In Depth

What is a conference?
A conference, as a general term, means organizing a gathering of a group of people with some responsibility or knowledge of the offending youth to discuss what measures might assist that youth.

How do conferences operate?
Conferences are informal and may take the form of:

  • Family group conferences
  • Community accountability panels
  • Sentencing or healing circles
  • Multi-disciplinary or integrated case management conferences.

Conferences provide for a wide range of perspectives on the case. They enable more creative solutions, better coordination of services and increased involvement of the victim and other community members in the youth criminal justice system.

The conference may be restorative in that solutions may focus on repairing the harm done to the victim of the offence and/or the community.

What does Section 19 of the YCJA do?
Section 19 sets out who may call conferences, the purposes of conferences and the authority to establish rules for them

Who may call a conference?
A conference can be convened by:

  • A youth justice court judge
  • The provincial director
  • A police officer
  • A justice of the peace
  • A prosecutor
  • A youth worker

What is the purpose of a conference?
A conference may be convened to give advice on:

  • Appropriate extrajudicial measures
  • Conditions for judicial interim release
  • Sentencing
  • Reintegration plans

Who is the advice given to?
The advice is given to a police officer, judge, justice of the peace, prosecutor, provincial director, or youth worker who is required to make a decision under the YCJA. For example, the conference could provide advice to a police officer who is deciding whether to use an extrajudicial measure or to a judge who is deciding which sentence to impose.

Who establishes the rules for conferences?
Provincial or territorial governments can establish rules for convening and conducting conferences. If no rules are established, then the conference can still be convened if they are consistent with the general provisions of the YCJA. The established rules do not apply to conferences called by judges or justices of the peace.

What provisions must the conference keep in mind while assisting the decision-makers?
The conference must be guided by the principles set out in the YCJA in respect to extrajudicial measures, pre-trial detention, sentencing, custody, and reintegration.

What is a youth justice committee?
A youth justice committee is a group of citizens appointed by a government to assist in the administration of the YCJA or any programs or services for youth. One of the possible functions of this committee could be to act as a conference.