Youth and juvenile crime is a common and serious issue in current society, and people, especially parents and educators, are pretty worried about the trend of this problem. According to Bala and Roberts, around 17% of criminals were youths, compared to 8% of Canadian population ranging between 12 to 18 years of age between 2003 and 2004 (2006, p37). As a big federal country, Canada has taken a series of actions since 1908. So far, there are three justice acts in the history of Canadian juvenile justice system, the 1908 Juvenile Delinquents Act, the 1982 Young Offenders Act, and the 2003 Youth Criminal Justice Act. In Canada, the judicial system and the principle of these laws have been debated for a long time. This paper will discuss how these three laws were defined and why one was replaced by another.
Before 1908, the nature of the developing society caused children at risk to commit crimes. In nineteenth century and even early of twentieth, there were many orphaned and negected children in the society. They came from Europe or other colonies and they could lose their parent during long time trip. The doli incapax defence, "the incapacity to do wrong" - children who under the age of seven (in some cases, the maximum was 13) were incapable to commit crime, was initially presumed. It misled that youth could be innocent when charged in every case. However, children could have the same intelligence as adults to know the consequences of doing wrong things. Thus, children who were convicted of criminal would face the same penalties and were treated as adult offenders (The evolution of, 2009, p1). However, sometimes, penalties went beyond justice – these children would receive harsh punishment for minor criminal acts.
As a result, the first Canadian law on juvenile crime, the Juvenile Delinquency Act (JDA), was adopted by Canada in 1908. 7-15 year old (in some cases, a maximum of 17years) young people are confined under this Law. The courts, as the judicial role of parents, had to decide whether the young people should bear the consequences for their crimes. If the judge found that the minor's conduct had constituted a crime, then he could order him or her into the juvenile correctional homes until the relevant authorities agreed the criminal juvenile could be released. The law assumed the responsibility of the parents that they should determine the care of young people in terms of education and the linkages with their families (Sayson, 2006, p.6).
The Juvenile Delinquents Act brought some positive impacts on many young people who went through the juvenile justice system. However, many flaws appeared in this Act after a period of time. "Under the JDA, there were a number of differences in provincial prohibitions, variations in maximum age limits, and a wide range of financial commitment" (Covell & Howe, 1996, p.346). The juvenile offender under this law, which built a level of discretionary regime, had few rights with regards to the welfare....