Vengence is not a victim's right.

By Melanee Thomas on Sep 22, 2008

If elected, Stephen Harper announced today that protections within the Youth Criminal Justice Act are history.

I'll make no bones about this one: this proposed policy change isn't about making anyone more safe. It is very unclear to me how naming a child who's done something terrible increases public safety or provides deterrence. It seems more likely to me that this feeds society's darker penchants for voyeurism and vengence. 

I don't care how one spins it, anyone who is 14-years old is still a child, albeit a child above the age of innocence. Asking a child above the age of innocence to know the difference between right and wrong is fair. It is also fair to ask a child above the age of innocence to understand that there can be very serious consequences for their actions.

However, asking a child above the age of innocence to process the full implications of their actions, even when they know they're doing something they shouldn't, is unjust. I can honestly say I did not fully understand the full import of my actions at 14. I can imagine a kid with a less privileged, less comfortable, and less loving childhood than mine certainly wouldn't get it either.

It's rarely the "good kids" who get themselves into such serious trouble. Instead, it's the kids with the "unconventional" lives, often involving issues of poverty and abuse. We as a nation should be ashamed of wanting to publicly shame such a child and their families after they've done something terrible. 

At 14, there's still significant hope for rehabilitation. I want the legislation that deals with children who land themselves in this much hot water to acknowledge that. 

It's not like the Harperites don't understand this. Apparently it's OK to say that a 14-year old doesn't understand the full implications of sexual activity and the choices/consequences that come with it while saying the same 14-year old should understand the full implications of homicide. The cognitive dissonance it takes to rationlise away that one must be pretty intense. 

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"It is very unclear to me

"It is very unclear to me how naming a child who's done something terrible increases public safety or provides deterrence. It seems more likely to me that this feeds society's darker penchants for voyeurism and vengence."

Right on, Melanee.

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