Youth Justice Committee Program
Youth Justice Committees were first established in 1999 in six locations in Ontario. The creation of the Jane/Finch Committee brings the current number of committees serving Ontario to 23. These sites include committees in Ottawa, Cornwall, Scarborough (including Malvern), Barrie, Port Colborne, Kitchener, Belleville, Brockville, Cobourg, Hamilton, Huntsville, Newmarket (York Region), Windsor, Whitby, Haliburton (Muskoka), Walkerton, Owen Sound, Armstrong, Nipigon, Fort Frances, Marathon, the Region of Peel and, now, Jane-Finch.
Currently, the annual budget for the program is $1.5 million.
How Youth Justice Committees Work
- The Youth Justice Committee program is an alternative to formal court proceedings. The committee, together with the young offender, his or her parents, and the victim if he or she wants to participate, works out the appropriate way for the offender to make amends for his or her actions.
- Committees are made up of community volunteers who work in partnership with participants in the criminal justice system, including Crown attorneys, police, vicitims' services and probation officers.
- Police may refer an offender to a committee before a charge is laid, or the Crown may refer an offender after a charge is laid.
- In order for offenders to be referred to the committee, the offender must be prepared to be accountable for his or her actions, be willing to participate in the program and be aware of his or her options and rights.
- Offenders who do not agree with, or comply with the measures, are returned to the formal court system.
Examples of Measures
Measures take into account the individual circumstances of the offence and the offender, and are determined in conjunction with the offender, parents and victims. They include:
- community service;
- written project;
- paying back the victim and community;
- voluntary participation in counselling programs, such as anger management sessions; and
- an agreement by the offender not to associate with a person or a group.
The offender is required to apologize in every case.
Selection of Youth Justice Committee Members
A steering committee is formed to develop a proposal to set up a Youth Justice Committee and solicit volunteer members. This steering committee includes local Crown attorneys, police, probation officers, and representatives of victims' services and Legal Aid.
Volunteer membership on the Youth Justice Committee will be:
- representative of the community;
- subject to a criminal record check;
- recommended by the steering committee;
- approved for membership by the Ministry of the Attorney General;
- trained; and
- required to take an oath of confidentiality.
Volunteer members may be removed for any inappropriate behaviour, such as a breach of confidentiality or non-disclosure of conflict of interest.
Police, probation officers and Crown attorneys will be available to act as resources to the committees and provide ongoing support.
Eligible Offences Committed by Young Offenders
Offences eligible for referral to committees include:
- theft, possession under $5,000 (for example, shoplifting, possession of stolen property or goods);
- false pretences under $5,000 (for example, price switching);
- mischief under $5,000 (for example, breaking a shop window);
- causing a disturbance;
- fraud under $5,000;
- false statements under $5,000; and
- food, accommodation fraud.
Expanded offences eligible for referral to committees include:
- property offences over $5,000;
- giving a false name when arrested;
- credit card offences; and
- minor assaults (schoolyard scuffles, altercations and interpersonal conflicts).
Offences such as the following are not eligible for referral to committees:
- major property offences;
- weapons offences;
- serious assault, including sexual harassment (for example, stalking); and
- alcohol-related driving offences.