Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Child workers rail against Sébastien's law

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OTTAWA -- Canada's child advocates want the federal government to shelve planned amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

In a presentation to the House of Commons justice committee Monday, the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates urged lawmakers to consider the impact the changes would have on already vulnerable kids, particularly those with mental health issues and brain damage due to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

CCCYA president Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said there is no evidence putting more kids in jail for longer will have any impact on youth crime rates. In fact, she told the committee, it can work to entrench criminal behaviour.

Instead the child advocates, including Manitoba's, want Ottawa to create a national strategy to respond to the needs of kids with mental illnesses and severe developmental disorders like FASD.

That would prevent the kids from breaking the law in the first place and forcing them into a system that cannot possibly meet their needs, the advocates say.

Bill C-4 is known as Sébastien's Law after a 19-year-old Quebec boy who was beaten and stabbed to death in 2004. The bill allows judges to more easily keep violent and repeat offenders in jail and consider sentencing kids as young as 14 as adults.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 8, 2011 A3

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