The Ministry of Children and Youth Services’ 2013-2018 Strategic Plan indicates that the ministry is accountable for the provision of youth justice services, including: “a continuum of diversion, community and custodial programs for youth who are, or are at risk of being, in conflict with the law to: improve outcomes; reduce re-offending; prevent youth crime; hold youth accountable; and contribute to community safety.” The provision of services to youth in conflict with the law is governed by the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) and the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA).

The Youth Criminal Justice Act, federal criminal justice legislation that applies to youth aged 12 to 17 at the time of offence, was proclaimed in 2003. The legislation embeds the recognition of the greater dependency and reduced maturity levels of young people. Principles of sentencing include deterrence (added as a principle in 2012); rehabilitation; denunciation (added as a principle in 2012); proportionality; incapacitation (use of custody as a last resort) and restoration.

As indicated in documents provided to the Panel by MCYS, the Ministry provides the following, as required by the YCJA: prevention and diversion; alternatives to custody and community-based interventions; the provision of rehabilitative programs for youth who are under supervision and care; services and supports targeted to specific populations and reintegration programs for youth being released from custodial sentences into the community. Given the legislative direction that the use of custodial sentences be reserved for serious repeat offences, serious violent offences and failure to comply with non-custodial sentences, the Youth Criminal Justice Act has had a profound impact on youth justice services in Ontario and indeed, across Canada.