Canada’s youth crime plans bewilder international observers

A group of boys play basketball at the St. Louis Juvenile Detention Center Tuesday, July 19, 2011. The juvenile rehabilitation program houses from 50 to 100 youth between the ages of 9 and 17.
(Photo by Whitney Curtis for the Globe and Mail)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011 – Globe and Mail

If Canada follows through on plans to crack down on miscreant youth, it’ll be one of the few jurisdictions in the world heading in that direction.

And the tough-on-crime approach in the face of contrary evidence is bemusing international observers.

Judges, criminologists and policy-makers in the United States, Britain and Australia – countries whose systems, for the most part, closely resemble Canada’s – can’t figure out why this country is planning to shift toward a jail-intensive approach. Everyone else seems to be doing the opposite, not for ideological reasons, but because evidence shows it works.

“It’s somewhat ironic, actually,” said Marc Mauer, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Sentencing Project, which studies jail policy across the United States.

“After nearly four decades of the so-called ‘get tough’ movement in the U.S., which has meant sending more people to prisons [and] keeping them there for longer periods of time, there’s beginning to be a shift away from that.”

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Haiti’s youth in turmoil

Saturday, January 23, 2010 – Globe and Mail

Haiti is in many ways a nation of youth – about half the population is under 18 years old, and 40 per cent under 15; more than a tenth of the country is between the ages of 5 and 9. But its children are also among the most exploited and undereducated in the hemisphere: Half the adult population is illiterate, and an entire underclass of children is relegated to domestic pseudo-slavery.

The country’s roiled politics and perpetually dysfunctional government has left a vacuum when it comes to public education, and private schools have become a popular micro-enterprise. A paucity of national education standards makes it even more difficult for Haiti to break out of poverty because its population is so chronically undereducated.

“Businesses in Haiti constantly complain they can’t get people to work. Anyone who has skills leaves, and [businesses] are forced to bring in people from the outside,” said Carlo Dade, executive director for FOCAL, the Canadian Foundation for the Americas.

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Life on the mean streets of Iqaluit

Saturday, August 15, 2009

TORONTO and IQALUIT — RCMP had seen the boy before. Many times, in fact: Sometimes his parents would call the police and report that their son was missing; other times police would find the 10-year-old wandering the streets of Iqaluit at night, just to avoid going home.

They were used to bringing him back to his parents night after night, said Iqaluit RCMP Staff Sergeant Leigh Tomfohr.

“He just doesn’t like to stay at home. … He was just basically a runaway, if you want to call it that. They have a hard time containing him and keeping him at home.”

A photo of the boy, curled up asleep just a few feet from another 10-year-old, has sparked outrage in the Northern community, as well as a debate on just how extreme the region’s social problems are.

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