By RON FANFAIR
Ontario Deputy Minister Jay Hope was conferred with an honorary doctorate by the University of Guelph-Humber last Monday. It was his second such degree in the past 16 months, having being recognized by his alma mater – the University of Toronto – in February 2009.
Six years ago, he was appointed a deputy chief of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), making him the highest ranking Black law enforcement officer in the country.
Hope thanked the university for the honour and the opportunity to address convocation that included the first Justice Studies graduating class.
“For those of you in Justice Studies, before you stands a person who has devoted his adult life to criminal justice and although you might consider it too early to make your mark, I urge you to think of the justice in Justice Studies…,” Hope, who is on long-term secondment to the province, told the graduates. “Regardless of the field you are in, I encourage you to feel the sense of social justice that can underpin all our endeavours.”
With 32 years in law enforcement and several years as a senior government executive, Hope has been privy to both sides of the criminal justice system ranging from the poor, uneducated and marginalized to those with mental health issues, visible minorities and the alarming number of women in provincial jails.
“I have also seen that we can make a difference in the lives of incarcerated individuals,” he said. “What I found is that if the right supports and leadership are in place, an organization can better itself and people can better themselves.”
Hope reminded the graduates that graduation marks the end of a very important stage in their lives and the beginning of a new journey.
“I have no doubt that I will be hearing about many of you in the future,” he said. “Along the way, I urge you to stay true to your values and beliefs for they are what will carry you through the difficult decisions and uncertain times. Retain the passion of being a scholar for learning is a lifelong endeavour. Make your decisions with compassion and you will make them with confidence. Live your life with integrity and you will always be able to account for your actions and know you did the right thing. I assure you the journey will be well worth it.”
Hope began his OPP career in Northern Ontario and was exposed to a diverse range of assignments and duty locations. The 1996 Canada Police of the Year nominee and a founding member of the Association of Black Law Enforcers (ABLE) instigated several initiatives to attract more visible minorities to law enforcement and also make the OPP more representative of the communities it serves.
He also developed significant traffic initiatives that were geared to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries on the province’s highways.
Four years ago, Hope was a presented with the prestigious Order of Merit of the Police Forces insignia for distinguished law enforcement service.
Prior to his current appointment to the Ministry of Correctional Services in July 2008, he served as the province’s Commissioner of Emergency Management and Commissioner of Community Safety.