Many young people, as with every generation, go through a period of behaviour that could be characterized as wrongful or delinquent and sometimes in conflict with the criminal law. Study after study indicate this behaviour peaks in adolescence and, for the most part, ceases for the vast majority in early adulthood. We are not suggesting we ignore their wrong behaviour. How we respond, especially in positive and meaningful ways, will go a long way in paths chosen by these young people.
What a country does in youth justice often signals its overriding principles of justice and corrections. We know that in punitive times the tendency to beat up on those who beat up on others is very great, no matter their age. We can easily forget the overwhelming evidence from the field of adolescent development, that a person’s age and development need to be factored in when assessing consequences and understanding for a crime committed.
In recent years, The Church Council has addressed its core messages on youth justice in a number of forums.
Amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) in 2007
Last fall, Canada’s government introduced legislation to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA). The goal is to include deterrence and denunciation as sentencing principles, in other words, allowing judges to detain young offenders before trial should they be considered to pose a risk to public safety.
CCJC participated in a Consultation prior to introduction of this new legislation. Maureen Murphy, CCJC’s Past-president, represented CCJC in a meeting with Justice Canada to consult on the pre-trial detention of youth under the YCJA.