A National Survey of Youth Justice Committees in Canada
- 4.6 Saskatchewan
YJCs in Saskatchewan are called Community Justice Committees (CJCs). There are a total of four designated CJCs in Saskatchewan, two of which had only recently begun accepting referrals at the time of contact. The research team was able to contact three of these CJCs. Most CJCs contacted performed duties for both youth and adult offending. Incorporation of each committee as a non-profit charitable organization is mandatory if the CJC is handling individual cases.
Saskatchewan has not designated a large number of CJCs, but has a large number of similar or analogous initiatives in or for Aboriginal communities (roughly 50 Aboriginal initiatives, some of which carry out roles similar to those undertaken by YJCs). Non-designation of these initiatives is considered a reflection of the need for maximum flexibility in program design and delivery.
Membership is based on the notion that committee members should reflect a cross-section of community members, in terms of age, gender, race and culture, and must have sound judgment (common sense). They must not have any outstanding criminal charges and no previous convictions for family violence, child abuse, or sexual assault. Members must submit to a police record check and a background check by Social Services. In one of the sites, there are clear guidelines for committee membership, and they include: a representative from the city school division, a representative from the Ministerial Association, a representative from the Seniors Group, an appointee from the Town Council, representatives from the Métis local, a representative of First Nations, a youth representative, and a representative from the local Chamber of Commerce. In at least one of the CJCs, difficulty recruiting First Nations representatives was noted. The rationale given for this under-representation was the absence of honorariums to committee members in the province. In addition, female members were said to be over-represented on one CJC.
In Saskatchewan, CJCs do not have “host agencies”. The Department of Social Services and the RCMP in at least one of the CJCs provide some in-kind assistance.
Not one of the three CJCs contacted has a Board of Directors or advisory committee who guide their activities. Rather, the volunteer members themselves guide the activities of the CJCs. Members of at least one committee hold monthly meetings that are attended by criminal justice workers (Saskatchewan Justice representatives, representatives from Social Services, Corrections and Public Safety) to discuss emerging and ongoing justice-related issues. These government representatives act as resource personnel for the CJCs.
Not one of the three CJCs contacted has a paid position such as a coordinator or administrative worker, to assist the volunteer members. Facilitators, who run diversion hearings, but who are not CJC members, are paid on a case by case basis by Saskatchewan's Department of Justice or Social Services. In at least one of the CJCs, only the facilitator's out-of-pocket expenses are covered by the Saskatchewan Department of Justice. Once a case is referred to CJC Chairs, they contact trained facilitators who run diversion hearings and oversee the completion of measures for youthful offenders.
Of the three CJCs contacted, volunteers were not required to undergo specialized training. However they are provided with related literature and may attend one day workshops sponsored by the provincial Department of Justice, on issues such as peer pressure, drug abuse and addition and family violence. Further, individuals who wish to volunteer to facilitate diversion hearings and who are not already a CJC member are required to undergo specialized training.
Saskatchewan CJCs do not receive funding to carry out their work with youth. At least one CJC did collect donations from local community agencies to cover some of the small administrative expenses of the program. Some CJCs have received in-kind assistance from community groups and government agencies, typically in the form of office supplies, postage, and accommodations for meetings and mediations.
Most CJCs play a facilitative role in determining the appropriate measures in individual cases of youthful offenders. As mentioned earlier, CJC members may recommend appropriate measures prior to the diversion meeting to facilitators who determine appropriate measures. In most CJCs, the majority of cases are referred by police before charges are laid and by police and Crown attorneys after charges are laid but before any court finding of youth responsibility. RCMP officers conduct the initial screening based on whether the youth meets alternative measures criteria. If the case is eligible, the RCMP consults with the Crown attorney and referral to a CJC may occur. In at least one CJC, those youth who fail to complete the agreed upon measures, or who re-offend, may be referred back to the CJC up to three times. Once referred, the committee will assign the case to one of the approved Community Justice Forum Facilitators within 14 days of referral. Two to three CJC members will be assigned to participate in each community justice forum (CJC members at one site do not attend hearings). The forum is organized and chaired by the facilitator and is also attended by the youthful offender, victim and their supporters. The facilitator determines the measures, writes up the agreement that is signed and provides documentation to government agencies. The CJC may assist in monitoring compliance.
Referred cases are typically less serious offences such as theft under $5000 (shoplifting) and mischief. Most CJCs contacted indicated that they felt the majority of cases they dealt with were somewhat serious. The number of cases referred to the CJCs varies with one (Tisdale) having heard 16 cases last year (eight of which were for youthful offenders) another (Nipawin) heard roughly 30 cases, and the most recent CJC (Valley West) had heard two cases by the time of contact by the research team.
All CJCs indicated that the youth and parents are read a formal statement of their rights in the process before proceeding. Typically, victims are invited to attend, and are asked about how the offence has impacted their lives, however victim participation at hearings is not necessary. Victim participation for all CJCs in Saskatchewan is frequent. In those cases where the victim cannot attend, committee members will ask the victim to write a letter/victim impact statement. One CJC Chair noted that police frequently attend mediations/diversion hearings.
CJCs in Saskatchewan may carry out the following roles or functions: provide advice to governments, courts and other CJS officials; crime prevention and public education on justice issues; and provide alternative measures to youthful offenders and/or conflict resolution by usually bringing together victims and offenders. Facilitators, not CJC members, mediate between or reconcile youthful offenders and victims.
Currently, Saskatchewan's CJCs have only had informational meetings with judges and prosecutors regarding alternative measures, and one of the four has indicated that they may provide advice to youth courts on sentencing of cases of youth under the YCJA. In terms of providing advice to other members of the justice system on ways of dealing with youth, CJCs run a quorum prior to the diversion hearing to generate ideas on possible measures that are then given to the facilitator to consider at the diversion hearing.
Facilitators are primarily responsible for assisting youth in finding community counselling and treatment. Only one CJC indicated that they too assist youth in finding help in the community. Facilitators are also generally responsible for following up on youth, although CJC members at one site (Valley West) also follow up.
Some concerns were raised regarding the sustainability of the CJCs, as well as the implications of the YCJA.
- All sites noted some difficulty in finding and retaining a sufficient number of “qualified” volunteers. In at least one site, several individuals interested in volunteering were rejected for not passing the RCMP clearance criteria. Once accepted, volunteers at all sites tend to remain committed to the program;
- The need for ongoing funding, more community resources to meet the needs of youth, and in-kind or funded administrative support was expressed;
- In some sites, victim involvement could be higher;
- The need to educate businesses about the CJC option and its merits was noted;
- The need for meeting space that is more easily accessible to both committee members and the communities served by the CJC were also noted, as the distance between youth and committee members can sometimes be quite large.
All of the CJCs felt that overall, the program is sustainable and will be operational in a few years' time.
Some interviewees raised concerns about the YCJA. All CJCs noted experiencing anxiety and fear over having insufficient funding/resources to accommodate a possible increase in the number of referrals that may result from the YCJA. One CJC Chair predicts that the number of cases referred to the committee may double, largely because of the act. For example, charges of marijuana possession that would have previously been stayed by judges may now be more likely referred by police to CJCs. One CJC Chair was concerned that under the new legislation, youth may receive
“seven to eight tries” at the CJC (currently, the committee may accept third-time offenders). To address this potential problem, the need for more community service providers was noted to accommodate more youth. One CJC Chair noted that judges have the option under the YCJA to send cases to CJCs for conferencing.
- In some cases, committee members and local businesses have not been supportive of community service placements (e.g., cases where a youth diverted for shoplifting completes a CSO in the complainant's business). The lack of support stems from a few instances in which youth have used the CSO to “case the joint” (the store) and subsequently returns to commit a break and enter.
- Program Philosophy
- There was strong support for healing approaches (repairing the conflict between the young offender and the victim/community), placing some of the responsibility for crime prevention back in the community, and making youth understand the consequences of their actions.
- Best Practices
- One of the purported advantages of a diversionary process such as YJCs is that it encourages the involvement of and input from different segments of the community (lending support to the idea that
“it takes a community to raise a child”, according to one CJC Chair). The CJC Chairs interviewed did not see any negative or unintended impacts, such as net widening, of the CJCs.
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