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Violent young offenders to start facing tougher treatment

Rob Nicholson, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, third from left, is accompanied by victims of crime, as he makes an announcement in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 regarding criminal justice legislation.


New measures to toughen treatment for violent young offenders came into effect on Tuesday, part of a suite of changes to federal justice laws that include longer sentences and fewer alternatives to prison.

The changes were introduced as part of Bill C-10, the nine-part omnibus crime legislation that was passed earlier this year. Several provinces and territories have spoken out against the measures, saying they worry about the increased costs of keeping more people in custody for longer. And Quebec announced earlier this year that it would work to soften the effects of the federal bill in a bid to preserve the province's more rehabilitative approach to young offenders.

The laws require judges to consider imposing adult sentences for young offenders who are found guilty of particular violent offences and to consider lifting publication bans on the names of some young offenders. They also reduce the chances that repeat offenders and youth charged with certain violent offences will be released before trial.

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"With these new measures of accountability for violent and repeat young offenders, we are highlighting the protection of society as a fundamental principle of the youth Justice Act," Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said during a press conference on Tuesday.

MP Françoise Boivin, the NDP's justice critic, said she hopes other provinces will follow Quebec's lead and aim to temper the effects of the federal legislation.

"There's a reason why Quebec has success with its system, it's because they surround youth who commit crimes in a very efficient manner, based solely to rehabilitate the person so they can become productive adults in society," she said.

Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu added that the changes should not hamper Quebec's efforts to rehabilitate young offenders because violent and repeat offenders make up only a small fraction of young people who have clashed with the justice system.

Additional anti-crime measures that include tougher sentences for drug possession and trafficking and an end to house arrest for certain crimes are expected to come into force next month.

The federal government has not yet outlined how much its anti-crime agenda is expected to cost the provinces and territories.

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