The First Months under the Youth Criminal Justice Act: A Survey and Analysis of Case Law

By Bala, Nicholas; Anand, Sanjeev | Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, April 2004 | Go to article overview

The First Months under the Youth Criminal Justice Act: A Survey and Analysis of Case Law


Bala, Nicholas, Anand, Sanjeev, Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice


Introduction

Although a common public and political criticism of Canada's youth justice system has been that juvenile offenders are treated too leniently, the federal government's enactment of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) was not primarily motivated by a desire to respond to "get tough" critics of the old Young Offenders Act (YOA). A House of Commons report on youth crime and the youth justice system, released in 1997, one year prior to the introduction of the YCJA into Parliament, found that youths are given custodial sentences at a rate four times higher than that of adults, and that Canada's youth incarceration rate was twice that of the United States and ten to fifteen times that of many European countries, Australia, and New Zealand (Canada, House of Commons 1997: 18).

Federal government publications and the Preamble to the YCJA make clear that this legislation was enacted to achieve two main objectives. The primary objective is in regard to the treatment of the vast majority of young offenders who commit less serious offences, for whom the YCJA is intended to reduce Canada's reliance on the use of youth courts and youth custody, and to increase the use of diversionary options and of community-based sentences. The second objective of the act, as drafted, was to "toughen the response" for youths found guilty of the most grave violent offences. For these youths, the new act was intended to facilitate the process for imposing adult sentences as well as allowing for the publicizing of their identities.

The incarceration rate for young offenders was slowly but steadily dropping since the 1995 amendments to the Young Offenders Act (Johnson 2003: 10), which also emphasized the importance of using restraint in imposing custody on youths, and this drop occurred even during years in which the youth crime rate remained relatively stable (Wallace 2003: 13-14). However, it is apparent that the YCJA has directly resulted in a further, substantial reduction in the use of incarceration for young offenders. Media reports indicate that populations in youth custody facilities in Alberta, Ontario, and Newfoundland have declined by 20% to 50% in the act's first months in force and that these changes are the result of the new legislation (Blackwell 2003a;

Blackwell 2003b; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 2003). It remains to be seen whether these initial reports will be reflected in long-term trends in the use of youth custody, especially if youth crime does not significantly decline. Most judges accept that the YCJA makes proportionate accountability the dominant sentencing principle, although they also recognize the new act's limitations on the use of custody and encouragement of community-based sentences, such as deferred custody and supervision. Further, the most important ruling pertaining to the YCJA rendered to date, the Quebec Court of Appeal decision in Reference Re Bill C-7, ruled unconstitutional the provisions of the act intended to facilitate the more punitive responses for those young people found guilty of the most serious offences, though that decision also indicated that youth courts should "balance" accountability concerns with a consideration of the needs of young offenders.

Diversion and extra-judicial measures

The YCJA explicitly recognizes a variety of measures designed to divert youths from the courts, such as encouraging police warnings, cautions and pre-court referrals to community programs of "extrajudicial measures" (Bala 2003b). The extent to which various pre-court diversionary measures are used instead of court-based responses is primarily a matter of discretion for police and prosecutors. There was quite extensive training for police and Crown prosecutors before the YCJA came into force, and it would appear that the use of non-court diversion has increased under the new act and that fewer less serious cases are being referred to the courts. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The First Months under the Youth Criminal Justice Act: A Survey and Analysis of Case Law
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.