Mr. Swan goes to Vancouver

 

Andrew Swan is Manitoba's justice minister and attorney general

 

Interesting news statement from the provincial Justice minister a few moments ago.

STRENGTHENING YOUTH CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACT TO HEAD MANITOBA’S AGENDA AT JUSTICE MINISTERS’ MEETINGS: SWAN
– – –
Province Also Supports Tougher Penalties for Johns to Reduce Sexual Exploitation

Making public safety a priority by strengthening the Youth
Criminal Justice Act and providing tougher consequences for johns
top the agenda Manitoba will put forward at a federal, provincial
and territorial (FPT) justice ministers’ meeting next week in
Vancouver, Attorney General Andrew Swan said today.

 

“Manitobans have a right to feel safe in their homes and in their

communities.  We work very hard every day to help protect them by
strengthening our laws as well as investing in police, in
prosecutors and in crime prevention,” said Swan.  “We have moved
ahead with new provincial legislative tools and now we are
calling on Ottawa to improve key federal legislation.”

Manitoba has repeatedly called for the reform of the Youth
Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) at past FPT meetings.  At this
meeting, Swan said he will raise concerns about Bill C-4 which
proposes YCJA amendments.  The minister said the bill, currently
before Parliament, does not adequately address deficiencies in
YCJA bail and sentencing provisions and needs to be changed to
deal more effectively with serious and repeat young offenders.
Swan said he will call upon FPT ministers to commit to a special
meeting on the YCJA if the parliamentary standing committee
currently reviewing the bill does not address Manitoba’s
concerns.

He said Manitoba will also suggest the Criminal Code should be
amended to provide Crown attorneys with the ability to seek
increased penalties for johns, in order to reduce sexual
exploitation, diminish negative impacts on communities where
prostitution is taking place and disrupt a key source of revenue
for organized crime.

In order to allow more time for police officers to be on the
streets, Swan said he will support recommendations to amend the
Criminal Code to permit routine police evidence to be presented
by written document rather than requiring police to spend time in
court giving oral testimony on such matters.

The meeting will take place Oct. 13 to 15 in Vancouver.

From the Canadian Bar Association:

OTTAWA – The Canadian Bar Association’s (CBA) National Criminal Justice Section says that while Bill C-4, Youth Criminal Justice Act amendments, contains some necessary changes, it should not be passed as it would undermine the long term protection of society.

“The CBA supports an approach to youth justice that leads to greater public safety over the long haul,” says Scott Bergman of Toronto, Member of the National Criminal Justice Section. “The Bill moves away from a restorative and rehabilitative model of youth justice to a more punitive model, which is both unnecessary and contrary to sound public policy based on well-accepted social science.”

In its submission, the CBA says the Bill would mean more young people would go to jail for longer periods of time, although youth crime has not been increasing, and the diversion and rehabilitation goals of the current Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) have been working well.

The submission notes that according to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, overall crime has been falling since the early 1990s and violent youth crime has remained stable for several years. “Every province and territory has experienced reductions in youth court caseloads since the introduction of the YCJA, and fewer youth cases are resulting in jail sentences being imposed.”

“In other words,” says Scott Bergman, “there are fewer court cases and fewer youth in custody without any related increase in violent youth crime.”

The CBA is also concerned that the proposed amendments seem to send a message that three key participants in the criminal justice system – the police, Crown counsel and the judiciary – should not be trusted with discretionary powers. “The CBA opposes amendments which would directly or indirectly discourage these groups from exercising their professional discretion under the YCJA. Discretion is the cornerstone of a just system,” notes the brief.

Bill C-4 (first reading version) in its entirety here.

Manitoba’s in a tough spot. Many other places in the country don’t have the same youth crime severity problem as we do.

I wish Mr. Swan good luck. I also hope for his presence (and that of Winnipeg’s next mayor and police chief) at the standing committee in Parliament to put Manitoba and Winnipeg’s concerns about youth crime on the record and in full.

If they need some help developing case studies to present, I know a few people who would be glad to help out.

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