Minister Calls for Changes to Federal Youth Act–OpEd Piece

first_imgSince becoming Minister of Justice 18 months ago, many Nova Scotians have talked to me about the problem of youth crime. These are troubling situations, and rightly spark debate and discussion on how best to address youth-crime issues and ensure public safety. What we do know is that we need longer-term solutions to address the root causes of crime, and strong enforcement measures to protect citizens. Through the Minister’s Task Force on Safer Streets and Communities, Nova Scotians told us they need additional support and services to prevent and address crime in their neighbourhoods. That’s why we’re acting on the task force conclusions by bringing forward a provincial crime prevention and reduction strategy this fall. Our province has also invested in more enforcement, adding 250 new police officer positions over four years, including an initial allocation of 36 officers for Halifax Regional Municipality. We’ve also introduced a program to electronically supervise offenders in the community, and will be expanding it to include young offenders. There is no doubt that the introduction of the Youth Criminal Justice Act has resulted in more young people being released into the community, either as part of their sentence or while they wait for trial. While the act is working for the majority of young people in conflict with the law, we know it does not address the small number of out-of-control youth who are a danger to themselves and others. These youth need to be taken off the streets and away from negative influences to disrupt their pattern of behaviour. The Youth Criminal Justice Act is letting these youth down and failing to protect Nova Scotians. For the last three years, we have called on the federal government to make changes to the act, and the need for improvements was echoed by Commissioner Merlin Nunn in his report on the McEvoy inquiry. As a province, we have accepted and are implementing all of his recommendations, including developing a provincial youth strategy, and creating new youth-attendance-centre and bail-supervision programs in Halifax. At the same time, we continue to call on the federal government to follow Commissioner Nunn’s recommendations, and listen to Nova Scotians and other Canadians calling for changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Changes that better protect the public and serve young people. I appreciate the leadership shown by the federal government in introducing new federal legislation to strengthen penalties under the Criminal Code, changes that will allow the courts and law enforcement to better deal with crime in our country. I encourage all Nova Scotians to call on their member of Parliament to support any legislation that will improve the safety of our communities. At the same time, we need action on the Youth Criminal Justice Act. We are fortunate in Nova Scotia to have some of the brightest, kindest and hardest-working young people anywhere. We need changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act to ensure the very small number of youth who are a danger to themselves or others are dealt with appropriately and effectively. -30-last_img

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