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Canada: Repenalization and Young Offenders' Rights (From: Comparative Youth Justice, P 19-33, 2006, John Muncie and Barry Goldson, eds. -- See NCJ-216868)

NCJ Number
Russell Smandych
Date Published
15 pages
This chapter presents a critical analysis of recent juvenile justice developments in Canada.
Focusing mainly on the changes ushered in by the enactment of the 1984 Young Offenders Act (YOA) and the 2002 Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), this article illustrates how popular and legislative sentiment in Canada shifted from a child welfare model that valued rehabilitation to a punitive model that values punishment and the protection of society. Over the past two decades, the author argues that the Canadian media ushered in a moral panic regarding youth crime, which was largely directed at the country’s visible ethnic minorities and poor. This media construction of the dangerous young offender throughout the 1990s further contributed to an environment in which juvenile offenders were regarded as criminals who should be held responsible for their actions. Amendments made to the YOA between 1986 and 1998 continued to shift the treatment of juvenile offenders toward a punitive model. Amendments included the introduction of a new offense regarding failure to comply with a disposition and paved the way for easier transfers to adult courts. The 2002 YCJA further entrenched the management of juvenile offenders in a punitive justice model by increasing the “adulteration” of the juvenile justice system. Such an adulteration is even evident in the renaming of youth courts, which became known as “youth justice courts” following the enactment of the YCJA. Treatment of juvenile offenders under the YCJA more closely approaches the risk management treatment of adult offenders who are considered possible recidivists and dangers to the community. Additionally, the needs of the “child” have been superseded by the concern for holding young offenders accountable and managing them in custody. The author also considers the extra-judicial measures (diversion, police warnings, family group conferencing) ushered in under the YCJA, but concluded that there are a number of factors that undermine the restorative pretensions of the YCJA. References