A National Survey of Youth Justice Committees in Canada
- 4.9 Newfoundland and Labrador
In Newfoundland & Labrador there are a total of 32 designated YJCs, which vary significantly across communities depending on community population- ranging from St. John's to more remote corners in the region. The research team was able to contact 17 of the Committee chairpersons. All of the committees have been designated under s.69 of the YOA.
The number of volunteer members, on YJCs, varies considerably from a low of six to a high of 80 members. The median volunteer complement was 12 members. In most cases, these members did not have experience working in the youth justice system or related fields (such as social work or criminal justice), although in every committee there were some members who had had previous relevant experience. This ranged from six out of six volunteers to only one out of 21 members with justice or related experience.
According to provincial officials, all YJCs have an “oversight” group of some sort, specifically a youth corrections social worker, police officer and Crown attorney. This was confirmed in the information received from the individual sites. The majority of YJC respondents confirmed that their program had a Board of Directors or advisory committee who guided their activities (although several were unaware of this).
Only one of the YJC had a paid position to assist with the working of the volunteer members. St. John's was unique in terms of these positions as well as their workload. There are five full-time paid positions in St. John's: one coordinator, two social workers, and two clerical workers.
All of the YJC members were provided with the Standards and Practices Manual: Alternate Measures document produced by the Department of Health and Community Services. In addition, there are two levels of mediation training, Level One and Level Two. The Department of Health and Community Services and the Newfoundland and Labrador Coalition of Youth Justice Committees contracted with two outside agencies to develop the two packages. A total of 22 volunteers and Youth Corrections Social Workers were trained to deliver the package to all volunteers. Level One is an eight hour package which delivers the basic strategies of mediation/diversion, contract writing, etc. Level Two is a two-day package, which is more in-depth, looking at co-mediation strategies, resistant clients, power imbalances, adolescent development etc. All YJCs contacted indicated that committee members who deal directly with the youth must take at least Level One. The volunteers who choose to act in other capacities - i.e. as treasurer, in fund-raising or education - were exempt from this mandatory requirement.
The amount of funds given to YJCs varies considerably depending on the number of cases seen per year. The base amount to each program is $750 per year plus $10 for each case referred to a maximum allotment of $1750 per year. However, $100 is deducted from each YJCs yearly funding grant and forwarded to the Newfoundland and Labrador Coalition of Youth Justice Committees. The amounts of funding available to the responding YJCs from all sources ranged from $650 to $1650, with a median annual budget reported of $800.
In addition, all of the YJCs received in-kind assistance from the host agency, a community group, or a government agency, typically in the form of office space, liaison with police, and minor office supplies and services.
All of the committees play the central role of considering the appropriate measures in individual cases of youthful offending. In most instances, cases are referred at the pre-charge stage. In a few cases, the case came to the committee after charges were laid, but before court. It was emphasized however that this was an exception and not the norm. The majority of cases come from the Crown but the police also refer a significant number.
Typically, the offences involved in these cases are not at the more serious end of the spectrum, most often involving mischief, theft under, shoplifting, all-terrain vehicle violations, and possession of alcohol. Most of the YJCs contacted indicated that they felt the majority of cases they dealt with were “not very serious”.
Cases tend to be decided by panels ranging from one to two (out of 55 members in St. John's) to an average of five or six members. All of the YJCs indicated that they read the youth and parents a formal statement of their rights in the process before proceeding. Typically, victims are invited to attend, and in any event are asked about how the offence affected them. All the sites indicated that victims attended in very few cases (from “ never ” to “ sometimes ”). In some cases this was due to the victimless nature of the incidents and in other cases the “ victims ” were corporations who chose not to attend.
The YJCs take varying approaches to the possible roles that may be available to them. The following roles were more likely to be undertaken among the 17 YJCs for which detailed information was available: to mediate between or reconcile youthful offenders and victims; find or provide placements or ways for youth to perform community service or other conditions of alternative measures; and follow up on youth (tracking how they do under the conditions, etc.). The following additional roles were less likely to be performed: to help find youth counselling, treatment or other assistance in the community; advise other members of the justice system on ways of dealing with youth; plan and deliver crime prevention programs; educate the public about youth crime and justice; and lobby for support and resources for new measures for youth.
The program in Newfoundland and Labrador continues to grow and the province anticipates the approval of two new YJCs in the near future.
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