Children & Youth

children and youth are impacted by the criminal justice system

Staff of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario with Tasmin Rajotte (CFSC staff) and her son Sasha presenting the CFSC endorsement of the Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth December 6 2013

Children of incarcerated parents

Within the criminal justice system, criminal policy, policing and imprisonment can often have a significant and harmful impact on children and youth, including secondary harm. Children and youth are particularly vulnerable when they enter the justice system, but they are also significantly overlooked as collateral victims when their parents are arrested or imprisoned. Children are often ignored in the process of their parent’s arrest, remand, sentencing and imprisonment, yet they experience a range of psychological, social and economic hardships as a result of parental incarceration. This includes children who are born into or living in prison with a parent, as well as children who are left on the outside.

Our report Considering the Best Interests of the Child when Sentencing Parents in Canada:  Sample Case Law Review summarises current literature and research on children of incarcerated parents in Canada, international standards and norms, and presents our research on sentencing practices in Canada.

Our report Breaking the Silence: Dialogue on Children of Incarcerated Parents follows a first of its kind dialogue hosted by CFSC, which brought together over 35 organizations and individuals to discuss children of incarcerated parents in Canada. Breaking the Silence provides an overview of the dialogue presentations, policy discussions, and final recommendations of the group about Canada’s role and responsibility to children of incarcerated parents.

In Canada, thousands of children are affected when their parent is imprisoned, yet there is no consistent or clear standard for ensuring the rights and welfare of children when their parents are arrested, sentenced or imprisoned.

CFSC works to promote international standards and practices that uphold the “best interests of the child” in Canada, including standards enshrined in The Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules), and the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (1955) and revised Mandela Rules (see also Short guide to the revised Mandela Rules).

CFSC also works with international Quaker organizations to raise awareness, research and strengthen children’s rights at an international level and Canada’s compliance with international conventions and rules.

CFSC has participated on conference panels about parental incarceration in and in 2015 CFSC endorsed and circulated the Guidelines for the Implementation of Mother-Child Units in Canadian Correctional Facilities. CFSC has also conducted research on sentencing practices of Canadian courts in relation to parental offenders and is working to connect and strategize with organizations and researchers working in this area to enhance sentencing practices in Canada.

Untitled Illustration by Rachel Derrah, Published in the Understorey Magazine Issue 8: Women and Justice. Understorey Magazine received a CFSC community grant to assist publication of this special issue in 2016.

Youth in conflict with the law and physical punishment

CFSC recognizes that children and youth are particularly vulnerable in the justice system and susceptible to harm when in detention and institutional care. Aligned with Quaker beliefs about non-violence, CFSC opposes the use of physical punishment of children and youth in all circumstances and works to ensure that children and youth are safe and secure in all situations.

Some examples of CFSC’s work in this area include:

  • In 2012 and 2013, CFSC made two submissions about the effects of the justice system on children and youth to a formal independent review of British Columbia’s justice system.
  • In 2013 CFSC also endorsed the Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth developed by a national coalition of organizations facilitated by the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.
  • In 2013 CFSC hosted a Youth Justice Workshop for representatives of youth justice organizations across Canada.
  • CFSC is an active member of the National Youth Justice Network that connects organizations nationally to strategize about youth justice issues including secure care and solitary confinement.

Youth Justice Knowledge Hub

The Hub is a place to share research and best practices on youth justice issues. It is a collection of information that aims to create greater understanding of the issues and help practitioners deliver even more effective services. While The Hub is no longer actively maintained, the information collated continues to be relevant and useful for those interested in youth justice.

How it works – Resources are organized by keywords in files. A searchable master list of resources (in Excel spreadsheet format) is also available. Before getting started please read the Hub disclaimer (PDF).

The Hub arose after a series of consultations and a workshop with Canadians working on youth justice issues hosted by CFSC in 2013. The results confirmed there was a need for a more coordinated approach to knowledge gathering and sharing — in essence — a clearing house of research, tools and information. CFSC launched a pilot clearing house in 2014, which can now be publicly accessed.

Past issues of the Hub E-News can be found on our statements and resources page.

For more information on Children and Youth issues, contact us.