The Great Young Offenders Act Debate

The debate for May 1999 is:

Read the Press Release "Ontario Attorney General Slams New Federal Youth Criminal Justice Act" then return to this page for Discussion.

Note the following in the Press Release (moderator's highlighting):

"Ontario is concerned that under the new federal bill:

- sixteen and 17 year-olds who commit adult crimes are not automatically tried as adults;
- even for murder, aggravated sexual assault, manslaughter and attempted murder there is no guarantee that youths will be sentenced as an adult. Even on the third rape charge, there is no guarantee of an adult sentence;
- most serious violent offences still require the prosecutor to prove an adult sentence is necessary; - jail sentences have been reduced;
- youths sentenced as adults for murder are still subject to more lenient periods of parole ineligibility than adults sentenced for murder;
- mandatory jail time is not required for youths convicted of an offence involving a weapon."

With the greatest of respect to the Attorney General, Canadian Courts are not in the business of guaranteeing convictions or guaranteeing jail. Canadian Courts are governed by our Constitution and by the law. Our Courts hear both sides and all the evidence. They balance conflicting issues. They do not do anything "automatically" and they don't "guarantee" that an individual will be treated as a criminal. That may happen in the Star Trek world of Cardassia but not in Canada.

Generally speaking in, Canada,the onus is on the Crown to prove its case using admissible evidence to substantiate its allegations. In limited circumstances in Canadian law there are presumptions against an accused. The Attorney General seems shocked that the new legislation would leave the general onus on the Crown so as to "still require the prosecutor to prove". I respectfully suggest that the Crown should retain the onus to prove why, for example, an adult sentence and a jury trial should be used in the case of a schoolyard assault. To do otherwise defies Tory "common sense" and squanders tax dollars. 

The Attorney General suggests that there should be "mandatory" jail time for youths found guilty of weapons charges. Does he realize that possession of a rock, a hockey stick, or a swiss army knife can constitute "possession of a weapon for a purpose dangerous to the public peace? I have recently conducted a bail hearing for a 12 year old Grade 6 student, locked overnight in a police jail cell, shackles and hancuffs, no record, no outstanding charges, whos "assault with a weapon" charge consisted of waving a butter knife at a group home worker who didn't want the child to use the butter knife on the supervisor's office door. Last week as I walked on a city street I was struck in the back of the head with a "Timbit". Assuming the "crime" was perpetrated by a young person and not by a squirrel, the matter technically constituted an assault with a weapon. Should my assailant have received "mandatory jail time" or should a citizen, the police, and/or a Judge have used discretion and at worst a reprimand?

With respect to the "Frequency of these Offences" Table contained in the Press Release, it is my experience (see stats as to frequency of specific offences) that, with respect to youth crime:

bulletsexual assault charges tend to include a great many breast grabs and bum pinches (technically a kiss without consent is a sexual assault)
bulletdrug charges tend to include a great number of simple possession of marijuana charges
bulletrobbery charges include taking ice cream from a Dickie Dee bicycle
bulletassaults with a weapon and other weapon offences include a great many knives, sticks, stones, hockey sticks, baseball bats, piggy banks, butter knives, mops, and the like

Please also note that the Table relates to "charges" not "findings of guilt". A great many silly charges end up being reduced by police, Crowns, and Courts to included offences, peace bonds, and alternative measures. I am not suggesting that there are not serious matters among those included in the Table. I am simply suggesting that it would be most irresponsible to presume that the expense of a jury trial and an adult sentence should automatically follow.

Is there an election in Ontario? What do you think?

 

Read what other people have said

Comments Made by Participants

22 Apr 1999

I currently feel that the young offenders are getting off to easily. I myself I am a young student attending school, I watch the tv and listen to radio. Every time you turn around you are hearing that a young person has committed a crime, But never once have I heard their name(s) been mentioned. If the t.v. and radio are going to broadcasting the crime(s) committed I strongly feel that the government should publish the name(s) of the accused. By doing this it is going to make the community aware that their is currently a young offender that has committed a serious offence. By doing publishing the names, society is going to be more informed of exactly what crime this youngster committed and who he or she is.

I have many ideas and view points on the current states of the young offenders act and the new proposed changes. I only wish that I can get my voice heard more and more about certain issues and comments towards the young offenders act. I am not trying to make it sound that every young person in society today will be come a young offender because that is not true. I just feel that the young offenders should become more responsible and except the consequences for their actions. If anyone has any questions or comments I would love to hear them and answer them

Sincerly, Cher

10 May 1999

Our comment is that the changes should be brought up to Canada because at ages 12 the violence starts and kids become more violent!

11 May 1999

I think that the young offenders act is good because it can teach young people not to do things again. It gives people a second chance but if the crime is serious then they shouldn't be allowed to get off so easily. If the person is under 14 then their names should not be released but if they are older than that they should take the responsibility for their actions. from 8-2 C.M students

19 May 1999

The death penalty /corporal punishment , was not a deterrent to murder when it existed. The implementation of these new proposals for youth offenders will not solve the problem either, It is merely a reaction to get majority votes. And it is this majority, too busy to participate in their own community as community members, neighbours and caring citizens....which would reduce and eliminate crime as it did for generation after generation in pre-industrial times, and in villages and tribal communities around the world; who are voting for this legislation and thereby, sealing their membership as participants in the problem, rather than the solution. Mentoring and role modeling , healthy relationships and sharing are far more powerful and successful than a piece of paper and a turn key could ever be. Look across the street, maybe that kid just needs to believe somebody really cares, no matter what! Actions speak louder that words, Take the community challenge and find the time to really listen and care for someone! It will drastically improve your future!

19 May 1999

I myself have very strong feelings about The Young Offenders Act. I am young and hold a position in a Open Custody Jail for Young Offenders. I believe that Young Offenders get off way too easily. Young Offender homes are a joke, the YO's get constant communication with the community. Volunteer work, grocery shopping, recreational outings to the mall, movies, pool hall, swimming, bowling, carnival, gym. You name it, they do it, the groups participate in activities that even I have never got to do like going to professional sports events, tours of TV/radio stations. They get to plan the meals that will be served for the week. The only thing that is required of them is approx. a half hour of chores a day, cleaning bedrooms, vacuuming, washing dishes... Do you think that this is punishment enough for a guy who at 17&1/2 raped a 12 year old girl? Or how about a 16 year old boy who broke in to someone's home, held a gun to there head, brutally beat them and robbed them of there belongings? What about a 17 year old who beat somebody so badly that he caused his victim broken bones, brain damage and deafness? The worst part is, he shows no remorse. These are our "Young Offenders" who are so protected. Do you think that these Criminals should be serving 3-6 months in secured time then coming to stay 3-6 in a facility that takes them on recreational outings to the carnival and Mall. What do you think about their names being protected? I think that it is ridiculous. If I was a Mother I think I would like to be able to know if my daughter is dating a criminal. What is the difference between someone 17 &1/2 and someone who is "just" 18. Not a lot. Both are far old enough to know that harming someone, or stealing...are wrong, legally and MORALLY. I think Young Offender should receive adult sentences, especially in violent offences. If we teach our youth now, we may be able to change there futures! nm

25 May 1999

Something has to be done, Young People are out of control, should I be afraid to go to school?? Young offenders get off to easy. nnm

26 May 1999

I am doing a debate in school about the YOA and I was wondering if anyone could help me with my research? My part of the debate is the negative side of the young offender's act.

27 May 1999

I think that the changes being proposed to the act is just a bunch of bull shit that is made up just to scare us out of having fun

04 Jun 1999

Maybe some changes should be made to the YOA. But not a lot. They should lower the age limitations to 10 - 15 years of age. Anyone over that should be tried as an adult. And as for charging their parents, or sending them to jail instead of the YO is pure stupidity. The YO should take the responsibility for the crimes that they have committed. The maximum that a YO should be placed in JH or a group home is 7 years. They should be given psychiatric help and should have a social worker check up on them quite frequently. Once they have served their time they should be placed under strict supervision and should have a standardized curfew of 9:00pm. Maximum fines for the YO should also rise because $1000 max. is not enough. It should be $10000 max.

07 Jun 1999

I think that they should not be tried as adults because they are not adults. if you can sentence a teenager like an adult why can't we drive or even vote

04 Aug 1999

August 4, 1999

I'd like to respond to the May 19th comments by nm who works at the open custody facility. I also work with Young Offenders. I work with the youths who are high risk to continue committing crimes. nm's anger at YO's being sentenced to open custody is misguided. Yes, Young Offenders have access to the community when they are in Open Custody. This is because sooner or later folks, criminals (whether they are adults or teenagers) eventually return to the community. So, the Open Custody facilities are there to TEACH these kids how to BE in the community in pro-social ways. I HOPE that is what nm is doing as a staff member at an open custody facility because that is the purpose. If we just lock people up and don't try to teach them to behave differently, then we just have older criminals when they return to the community. Stephen, thank you for your reasonable comments in response to the article. Its nice to hear someone who's not out to lynch all YO's and approaches the issues with intelligence.

25 Sep 1999

Young Offenders who commit serious crimes must be made more accountable for them. In the case of Jonathan Wamback, who was brutally assaulted by three teenagers. I'm sorry but even young teenagers know brutally kicking someone in the head especially to the point of unconsciousness, has serious repercussions. Stealing a chocolate bar is one thing...assault is something totally unacceptable. Young offenders must be made aware serious consciences will result for these types of acts. Because of their arrogance, a young man's chance of a normal life has been taken away. Not to mention the suffering his family is going through...this was all so needless. Norma Hodgson Burlington

27 Sep 1999

if everybody was automatically sentenced to death there would be less crime and no y.o.a

07 Oct 1999

Can't we all just get along

-sincerely rob davis

07 Oct 1999

I just don't think that you are putting enough of the blame upon the influences in the child's life, like the parents, the schools, the teachers, the apathetic neighbours, the lousy television programming, sex and violence in the media, exposure to inappropriate materials on the internet....etc. I mean come on if we as adults have the responsibility to punish don't we also have the responsibility to prevent....

21 Jan 2000

THE YOUNG OFFENDERS ACT IS A COMPLETE JOKE. 15,16, 17 AND EVEN 13 AND 14 YEAR OLDS KNOW MURDER, ASSULT, ROBBERY AND THE LIKE ARE ALL WRONG. BUT THEY KNOW THAT ALL THEY WILL RECIEVE IN PUNISHMENT FOR IT IS A SLAP ON THE WRIST AND MAYBE A FEW MONTHS OF COMMUNITY SERVICE...BIG WHOOP! I THINK THEY SHOULD PUBLISH THE NAMES OF THE YOUNG OFFENDS THAT HAVE COMMITED A SERIOUS CRIME SO THE PEOPLE IN THEIR NEIGHBOURHOOD CAN BE AWARE OF THESE MONSTERS. I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW IF THE GUY OR GIRL DOWN THE STREET WAS CHARGED WITH RAPE, OR MURDER SO I CAN PROTECT MY FAMILY. IF THEY DO I ONCE, WHOS TO SAY THEY WONT DO IT AGAIN. THEY KNOW ITS WRONG, BUT ONCE THEY KNOW THEY WONT GET SERIOUS REPERCUSIONS, THEY FIGURE THEY CAN DO WHAT EVER THEY WANT. ITS JUST AMAZES ME THAT THERE HAVE STILL BEEN NO CHANGES AFTER WHAT WE HAVE SEEN IN THE PAPERS RECENTLY...DOES ANOTHER 15 YEAR OLD BOY HAVE TO BE KICKED IN THE HEAD UNTIL HE GETS BRAIN DAMAGE LIKE JONATHAN WAMBACK, OR EVEN KILLED LIKE MATTI BARONVSKI? SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE NOW.