Evidence of meeting #21 for Justice and Human Rights in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was youth.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Simon Fournel-Laberge  As an Individual
  • Gaylene Schellenberg  Lawyer, Legislation and Law Reform, Canadian Bar Association
  • Scott Bergman  Section Member, National Criminal Justice Section, Canadian Bar Association
  • William Trudell  Chair, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers
  • Julie McAuley  Director, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada
  • Martha Mackinnon  Executive Director, Justice for Children and Youth
  • Agnes Samler  President, Defence for Children International-Canada
  • Les Horne  Executive Director, Defence for Children International-Canada
  • Mia Dauvergne  Senior Analyst, Policing Services Program, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada
  • Craig Grimes  Chief/Advisor, Courts Program, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada
  • Irwin Elman  Provincial Advocate, Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth (Ontario)
  • Lee Tustin  Advocate for Children and Youth, Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth (Ontario)

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Let me stop you. A “serious offence”, I agree, is any offence subject to five years or more. But that's a different issue. I'm simply talking about the definition of “violent offence” and trying to understand why it makes a difference to you to allow a judge the discretion to impose a custodial sentence.

If, for example, as in the case that was described to us the other day, someone shoots off a gun in the area of young people, perhaps without any intention of hitting someone but perhaps endangering their lives, section 39 doesn't say a judge “must”; in fact, section 39 says that even if it's a violent offence, the judge has to explore other alternatives, and only if there is no other alternative but custody, then—

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

Mr. Woodworth.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

So what's your problem, then?

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

Did you want to answer?

12:10 p.m.

Section Member, National Criminal Justice Section, Canadian Bar Association

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

It has to be yes or no, really. We're out of time.

12:10 p.m.

Section Member, National Criminal Justice Section, Canadian Bar Association

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

I want to thank all of our witnesses for appearing.

I want to thank Mr. Fournel-Laberge. This is your first appearance before a committee. You were probably a little nervous, and you did very, very well. Congratulations to you as well.

We're now going to take a two-minute break, so that the witnesses can clear out, and we'll have the next set come.

We're suspended for two minutes.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

We're continuing our study on Bill C-4, and we have our second panel with us.

First I want to welcome representatives from Statistics Canada. We have Julie McAuley, Mia Dauvergne, Craig Grimes, and Rebecca Kong.

Representing Justice for Children and Youth we have Martha Mackinnon. Welcome.

Finally, representing Defence for Children International--Canada we have Agnes Samler and Les Horne.

Welcome to all of you. Time is in short supply, so if you can keep your submissions under ten minutes that will be helpful, because we probably have a lot of questions we'd like to ask you.

We'll begin with Statistics Canada and Ms. McAuley.

June 3rd, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.

Julie McAuley Director, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada

Thank you for the opportunity to present to the committee regarding Bill C-4.

Statistics Canada does not take a position on the proposed amendments in the bill. The presentation we have prepared contains our most recent data on youth criminal justice. All data sources used are clearly indicated as are any pertinent data notes. Distributed for your consideration are the most recent Juristats related to youth crime, youth courts, and youth corrections. Furthermore, in July, Statistics Canada will be releasing new crime and youth court data, which may also be of assistance during your examination of Bill C-4. My colleagues Ms. Mia Dauvergne, Ms. Rebecca Kong, and Mr. Craig Grimes will help to answer any questions.

Using data received from police services across Canada, we can examine trends in youth accused of police-reported crimes. Over the last ten years, there has been a substantial shift in the trends regarding youth aged 12 to 17 accused by police. The rate of youth charged has dropped while the rate of youth cleared by other means has increased. Cleared by other means includes, for example, judicial sanctions and police discretion.

Crime can be classified into two categories: violent and non-violent. Most crime committed by youth is non-violent. This has been a consistent trend over the last ten years. In 2008, seven in ten youth accused of crime had committed a non-violent offence. The rate of non-violent crime committed by youth in Canada has been decreasing over the last ten years, while the rate of violent crime has remained relatively stable. As the youth crime rate is predominantly driven by non-violent crimes, the overall crime rate as reported by police services in Canada has also dropped over the last ten years.

The top ten offences accounted for 93% of all police-reported offences committed by youth aged 12 to 17 in 2008. Seven of the ten shown are classified as non-violent crimes. The most common police-reported offence committed by youth in 2008 was theft under $5,000. This along with mischief and assault level one accounted for about half of all police-reported offences committed by youth in 2008.

I will now turn to what happens once charges laid by police move into Canada's youth courts. In 2006-07, theft was the most common type of case completed in youth court, followed by assault level one and break-and-enters. The composition of cases being heard in youth court is changing. We are seeing fewer cases involving less serious offences, such as possession of stolen property, and an increase in more serious offences, such as uttering threats and weapons offences. Since the introduction of the YCJA there has been a 26% decline in the cases completed in youth court. While there is variability in the magnitude of the decline in caseload, all provinces and territories have experienced a decline since the YCJA.

In addition to the decrease in the total number of cases, there has also been a decrease in the number of guilty cases stemming from youth courts. While the decline began in the early 1990s, the introduction of the YCJA coincides with a decrease in both the total number of cases completed and the number of guilty cases.

Of the approximately 56,500 cases heard in youth courts in Canada in 2006-07, 60% resulted in a guilty finding. For those cases where the youth was found guilty, the most frequent sentence was probation. In recent years the proportion of violent cases resulting in a custodial sentence has been declining. In 2006-07, these cases were at their lowest levels in 15 years. Since the first year of the YCJA, all provinces and territories have experienced large decreases in both the numbers and proportions of guilty youth cases receiving custodial sentences. The use of custody has also decreased across all offence categories.

The average length of custody for all youth cases in Canada was 72 days, compared with 124 for adults. When split by violent and non-violent offences, we see that there is a difference in the length of the custodial sentence imposed: 117 days for violent cases versus 54 days for non-violent cases.

By far, the average length of custody was the longest for homicides, at 1,084 days, which is almost three years, followed by attempted murder and other crimes against persons. On any given day in 2008-09, about 900 youths aged 12 to 17 were in sentence custody, which was down 8% from the previous year and down 42% from 2003-04. In fact, the number has been declining annually since 1995-96.

Looking at slide ten, we see that the youth in remand outnumber those in sentence custody. In 2008-09, 52% of all young people held in custody on any given day were in remand.

Youth continue to spend fairly short periods of time in remand. Four of the eight jurisdictions that provided data in 2008-09 indicated that youth spent, as a median number of days, one week or less in custody. Since the implementation of the YCJA, the median number of days spent in remand has varied across jurisdictions. Overall, in 2008-09, 54% of youth released from remand had spent one week or less in remand. This proportion has fluctuated between 53% and 56% since 2004-05.

For youth there are operationally two levels of custody: open custody, which is less restrictive, such as halfway houses; and closed custody, which are secured facilities and would include detention centres. Among the reporting jurisdictions, the trend in time spent in open and secure custody has fluctuated.

Once again, thank you for the opportunity to present to the committee. This ends my presentation.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

Thank you very much.

We'll move on now to Martha Mackinnon from Justice for Children and Youth. You have up to ten minutes.

12:25 p.m.

Martha Mackinnon Executive Director, Justice for Children and Youth

Thank you very much for the opportunity to address you on legislation that affects the lives of all children.

Justice for Children and Youth has been acting both for young offenders and young victims since 1978. Just as it says in the submission of the Canadian Bar Association, we feel that we understand the issues from the perspective of both those desiring to be more safe and those who have offended.

The first thing I have to do, unfortunately, is apologize. I would normally just ignore this, but because our written submission says the exact opposite of what I mean on one page, I want to point it out now. On page 7, the last sentence of the first complete paragraph says “If this amendment is passed, we can expect a return to much higher rates of detention at great taxpayer cost but with increased public safety”. I mean “without” increased public safety. I will send an amended submission to reflect that change, but I wanted to apologize now in case I misled anyone about my views.

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam, a moment please. I do not have that document. I don't know what you are talking about. I am sorry, Ms. Mackinnon, but I do not have your brief.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

Monsieur Lemay, we're just circulating it now.