jess Reekie

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