Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Conservative Hypocricy, continued

Fresh of his recent victory to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16, done to protect youth who are not mature enough to be capable of making descisions for themselves regarding having sex, Justice Minister Vic Toews is now proposing that we lower the age of criminal responsibility from 12 to 10, becasue 10-year-olds are ceertainly mature enough to make decisions for themselves regarding crime.

Just let that sink in now. Toews thinks a 10-year-old can be culpable for theft and can appreciate the consequences of his or her actions, but a 15-year-old can't decided to have sex with his or her partner and can't appreciate the consequences of his or her actions.

This is one of the more bizarre, though not entirely unexpected (look for Myron Thompson, about 1/2 way down the page), changes the Reform...uhm I mean the Conservatives have proposed. I have even seen comments at various blogs by Conservative supporters, questioning this.

As a former Children's Mental Health worker in Toronto, let me assure you that no 10-year-old, not matter how violent and troublesome (and I worked with the top 2% of behaviour disorders in North America) really appreciates the reality of crime.

This is a resounding mistake and I hope all sensible MPs, including those that may be in the Conservative Party, soundly defeat this idea.

Go on and Bleed has uncovered more of the Tories plans for our kids, which are equally as well thought out as this is.

Update:

Chris Selley over at Tart Cider sums up this stupidity even better than I could have dreamed of. What he said.

12 Comments:

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Redsneef said...

I just don't get how this man is our Justice Minister. It's a sad state we're in right now. Where is the Minister of Children and Family Services in all this. Oh that's right it's a provincial matter so why would the provincial and federal government work together to make it "better" for the future of this nation.

 
At 12:18 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

I'm not sure that "hypocrisy" is the right word to describe this policy proposal, nor does it really describe the situation adequately.

I'm not in favour of lowering the age of criminal responsibility to 10, however there IS a problem when our youth are being used by street gangs and the child welfare system is not coping well with the problem. (This is one of the reasons that the CPC has proposed lowering the age, according to CFRA.)

I think we need to try to get young criminals more help, and vigourously prosecute the gangs who use them as runners/helpers/etc. That would address the problem far more than prosecuting preteens.

 
At 12:39 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Andrew,

I was merely pointing to strange double standard that for matters of sex 14 is too young, but for matters of crime 12 is too old. I also thought that naming the post "Conservatives are cold-hearted bastard idiots who want to lock up kids" was a tad unfair to sensible Cons like you and just too long to put in Blogger....

I agree with you on this. Of course the problem is because the social services that would help these kids are provincial jurisdiction and often are the ones getting cut - I know from first hand experience. This is an arguement to, as you say, provide more resources and funding to agencies that help latency age children, or to provide more discretion to the police, but not to make 10 year olds criminals.

The place I worked at in Toronto used to help about 16 - 24 kids like this per year. In 1995, Mike Harris slashed our funding. In 1996 the laid off about 1/2 the staff (me included). In 1999, they forcible merged the place with another, similar agency. By 2001, both agencies ceased to exist, meaning these kids weren't getting help. And now, 5 years later, another Conservative government thinks the answer is criminal law and the courts.

FWIW, in 1995 our per diem to treat kids was $300 and provided individual and family treatment and worked about 80-90% of the time. The cost of a YOA spot was about $700 per day, little or no actual treatment and no family involvment. The cost of the court system added more. Now, which one is the more cost-effective approach?

Why would Vic Toews even think this is a good idea?

 
At 3:23 PM, Blogger Reg said...

Unless I've misread the article, isn't the issue here that unless a child enters the court system, there is no way to force the child into a social services program similar to the one you were involved with? Programs that most realize are the way that these kids will get the help they need?

 
At 3:33 PM, Blogger Mike said...

No reg, none of the kids I worked with were forced there by the courts. They were brought in by their parent(s), who were seeking help, or referred by a doctor, teacher or other social worker. The problem right now is that, like my former place of employ, there is no place for some of these kids or no resources to help them if they do exist.

The problem is a social service issue, not a criminal law issue. Often times the real problem is the parents, not the kids. I have seen kids that are the 'holy terrors' that become placid as lambs and act like 'normal kids' as soon as they get a little positive attention and a safe home.

This issue is better addressed by strengthening existing social services agencies and programs that deal with these kids already, rather than making 10-year-olds criminally responsible and trying to deal with this through the courts.

 
At 8:16 PM, Blogger Reg said...

But isn't part of the problem that many of these kids are in a home situation where the last concern of the parent is to bring in their kid for help? All I'm saying is that for the sake of the child, giving a judge the ability to force the kid into a program might not be a bad thing if that's the only way the child would go.

 
At 9:12 PM, Blogger Mike said...

That's only true an a few of the situations. But there are currently existing school-based programs, the CAS, and other organzations that can help.

It makes no sense to extend criminal repsonsibility to a group that cannot possible concieve of that responsibility simply to help the rare occasions you describe. We have a mechanism in place right now to remove those children from their homes - the CAS. An officer running into one of these kids over and over can refer them to the CAS. Why not give these kinds of social service agencies more money and resources to help them? They can already compel kids and parents via court orders. Lowering the age of criminal responsibily makes no sense and is unneeded then.

The thought is nice but the implementation is totally wrong. At some point, a 10 year old will actually be sent to jail. Ever read 'Go Boy' by Roger Carron? He learned to be a better theif in jail when he was 10.

Look, there isn't even a problem that this idea will solve. The rate of crime, including youth crime, has been dropping every year for 16 years. We could do NOTHING and it would drop again next year. There are less youth criminals today than 10 or 15 years ago.

This just does not make sense.

 
At 11:51 PM, Anonymous Ti-Guy said...

"I think we need to try to get young criminals more help, and vigourously prosecute the gangs who use them as runners/helpers/etc. That would address the problem far more than prosecuting preteens."

Ya know...if a conservative ever proposed concrete solutions, instead of this...endless bitching...we might actually get somewhere in this country.

 
At 12:00 AM, Blogger Candace said...

Mike, I believe that Reg is reading this right. While your experiences may be different, as a parent I can tell you that there ARE crappy parents creating little monsters, and they ARE NOT providing their children with help, because they don't see the need.

Of the three kids I'm currently thinking of, only one would qualify under typical "gov't provided" services. The other parents could WELL afford the help on their own. But when a mother thinks it's okay to throw a shoe in her daughter's face to make a point, do you THINK she sees a problem with her daughter's temper?

When a mother, facing a debilitating and life-threatening disease, chooses to stay with an emotionally (and possibly physically) abusive man because he has agreed to look after her child should the need arise VS leaving her child without support (the father refuses to take responsibility), does she confront the jerk with the need for counselling for a f*cked up child? No.

When parents use a child as a pawn in their wars, and the child begins to engage actively, do they confront the issues? No, because they'd have to acknowledge their own at the same time.

None of these will see a counsellor without a court order enforcing it. They are bullies, they are a stone's throw away from teenage pregnancy, drug abuse (and potential gang association in order to have access to the drugs) and they are extremely vulnerable.

And no one can do a thing.

And those are just the ones off the top of my head.

So Mike, I hear you and would love to agree with you, but I also hear Toews and think I'll wait to see wtf he is actually proposing before jumping all over him for "jailing children."

 
At 8:07 AM, Blogger Mike said...

Candace,

No I agree that there are crappy parents creating little monsters. Indeed, my experience tells me that is the ONLY thing that creates little monsters. Like I said to Reg, I agree with the intentions but not the method which Toews is suggesting - lowering the age of criminal responsiblility (which in and of it self means that 10 year olds could go to jail, just like 12 year olds now).

A 10 year old simply cannot appreciate the consequences of their actions to the degree to be criminally responsible. It doesn't matter if the intention of using it is to get them help, or rescue them from the clutches of gangs, its the wrong approach. I don't know how it works in Alberta, but here in Ontario, court ordered counselling can take place through the family courts, not the criminal courts. It just requires agencies like the CAS having the resouces to do so. Sadly, most don't.

"And no one can do a thing"

Candace, sadly sometimes that is the answer. You don't want the government parenting, do you? Considering that youth crime is down 6% from last year, Toews suggestion is a solution in search of a problem. The cost to society in general of using this kind of approach to treat a small and ever-diminishing problem is simply not worth it.

Using the criminal courts to try to do something about this is like swating a mosquito with a sledge hammer. There are lots of other things that can be done to help without holding 10 year olds criminally responsible.

 
At 9:38 PM, Blogger Snowrunner said...

This falls in with the "if in doubt use a bigger hammer" approach that has proven very successful with the war on drugs, the war on sex and any other war on something or other south of the border.

In fact, this is so effective that people just stopped having sex, doing drugs or do anything else war has been declared on.

You're just lacking their vision.

[sarcasm off]

 
At 4:00 PM, Blogger Janet said...

In America, we've (meaning the Bush Regime) have cut funding for social groups, schools, health care, even local emergency organizations...

We're putting more people into prisons than we are putting into schools. We have a "draft" it's called an economic draft. Most kids know they won't be able to raise a family or pay their own bills with 3 part time jobs. You cut the aid and growth of a society and you've got a breeding ground for crime. Like with what is happening in the middle East... we are refusing to provide aid, camps, schools to areas so guess who does build the refugee camps, the clinics, the tent schools. Who brings in the food and water. A family, a child doesn't care who is providing safety, food, shelter... just as long as it is there. And their loyalty goes with the provider.

We're taking everything away from our youth. Our future. And then we slap them down for trying to find some safety net. Some form of family, protector.

I fear that due to allowing our children to raise themselves due to the fact that many parents simply can not be at home, although I 'm very fortunate and have made many sacrifices to stay at home (my oldest is disabled although we do not receive any SSI for him) I know that for many they are living paycheck to paycheck and are only one parent getting hurt away from being homeless. Our children, yes, they are more independant, but they still are children. I think that before we say that a child should be placed in prison for a crime... that we look at our politicians and make them accountable for their crimes first.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home