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Canadian Paediatric Society

Youth Criminal Justice Act should not be amended as proposed

Jun 16 2011

QUEBEC— Changing Canada’s youth crime law to allow stiffer sentences for children as young as 14 years convicted of serious or violent offences will have significant negative consequences, says the Canadian Paediatric Society in a statement released today.

The CPS joins the Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates in calling on the federal government to revisit proposed changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Bill C-4, An Act to Amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was first introduced by the Conservative government in March 2010, but died on the order table when the election was called. It is expected to be reintroduced early in this new session of Parliament along with other law-and-order measures.

“The Youth Criminal Justice Act should not be amended as proposed,” says Dr. April Elliott, member of the CPS Adolescent Health Committee and co-author of the statement. “The proposed changes could create dangerous gaps in services, education, and healthcare that will have negative health effects for incarcerated adolescents.”

Sensible and effective public policy around youth justice must acknowledge that adolescents are different from adults. The current Youth Crime Justice Act, which reflects the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, supports rehabilitation and reintegration. Proposed changes threaten to put the emphasis on incarceration.

“We need a system that is developmentally appropriate for teens,” says Dr. Elliott.

Among the CPS recommendations:

  • The federal government should work with provincial/territorial governments to establish a national youth crime prevention strategy that includes early detection and treatment of mental and behavioural health issues that might otherwise lead to criminal activity.
  • Youth convicted of a crime and incarcerated should receive appropriate mental and physical health care, as well as rehabilitation and educational services, consistent with Canada’s commitment to the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.
  • Any future amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act must consider the rights of youth and their mental, physical, developmental, and educational needs.

For a copy of the full statement visit: Youth Justice and Health: An argument against proposed changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

About the Canadian Paediatric Society

The Canadian Paediatric Society is a national advocacy association that promotes the health needs of children and youth. Founded in 1922, the CPS represents more than 3,000 paediatricians, paediatric subspecialists and other child health professionals across Canada.

Last updated: Nov 8 2012