Chapter 4: Legislating Youth Crime: From the YOA to the YCJA
January 12 , 2012
- YOA of 1984. JDA of 1908.
- As the 1980s approached, there was mounting criticism of the JDA.
- Lost faith in the rehabilitative ethic that underlay the juvenile court.
The Department of Justice Committee on Juvenile Delinquency
- From 1920 to 1960s, there was very little incentive for the government to
change the status quo in regards to youth crime.
- The first indication of concern about a concern of youth crime came from the
Department of Justice Committee on Juvenile Delinquency (DJCJD). Formed
in 1960 to investigate juvenile justice and suggest improvements.
- What prompted the government to do this? It was because of concern of a
potential increase in juvenile crime that would inevitably follow in the
coming of age of the baby-boomers. It was speculated that youth crime would
increase, thus ignite the costs associated.
- The public saw this threat as a reason to have harsher punishment of juvenile
offenders. This is what prompted a proactive government response and then
hired the DJCJD.
- 1956, almost 40% of population was under 19.
- DJCJD seemed to resemble the medical model of correctional philosophy
(assumption that deviance had its root in mental illness or physical
disturbance). But flaws of this philosophy were becoming evident.
- Labeling and societal reaction approaches were coming into youth justice
consciousness during the time the report was commissioned.
- Sparked a discourse of diversionary programs. These channeled youth away
from the formal YCJS to programs like peer mediation for school conflict
problems. Based on belief that removing a first time and non-serious
offender from the system lessened stigmatizing effects.
- Labeling perspective that deviance is a consequence of rules and sanctions
on an offender.
- Words like “criminal” or “young offender” stigmatize an individual as an
outsider. This has opposite effects of intentions of YCJS.
Labeling Theory, Youth, and Bill C-192
- If a label is not applied to criminal action, the deviant remains “primary
deviance” – the kind of wayward behavior that the vast majority of the public
has engaged in at one time or another.
- Minor infractions as part of maturation process.
- When the same behaviors become officially labeled, a shift in the individual’s
subjectivity into an active deviant status becomes evident.
- “Secondary deviance” is when a deviant comes to accept the label “criminal”
and continues to engage in behavior that conditioned it.
- Underlying logic of labeling theory – whenever possible, diversions from
formal intervention is the preferred course. - Very popular in 60s and 70s.
- Bill C-192 introduced in 1970. Mirrored many DJCJD concerns. Bill ultimately
died two years later. Partly because of widespread opposition from the
provinces (made federal government rethink). Also opposition from special
interest groups. One was Canadian Psychiatric Association – the value of
psychiatrists was valued and they had influence over decision-making. The
Mental Health Association made the bill sound like it had barbarously
punitive measures. Children’s’ rights advocates were also active said that the
bill didn’t give enough importance to due process.
Moving towards the YOA
- Criticism of JDA:
o Informality of the court process
o Reliance on indeterminate sentences
o Provincial variation in age jurisdiction
o Too “soft” on some offenders, and too “hard” on others
o Inclusion of status offences
o Inconsistent application of law across the country
o Tensions between social/child welfare concerns and legal principles
o Little protection of juvenile offenders
- Bill-C192 was an unrelated side note on the path to the YOA. It was in many
ways the force that drove it to happen.
- After the dissolution of the bill, the federal government assigned some
bureaucrats to investigate the youth justice system developments.
- They issued a legislation called the Young Person in Conflict with the Law
(YPICL). It had a Preamble (statement of philosophy and principles).
o This Preamble abandoned the social-welfare and medical model.
Instead it stressed the importance of legal rights and young offender
o Before the offender’s social, political and economic environment were
blameworthy, not the responsibility was coming back to the
- This was especially evident in the 1970s.
- The proposed legislation almost completely abandoned the welfarist tack of
- Social scientists were calling the rehabilitative and reformative approach into
- New brand of the child saver emerged dedicated to rescuing juvenile
offenders from a system, under a banner of kindness, could potentially do
them great harm. This was the new discourse, that the old system was doing
them more harm than good.
- Not who individuals are but what they have done. New court focus.
- Most significant discourse on the rights granted to young offenders.
- Ontario established the McRuer Royal Commission to investigate the
province’s legal framework and how it protects citizens.
o Pointed out abuse to youth’s rights under the JDA o Recommended to increase procedural safeguards.
- Under the JDA, lawyers were discouraged from representing youths at all.
Thus trials often lacked fairness. Children need greater due process
safeguards because of their age and maturity.
o This rights discourse definitely impacted DJCJD.
- Trudeau’s Charter was also key to this movement.
- This issue of children’s rights was significant on the road to the YOA.
- Another issue was age limit.
o Under the JDA, provinces were free to pick the age they saw fit.
o On the eve of the YOA’s passage, the federal government mandated
that the Charter set a uniform age.
o This created friction between the federal government and the
The YOA Becomes Law: T