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Letter to the editor

Social inequality matter for us all

The Toronto Star, letter to the editor, by Marvin A. Zuker, Ontario Court of Justice, Toronto, Aug. 17, 2006.

re: Should 10-year-olds face a judge? Aug. 15.

With reference to Tracey Tyler's headline, I would suggest, with great respect to the minister of justice, that if the answer to crime in Canada is to lower the age of responsibility to 10 under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, then this is not the answer. Many young people today have no hope in their lives. Many think nothing about the consequences of their actions. It is as much about filling the gaps in community programs. It is as much about evening recreation events, summer jobs, and college tuition. We must begin by compensating for family disadvantage and look at the background and resources of families in need and children at risk.

Social inequality is a matter for all of us. Child protection agencies, given the expertise they provide, are far better able to deal with our youth, many of whom have mental-health disorders, developmental disabilities or are the victims of abuse, violence and neglect. We need an interdisciplinary approach to deal with the 10-year-old "criminal." Our understaffed, underfunded child protection agencies are still better equipped than the criminal justice system to deal with those under the age of 12.

It is Read More ..out keeping kids in school longer, e.g. up to 18; it's Read More ..out extending child protection to those up to 18; it's about providing the means for welfare recipients to go to college; it's about providing the opportunity for those children who have gone through our foster care system to be able to go to college. It's about parental behaviour, lack of supervision, rejection of children and the lack of involvement with children. It is about unconscious stereotyping.

The dichotomy of the child as a victim and the child as an offender is mirrored by the canyon between child welfare and corrections. If jails worked, then the United States would be the safest place on earth.

Justice Marvin A. Zuker,
Ontario Court of Justice, Toronto