Youth Criminal Justice Act – Principles

YOUTH OFFENDER 1: I don’t really remember
all of what happened the night I was arrested because I was intoxicated and stuff.
YOUNG OFFENDER 2: I started drinking, doing drugs so I kept on getting in trouble with
the law so I kept on going back and forth in and out of jail, in and out of jail…
YOUNG OFFENDER 3: I was just like whoa, what have I done? You know, like, what have I become?
You know, it takes a village to raise a child and I think that’s the perspective of The
Youth Criminal Justice Act is coming from. CONSTABLE JEFFREY WESTMAN: It’s about real
consequences happening right away and youth can relate to that.
COMMUNITY PROGRAMS OFFICER RHONDA STAIRS: I think it is important to remember that it’s
kind of not a one-size-fits-all approach, that we have to pay attention to every youth
that we come into contact with. YRAP ERIK BISANZ: They get to take responsibility
for what they have done and really own up to it and for a lot of people that is really
freeing. NARRATOR: The Youth Criminal Justice Act,
or YCJA, is the federal law which governs Canada’s youth justice system. The Act applies
to Canadian youth aged 12 to 17 who get into trouble with the law. The YCJA came into force
in 2003 and was amended in 2012 to strengthen its handling of violent and repeat young offenders.
PROFESSOR NICHOLAS BALA: Almost every country in the world has some special legislation
or provisions that recognize that children, adolescents, are not to be treated in the
same way as adults. That they have a limited state of maturity, they have a limited state
of moral development, intellectual development and they are often more amenable to rehabilitation.
YCJA PRINCIPLES NARRATOR: The Youth Criminal Justice Act states
that the youth criminal justice system is intended to protect the public by holding
youth accountable, promoting the rehabilitation and reintegration of youth back into society,
and preventing crime. It emphasizes that the youth criminal justice system must be separate
from the adult system, and based on the principle that youth are presumed to be less morally
blameworthy than adults. In other words, the law recognizes that youth must be held accountable,
but in a way that takes into account their greater dependency and reduced level of maturity.
PROFESSOR NICHOLAS BALA: A key objective, a key principal of the Act is to try to promote
the protection of Canadian public. And that includes the short-term protection which may
in some circumstance mean removing the young offender from the community but it also includes
the long-term protection of society by rehabilitating young people, by dealing with their underlying
problems. It also provides more structure to the decision making of judges, probation
officers and others, and tries to ensure that custody is used as a last resort and it’s
largely been successful in achieving that. DEFENSE LAWYER PATRICIA YUZWENKO: This is
a much improved situation than we had before under The Young Offenders Act because I am
now looking more at not just representing clients but we have to look at trying to find
ways to deal with underlying issues which the court might need to address in sentencing
in order to assist in the rehabilitation of young persons.

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