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.

Who may call a conference?

  • 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 goes to someone who has to make a decision under the Act, such as a:

  • Police officer
  • Judge
  • Justice of the peace
  • Prosecutor
  • Provincial director in charge of Social Services
  • Youth worker

For example, the conference could give advice to a:

  • Police officer who is deciding whether to use an extrajudicial measure
  • Judge who is deciding on a sentence

Who establishes the rules for conferences?
Provincial governments can set rules for conferences called by the:

  • Police
  • Provincial director in charge of Social Services
  • Prosecutors
  • Youth workers

If there are no rules, then the conference can still be called. The conference must be consistent with the general terms of the Act.

The provincial government does not set rules for 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. This means that:

  • Extrajudicial measures should be the first response if possible
  • Pre-trial detention is generally discouraged
  • Sentencing must consider the seriousness of the crime and other things
  • Custody is generally avoided
  • Rehabilitation and reintegration are part of the plan for the youth

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.