As the Senate debates the merits of the Canadian government's newly-passed omnibus crime bill, organizations across the country have raised serious issues with the legislation, particularly when it comes to amendments relating to the treatment of young offenders.
"The course we were on for young people was working, was contributing to public safety. There isn't evidence to show that putting more young people in jails, for lesser crimes, for longer periods of time, works," said Kathy Vandergrift, chair of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children (CCRC).
"We have too many young people falling through the cracks of fragmented support systems across provincial lines. Paying attention to that, we argue, would be a better investment and a much better contribution to public safety," she added.
Tabled as the "Safe Streets and Communities Act", or Bill C-10, the new crime legislation was passed in the Canadian House of Commons on Dec. 5, 2011. It bundles together nine separate bills on issues ranging from migrants entering Canada to organized crime and child sexual exploitation.
Among other provisions, the law would increase mandatory minimum sentences and pre-trial detention, instate harsher prison sentencing for young offenders and longer wait times for individuals applying for pardons, and make it more difficult for Canadians detained abroad to serve the remainder of their sentence at home.
According to Vandergrift, some components of Bill C-10 contradict Canada's responsibilities as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the state's obligations to protect the privacy of youth offenders, and to prioritize the well-being of children above all else.
"We would like to see Part 4 (of Bill C-10), which deals with the youth criminal justice system, taken out of the bill and discussed separately. Youth justice should be substantially ...