Chapter 2 – Creating a Juvenile Justice System: Then and Now
JDA: Philosophy and Definitions:
JDA = Juvenile Delinquents Act
The JDA created a welfare-based juvenile system which was a model of juvenile justice
based on a rehabilitative philosophy
By the 18 Century, parents patraie became a best interest principle as means of actively
promoting the well-being of a child. It was a doctrine based on English common law that
gives the state the power to take on a guardian or parenting role for children
In the US, delinquency was considered a state of being or a condition, under the JDA
defined delinquency as the violation by persons under 16 of law for which a fine or
imprisonment was the penalty, or the commission of any other act that would make the
young person liable to be committed to an industrial school or reformity.
JDA: The System:
If an offence was indictable (of a serious nature; the maximum sentence is never less than 2
years), it was up to the court to decide if the youth would be tried in an adult court.
Probation was a central element of the juvenile court, with the probation officer playing a
key role. The court would place a child in custody of a probation officer as a form of
sentence. The JDA required probation officers to conduct research for the court
In 1909, the first juvenile court under the JDA was set up in Winnipeg in the dining room of
a house on Simco Street.
Men were the main actors in creating the justice system, but women played a major role in
the system as probation officers and judges.
Opposition to the JDA
Those who opposed the bill did so on the grounds that it was not punitive enough or out of
concern about potential abuses to children’s and parents’ rights.
There were minor oppositions from the Children’s Aid Societies in Toronto – it was based on
the concern over the ability of probation officers to “properly” supervise delinquent
Modifying the Juvenile Justice System:
Serious challenges to the JDA began to surface in the 1960’s as a result of a growing
international and national rights disclosure.
In 1959, the United Nations gave legitimacy to notions that children should have rights
In 1979 it was designated as the year of the child A major source of criticism was directed at the JDA with regard to status offences
(behaviours considered to be illegal only because of the age of the individual) – These acts
were not considered criminal if engaged in by an adult (ex: sex, truancy or incorrigibility)
Sentence lengths varied according to individuals’ characteristics and circumstances rather
than by the nature of their behaviour
The first draft legislation, the Children and Young Persons Act in 1967 was rejected because
of provincial objections to changes in jurisdiction and federal cost sharing
Principles of Juvenile Justice Introduced by the YOA
The YOA was the Young Offenders Act created by a juvenile system very delinquent from
that which had prevailed under the JDA
The JDA referred to delinquents as “misdirected and misguided” children in need of
“aid, encouragement, help and assistance”
The YOA referred to young persons as in a “state of delinquency” who have “special
needs and require guidance and assistance” as well as “supervision, discipline and
The YOA also introduced principles to