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

Children of incarcerated parents

CFSC (Quakers) Criminal Justice WorkPolicing and imprisonment regularly harm children and youth directly or indirectly. Children and youth are particularly vulnerable when they enter the justice system, but are also collateral victims when their parents are arrested or imprisoned.

Children are often ignored in the process of a parent’s arrest, remand, sentencing, and imprisonment, yet they experience a range of psychological, social, and economic hardships. Many challenges are faced by children who are born into or living in prison with a parent, as well as children who are left on the outside. Read an article we wrote about the experiences of children when a parent goes to prison.

Our 2018 report Considering the Best Interests of the Child when Sentencing Parents in Canada:  Sample Case Law Review (PDF) summarises current literature and research on children of incarcerated parents in Canada, international standards and norms, and presents our research on sentencing practices.

Our 2019 report Breaking the Silence: Dialogue on Children of Incarcerated Parents (PDF) 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 (PDF) provides an overview of the dialogue presentations, policy discussions, and final recommendations about Canada’s role and responsibility to children of incarcerated parents.

In Canada, thousands of children are affected when their parents are imprisoned, yet there is no consistent or clear standard for ensuring their wellbeing.

CFSC works to promote international standards and practices that uphold the “best interests of the child.” (These include 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 for instance our 2020 Submission to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child: A Response to Canada’s Fifth and Sixth Reports on the Convention on the Rights of the Child: Regarding Children of Incarcerated Parents in Canada.

Another significant set of issues surrounds when women are pregnant in prison or have babies at the time of their incarceration. In 2015 CFSC endorsed the Guidelines for the Implementation of Mother-Child Units in Canadian Correctional Facilities (PDF).

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

Children and youth are particularly vulnerable when in detention and institutional care. Aligned with Quaker beliefs about nonviolence, and ample evidence from developmental psychologists and other experts, we oppose physical punishment of children and youth in all circumstances. We works to ensure that children and youth are safe and secure.

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 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 shares research and best practices on youth justice issues. It is a collection of information that aims to create greater understanding of the issues, helping practitioners deliver 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. The results confirmed there was a need for a more coordinated approach to knowledge gathering and sharing.