BACKGROUND

Why we need a new law for grade-school criminals

April 7 1962
BACKGROUND

Why we need a new law for grade-school criminals

April 7 1962

Why we need a new law for grade-school criminals

BACKGROUND

In Germany they’re called halbstarke — the half-mature. In France they're blousons noirs (black-jackets) and in Russia they're tagged with a capitalist label — hooligan. Italians call them vitelloni—fat calves—and in Australia they're bodgies if they’re boys and widgies if they’re girls. South Africa segregates them by race: ducktails if they're white, skellys if they’re colored, and tsotsies if they’re black.

Here, they're known formally as juvenile delinquents, and in 1959, the latest year for which figures have been assembled, 1 1,686 of them w'ere convicted in Canadian courts.

Whatever they're called, juvenile delinquents are a growing problem in almost every country. Canada may be an exception; no one is quite sure. Aside from a statistical survey by a U N. committee a few years ago, w'hich indicated their number was declining in Canada, no comprehensive study has ever been made.

To get the facts, the federal government recently set up a committee under Allen J. MacLeod, commissioner of penitentiaries. Its other members, all connected with the justice department, are Mary Lou Lynch, the only woman

member of the National Parole Board; Inspector E. R. Willes of the RCMP; Dr. L. P. Gendreau, penitentiary service psychiatrist, and secretary Ronald Price.

Their assignment is to determine the extent of the problem, pinpoint the causes, and recommend corrective measures. The committee was established quietly and will work the same way; three members are now in western Canada on a “scouting" mission, talking to social workers, family court judges, children's aid societies, and police. Their preliminary study will decide the inquiry’s future course. In about a year, the committee hopes to have a report ready; it will not likely be made publicbut it could well result in an overhaul of the Juvenile Delinquents Act, a federal statute w'hich forms the basis for all legislation dealing with delinquency. Sections of it have remained unchanged since 1908, and it creates anomalies like these:

* Age limits for dealing with offenders as juveniles vary from 16 to 18. In Alberta, a boy is considered adult at 16, a girl at 18.

^ There is no minimum age. The criminal code and common law prohibit charging a child under seven with a

criminal offense, but a child of six or younger can be declared a delinquent by a juvenile court. This has not happened since 1952, but the possibility is still there.

^ Parts of Canada are not governed by the act at all because the last revision, in 1929. provided for piecemeal proclamation.

^ A child can be branded a delinquent for the most trivial offense. If one child is brought to court for riding a bicycle on a sidewalk and another for armed robbery, both are found guilty of the same charge — delinquency — and their status before the court is exactly the same.

MacLeod insists his committee is starting to work with no preconceived ideas. Even statistics aren’t necessarily to be trusted because many of the activities which sow the seed of serious crime — teenage drinking, vandalism, street gangs — often don’t show up in court until the. juvenile becomes an adult. The committee will take note of statistics but it is more interested in talking to teachers, parents, social workers and others who watch youngsters at work and play, and whose knowledge of delinquency comes at first hand. *•"

FOOTNOTES

About sea lions: They bark under water, the U. S. and Canadian navies have established in tests on the west coast. The discovery has a practical application; destroyer and submarine sailors can now ignore one previously unidentified sound on their sonar devices.

About a new manpower shortage:

Scotland reports increasing difficulty in finding skilled haggis stitchers, who sew the traditional delicacy into its slippery skin (traditionally a sheep’s stomach). To meet the crisis, haggis is now canned in factories — so successfully that an export market has been developed in 60 countries.

About thrift: Aircraft manufacturers have found a use for depleted uranium, a waste product of atomic energy plants. The used-up uranium is good material for counterweights in wingtips and tailpieces of commercial jet planes. It's cheaper than sintered tungsten, and has a higher density.

About farmers who’d like to go away for the week end: If they're anywhere near Sutton. Ont., they can call on the Canadian Relief Milking Service, operated by Gerald Lehmann and Leonard Cashmore. which will not only do the milking but put up hay, seed a crop, clean stables, feed and water stock, and truck milk to town.

About Beautiful Joe: The maltreated dog in Marshall Saunders’ famous story for children had a real-life prototype in Meaford, Ont., and Meaford Rotary Club is collecting funds to establish a Beautiful Joe Park with a stone cairn and a bronze plaque, beside the property where Joe is buried. There will be a riverside playground, a pet cemetery, and. eventually, a serviced tenting area for campers.