Children's Peace Theatre

Children’s Peace Theatre is committed to creating a culture of peace and transformative justice by engaging children and youth through the practice of art and theatre.

Our Impact Why We Exist

Children’s Peace Theatre is an award-winning community arts organization.  We nurture an ever- expanding circle of young people and their allies to build communities of resistance through art. 

CPT creates equitable opportunities for diverse young people to experience the transformative power of the arts, to develop their self–worth, and to become leaders in their communities.

In 2013 CPT undertook a strategic visioning relative to our recent growth, the development of the Youth Arts Space and the increasing requests to share our methodology and create programs for new communities of young people.

CPT is recognized as a major local cultural centre providing much needed arts programming for children and youth, support for diverse artists, and mentorship for youth across the GTA who are developing projects of their own. We have been playing a significant role in raising awareness and finding solutions to social issues through the transformative practice of collaborative arts.

CPT is uniquely positioned to share our high impact methodology of collaborative art-making and Conflict Transformation in order to nurture leadership and belonging, inclusivity, community safety and deep democracy.  Our vision is to be leaders in the field of Community Arts and address the barriers to participating in the arts identified by the Toronto Art Foundation 2012.

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

2000 - Founded in response to the United Nations’ Declaration for a Decade of Peace for Children. Begins with Peace Camp.

2001 - Invited to perform at United Nations in New York City for Declaration of Peace. 25 young performers turned back at the U.S border on the morning of September 11, 2001.

2005 - Artists respond to escalating youth violence locally. After 2 years of work with friends of young victim, ‘Drew’s Group’, awarded YMCA Peace Medallion for their performances about struggle to overcome grief, anger and desires for revenge.

2006 - Youth Leaders Theatre Project (YLTP), and the in-school program (Peace Leaders) are developed.  Peace Leaders awarded Mayor's Safety Award 2007.

2009 - CPT helps develop Neighbourhood Youth Alliance  (NYA), to provide an infrastructure for youth empowerment and decision making, leading to the development of the Youth Arts Space at CPT.

2010 - Work with youth expands to include programs specifically for young refugees and artists with precarious status.

2013 - Shared Platform developed for youth led projects. 

Accolades and Accomplishments

CPT has been honoured with the Mayor’s Community Safety Award (2007), the Leonardo da Vinci award for Innovation and Creativity in the Arts (2006) and a YMCA Peace Medallion (2006).

“Since 2001, the Children’s Peace Theatre has been a forum for children and youth to explore peaceful alternatives to resolving conflict in the world. I’d like to congratulate and thank the staff, volunteers, participants and supporters of the Children’s Peace Theatre for their work in making our community and the world a more peaceful place.”

- Councillor Janet Davis, Ward 31

“The mandate of Children's Peace Theatre is totally unlike that of any organization I have ever encountered. We as 'grown-­‐ups' and mentors spend years teaching kids how to read, write, memorize facts and solve equations, but we do not dedicate the same kind of time or focus to teaching kids how to co-exist. Children's Peace Theatre uses the most multidisciplinary art form, theatre, as a vehicle for exploration, discovery, education and ultimately – change. One of the hallmarks of CPT's mission – the use of the ‘3Cs’ (Courage, Compassion and Creativity) in the pursuit of peace, is not only a touchstone for how to solve conflicts as a young person, but how to continue facing the inevitable conflicts – both inner and outer – presented to us as adults. The philosophy of Children's Peace Theatre is a model for how to live life. I am incredibly proud and blessed to have spent the last six years as part of the CPT family.”  - Director, Tanisha Taitt

Our Programs How We Do It

Highlights of our strategic directions 2013:

  • Support and inspire the development of new generation (youth) and diverse artists
  • Expand our collaborations and partnerships with community arts organizations and grassroots youth groups working to make social change through the arts
  • Make community arts more accessible to all communities by sharing our methodology of collaborative art-making and conflict transformation
  • Provide input towards arts-based research, and the development of arts evaluation tools

1. Collaborative art making and Conflict Transformation programs - CPT celebrates and propagates its methodology of collaborative art-making and conflict transformation to engage young people, diverse artists and communities to create, perform and exhibit art about issues that impact their lives.  

All artists and youth are trained in our methodology of conflict transformation which teaches that conflict is inevitable but can be an opportunity for growth, change and understanding.  We provide tools like the three C’s Courage, Compassion and Creativity and the Breath of Peace. The Peace Camp methodology also incorporates  anti-oppression and restorative justice principles. These foundations enable us to create a space where participants feel welcome to share experiences, embrace differences, and develop their resilience.

Participants are invited to engage in and explore multiple art forms, be part of building trust and understanding, and further the skills they are interested in artistically, politically and socially.  Our core programs are: Peace Camp, Peace is Possible Parade and Youth Leaders Theatre Project.

2. Youth Arts Space - Provides infrastructure and increases space for youth to make social change.  The Youth Arts Space houses a drop-in lounge, a music studio, and will soon include a digital lab and newly upgraded commercial kitchen.  Our full time social innovator works with youth to develop their youth led projects, many which we trustee or take up on our Shared Platform.

Speak Your Peace Youth Festival: The Children’s Peace Theatre in partnership with the Taylor Massey Neighbourhood Youth Alliance (NYA) hosts an annual Youth Arts Festival to showcase and celebrate the work of diverse youth groups in the high priority Crescent Town/Taylor Massey neighbourhood. The Festival features youth performances, workshops, information booths and discussions as well as performances by emerging diverse youth artists designed to foster intercultural appreciation, dialogue and understanding.

Shared Platform: Provides an organizational home to youth led arts projects. We offer governance and administrative support to youth led projects, to free up change makers and leaders to focus on their vision. We provide sustainable infrastructure and strengthen the collective leadership of the local youth and city wide youth organizers through gatherings and workshop series.


3. Transformative Initiatives - Increase access to the arts by developing new programs and projects with and for newcomer children, refugee youth, and youth in the justice system.  This year we developed two new projects with partner agencies: City of Refuge and Culture Jam.


Peace Camp

A three week arts camp that uses our methodology of collaborative art making and Conflict Transformation to artistically explore issues that impact the lives of young people in Toronto.

Peace Camp invites all participants, artists, children and youth to be involved in all aspects of the creation process.  The tensions between the realities of each participant’s lives is shaped by larger local and global social forces and inequities, that become the spark to ignite creativity. Personal lived experience and political and social realities fuse and morph into authentic and powerful art.

The work culminates in three performances.  The personal and collective creative products reveal histories, identities and experiences that speak to others in the community.  The performances bring in over 600 audience members and are one of very few arts events in the neighbourhood.

Funding and Program Partners

Canada Council for the Arts, Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma, Knights of Columbus, Rotary Club, Long and McQuade

Program Impact

Since 2001 Peace Camp has provided:

  • Over 200 youth theatre and leadership training
  • Over 2,000 children opportunities to experience the transformative power of the arts
  • Over 5,000 community members opportunities to experience art events in their community
  • Over 100 of Toronto’s top artists employment and a unique training in collaborative creation
  • Over 20 newcomer and refugee artists employed and provided Canadian experience
  • Raised awareness around critical issues such as food security, immigration policy, poverty, and racism that affect young people living in Toronto
  • Over 150 youth employment as guides
  • Over 30 youth summer employment in arts administration funded by Canada Works
  • Over 20 youth summer employment funded by Tropicana

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"The first phase of the (Toronto Arts Foundation) arts impact study shows communities alive with artistic expression, but facing systemic barriers, space and adequate support for artists and full participation of residents in arts and cultural activities."

Peace Camp is addressing the issues identified by:

  • Reducing barriers for young people to participate in the arts
  • Mentoring new generation and newcomer artists and creating opportunities for employment in the arts
  • Creating more spaces for arts activities 

Participant Vignette

In 2009 I came to CPT. I was interested in acting, music and art.  The space was the safe haven and allowed me to grow as an artist, network, and learn about using art to explore important issues.  As a Guide at Peace Camp, I mentored younger kids and earned money.  Each year at camp I kept growing and taking on more responsibility and work as a peer with professional artists. 

I gained the confidence and skills to get work in other places.  Now I am facilitating a media project with youth at Birchmount Bluffs Community Centre and acting as a youth mentor at East Studio.

In 2012 I created my own project called the Dream House where I can combine all of my artistic practices and create opportunities for youth to showcase their talents. 

CPT is like a second home to me.  It has given me access to artists, a music studio and a place to learn and grow.  The Youth Arts Space is where many youth are exchanging skills and creating something magical together.  I see the Dream House becoming as big as Manifesto to give young people in the east end a major festival and place to create art.

Pierre Bimwalla, 2013

Youth Leaders Theatre Project

A free leadership and collaborative theatre creation program for youth 14-24. 

Youth have an opportunity to develop artistic, leadership and employability skills and become more active and engaged in their community.

Youth meet weekly with trained professional artists to collaboratively create theatre that explores their community’s stories of trauma, conflict and violence. Under the guidance of the artists, diverse youth discover their common ground and common struggles. YLTP results in powerful theatre performances that represent the diverse and too rarely heard voices of our young people.

Funding and Program Partners

City of Toronto, Theatre Ontario, J.P. Bickell Foundation, Intact Foundation, Green Shield, Alterna Savings, TDSecurities, Under Writing Hope charity Auction, JCS Canada Charity Fund, Telus Toronto Community Board

Program Impact

For the past 5 years Peace Theatre has been developing award winning youth programs.  The work began in 2005 in response to the brutal murder of a 16 year old in our community.  From 2005-2007 Peace Theatre artists worked with the friends of the victim and his family to explore their anger and loss and collaboratively create a theatrical memorial on the anniversary of his murder.  Subsequently, the group continued to work with Peace Theatre to develop a piece which they performed in many different venues in Toronto.  Drew’s Group, as they became known was awarded the YMCA Peace Medallion for its work spreading a message of anti-violence in the community.  Peace Theatre with the support and input from members of Drew’s Group went on to develop the Youth Leaders Theatre Project as well as several other youth programs and collectives.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"In 2011, more students reported feeling safe “all the time” or “often” at school than five years earlier, but 20% of middle school students and more than one-quarter of high school students don't feel safe on school property, and 2 in 10 students don't feel safe on the street and in their neighbourhood.

CPT's methodology teaches conflict transformation and tools for understanding the roots of violence. Our work is designed to help young people value diverse ideas and find common ground with each other. Our programs also provide an opportunity for newcomer youth to socialize with their Canadian-born peers and for youth to explore issues like violence and bullying in their schools and communities.

Participant Vignette

“Personally before attending YLTP I was having many problems in my life from all aspects. I had numerous amounts of family feuds, friendships breaking over low prioritized things, and also struggling with confrontation within my job. A friend had come to me suggested this place and immediately I began to attend. I met new people who have a lot of things in common with me and have somewhat of the same problems in their life. I had learned how to improve on talents, how to cope in problem, that were affecting me emotionally. At this point some problems still remain, but have become easier. I was able to approach my rap career through it, and had fun here, and I believe there are better days ahead. It’s all about finding a resolution to your problems”. (Taige Smith Tha Money)

Culture Jam

In partnership with Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services we have developed an arts expression program for newcomer and refugee children and are developing a toolkit for other communities.

Children's Peace Theatre, in partnership with Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services is conducting a pilot project designed to bridge the gap in arts opportunities for newcomer and refugee children under the age of 13 and address the need for cultural employment opportunities for diverse artists in Toronto.  

The project will employ diverse professional artists as well as newcomer emerging artists to conduct a series of theatre and arts workshops that explore art, culture and identity, culminating in four performances to engage the broader community. 

Funding and Program Partners

Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Cultural Strategic Investment Fund, Access Alliance Multicultural Health Centre

Program Impact

In the first 4 months of the pilot project:

  • 125 children experienced art making and celebration of their cultures
  • 6 newcomer artists employed and trained
  • 6 youth employed
  • 12 youth received community hours

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"Schools with greater capacity to fundraise (higher income families) are more likely to report that students see more live performances and participate in music education opportunities."

Culture Jam provides free arts programming to children in neighbourhoods where they otherwise have limited access and their schools do not have fundraising resources.  It also offers an opportunity to celebrate their cultures and learn about those of their peers.

Participant Vignette

"It was so great to be part of the Parade (Peace is Possible) and make a puppet that looked like me. I learned about Peace too and taking the Breath of Peace." Amna, age 10

What You Can Do

Peace Camp

Activities a donation will support

Supporting Peace Camp provides bursaries for children to experience the arts and learn about conflict transformation. $1000 provides a bursary for one camper.

Support provides honorariums for at risk youth to gain training and employment as youth guides and mentors. $600 provides an honorarium for a youth to train for three weeks.

Donation impact

With financial support Peace Camp will transform lives.

Nothing can speak better to the impact of our programming than the words of the children and youth whose lives have been transformed.

“Peace Theatre saved my life.  I never thought I could be seen by young people as a mentor.  Even if another one of my friends was killed I would never seek revenge again”. – Kyle, 17

Youth Leaders Theatre Project

Activities a donation will support

Sponsorship of YLTP will provide the support youth need to attend the program including a nutritious meal, daycare, and transit fare.  It also helps to fund the youth to organize and promote their performances and pay for artist fees to work with and mentor the youth on their projects.

Every $1000 will support one more youth to attend 12 weeks of programming. 

Donation impact

Support for YLTP will provide critical programming for youth in a neighbourhood underserved by the arts and high in newcomer youth.  Your support will help youth continue creating positive change in their communities.

Culture Jam

Activities a donation will support

Donations to Culture Jam will support continued after school arts programming in local schools.   

Donation impact

With financial support Culture Jam will increase the creativity and self esteem of the city's youngest generation of citizens.


Karen Emerson
Artistic Director
Charitable Number: 891056809RR7000

Finance & Governance

Annual Operating Budget: 
$ 329,283


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