NUPGE calls for thorough review of legislation with the involvement of front-line workers in the sector rather than piecemeal approach to changing the law.
Ottawa (19 March 2010) - The amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) proposed by the federal Conservative government are patchwork efforts to fix a system that is badly flawed and needs an in-depth overhaul, says the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).
"While we agree with, and have repeatedly proposed, giving judges the tools necessary to deal with those youth who are at risk of spiralling out of control, the changes put forward are inadequate and have been brought before Parliament with little public input or consultation," said NUPGE president James Clancy.
"Our members, who work in the justice system, have been calling for a much more thorough review of the YCJA that would give front-line workers an opportunity to provide direct input on this important public policy issue."
Clancy said a December 2006 report issued by Nova Scotia's Nunn Commission would provide a good reference point to launch such a review. The commission came up with 35 recommendations to improve the YCJA.
The Conservative legislation, introduced by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, would allow judges to consider non-criminal behaviour in sentencing young offenders (under age 18). This would include behaviour indicating a "casual attitude to the law (and) complete lack of empathy for the victim," the minister says.
Judges would also have greater discretion when passing sentence to consider prior contact with the police or justice system - even instances in which charges were not laid.
The bill has been referred to as "Sébastien's law" after Sébastien Lacasse, a 19-year-old Quebec man killed by a group of young people at a house party in 2004.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE