Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rehtaeh Parsons - A name I will never forget

The Youth Criminal Justice Act was established April 1, 2003 and is the law that governs Canada’s youth justice system.  It applies to youth who are at least 12 years of age to under 18 years of age, who have allegedly committed criminal offences.
The preamble/declaration states, among other things that "communities and families should work in partnership with others to prevent youth crime by addressing its underlying causes, responding to the needs of young persons and providing guidance and support".
Additionally, the "the youth justice system should take into account the interests of victims and ensure accountability through meaningful consequences, rehabilitation and reintegration".
And the part that I really like, is that the Youth Criminal Justice Act is a “system that is intended to protect the public by (i) holding young persons accountable through measures that are proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the young person, (ii) promoting the rehabilitation and reintegration of young persons, and (iii) supporting crime prevention by referring young persons to programs......"
Canada’s youth justice system is restorative in nature.  I get that.  It further guarantees the rights and freedoms of young people, including those set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, another area that Canada is woefully lacking in.
Now let’s turn to that house party in November of 2011 where a 15 year old girl had too much to drink.  It resulted in a photo of her vomiting out of a window while a young boy violated her from behind.  Let’s talk about how she was bullied and shamed, and how she turned to self-harming as a result of that photo circulating. AND let’s talk about how no one took notice until she attempted to take her own life 18 months after that sexual assault.  She died on April 7, 2013, as a victim that still needs to be protected.
Let’s talk about Rehtaeh Parsons, a name that Canada’s youth justice system is trying to get us to forget as a result of one of this country’s highest profiled child pornography case stemming out of Halifax - a judge ordered publication ban for the purpose of protecting the “victim”.  The time to have protected this victim was when she came forward with the allegations. 
The young lad who took the photo when he was 17 years old (who is now 20 years old) pleaded guilty to one of the most heinous crimes - Child Pornography.  His sentence is a “conditional discharge”, which means that as long as he behaves for the next 12 months and meets the conditions imposed by the Judge, he walks away a free man.
The media may have been ordered not to use the name of Rehtaeh Parsons, but I wasn’t.  AND now I need to ask – was there “accountability through meaningful consequences” established here?  Did Rehtaeh receive justice, or has the Youth Criminal Justice Act just empowered young boys to violate young women knowing that they will be able to walk out of the courtroom without substantial consequences?

Lastly – does unjust law exist?