The July 1996 resolution is:
Resolved that the definition of "young person" in s. 2(1) of the Young
Offenders Act be repealed and replaced by:
"young person" means a person who is or, in the absence of evidence to the
contrary, appears to be twelve years of age or more, but under sixteen years of age and,
where the context requires, includes any person who is charged under this Act with having
committed an offence while he was a young person or is found guilty of an offence under
The Reform Party of Canada and the Mike Harris government in Ontario have proposed that
16 and 17 year olds no longer be treated as young persons under the Young Offenders Act
but rather as adults.
Prior to April 1, 1985, 16 and 17 year olds were dealt with in Ontario as adults.
Between April 1, 1984 and April 1, 1985 the Young Offenders Act in Ontario only dealt with
young persons ages 12 to 15 inclusive. During the same one year period, the Young
Offenders Act in Quebec dealt with young persons ages 12 to 17 inclusive. This inequality
before the law as between young persons in Quebec and Ontario necessarily came to an end
because of the implementation on April 17, 1985 of s. 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights
Prior to April 1, 1984 16 and 17 year olds were dealt with in Ontario as adults. Prior
to April 1, 1984 young persons 15 years of age and younger were dealt with under the
Juvenile Delinquents Act.
Critics of the Young Offenders Act argue that prior to April 1, 1985 there was less
violent crime by young persons ages 16 and 17. Some argue that such older adolescents are
better dealt with as adults.
In Ontario, notwithstanding the Young Offenders Act, young persons serving custodial
sentences or on probation are divided into two groups. Those ages 12 to 15 are serviced by
and custodial facilities are run by the Ministry of Community and Social Services. Young
persons ages 16 and 17 are serviced by and custodial facilities are run by the Ministry of
the Solicitor general and Correctional Services, the same entity that deals with adults.
Secure custody facilities for young persons ages 15 to 16 tend to be treatment oriented,
while secure custody facilities for young persons ages 16 and 17 tend to focus on
containment and separation from society. Secure detention and custody facilities for 16
and 17 year olds are generally just another wing of the adult facility, eg. Metro West
Detention Centre or Maplehurst Correctional Institute. Young persons ages 12 to 15 in
Brampton are dealt with at Family Court while young persons ages 16 and 17 are dealt with
at the Clarence Street adult courthouse. Many assessment and treatment facilities
available to 12 to 15 year olds in Ontario have never been made available to the 16 and 17
year olds. It is arguable that Ontario has never fully implemented the spirit of the Young
1. Attend a Youth Court in your own jurisdiction. Are 12 to 15 year olds dealt with in
the same court as 16 and 17 year olds? Are young persons in detention (i.e. denied bail)
sharing cells, corridors, or holding facilities with adults? What offences are most
prevalent among the 12 to 15 year olds and what offences are most prevalent among the 16
and 17 year olds? Are there statistics to justify the assertion that 16 and 17 year olds
have become more violent? Interview the judges, clerks, police officers, and lawyers.
2. Does your province deal with 16 and 17 year olds in a similar fashion to 12 to 15
3. How are 16 and 17 year olds dealt with the United States, South Africa, and Great
4. Does jail work for 16 and 17 year olds? If an older adolescent in jail has contact
with adult criminals what is the likely result for society and for the young person?
5. Do 16 and 17 year olds understand their right to silence and their right to counsel?
Should section 56(2) of the Young Offenders Act apply to such young persons? See R. v.
J.T.J. in the Supreme Court of Canada and other Canadian research on this topic.
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