Skip Class, Go To Jail

How many of you used to skip classes in high school? Many individuals have skipped a class for a variety of reasons including: studying for a test later in the day, to avoid a boring lessschoolon, or to have some fun with our friends. Youth infer the consequences of skipping may entail detention but however, rarely do they consider imprisonment as a consequence of their actions.

A sixteen-year-old girl in Barrie, Ontario was arrested for persistently skipping classes. The teen also failed to appear for her scheduled court dates; consequently, she was arrested. The teen was detained in a prison cell overnight and brought for the judge the following day for her scheduled court date. The arrest warrant was issued in accordance to the Ontario Education Act which states that students between six and 18 years old must attend school in Ontario.

Many individuals are unfamiliar with the Ontario Education Act and the legalities surrounding the legislation. The Ontario Education Act is within the paralegal scope of practice, which means paralegals can defend clients and argue cases before various Boards of Education.

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Points of Discussion:

1. How are school absences addressed in your country?


Justice For Amanda Todd


This picture was created by one of her peers. Amanda was tagged in numerous photos similar to this one by her peers after leaving her school. In her video she elaborates on the difficulties she had moving on due to her peers tagging her in similar pictures such as this.

Amanda Todd was 15 when she took her life as a result of online bullying. She was blackmailed into exposing her breasts on webcam to an online predator and was stalked and bullied by him. She changed schools but he found her again and made a Facebook page with her friends showing her breasts as the profile picture. As a result, she was continuously bullied by peers. She committed suicide in October of 2012.  The Canadian justice system is trying to persecute the man allegedly behind this heinous crime, Aydin Coban, but is facing considerable difficulty due to international law regulations.

Aydin Coban resides in the Netherlands and was under suspicion for distributing child porn in Amanda’s case but was not formally charged with her death. Upon further investigation it was determined that Coban had been arrested in January of 2014 for harassing victims online and charges including indecent assault and production and dissemination of child pornography.  A few months later, the RCMP declared that he was also charged with five accounts including extortion, internet luring, criminal harassment and the possession and distribution of child pornography in B.C in relation to Amanda Todd’s case. Coban has been suspected of blackmailing youth from all over the world to perform sexual acts over webcam. He is also facing sextortion and distribution of child pornography in a case of another Canadian youth.

Coban’s trial is currently in pretrial-motion hearings stage; the parties argue before a judge what evidence should be admissible, who can or cannot testify and if the case should be dismissed completely. It has been stated that Coban will not be charged in relation to non- Dutch victims (including Amanda). Christian van Dijk, Coban’s lawyer, has disclosed that Coban is on trial for 39 alleged victims. De Bruin, the Canadian lawyer for Todd has stated that Coban could be handed-over to Canadian authorities if the authorities choose to take that path. Conversely, Van Dijk has explained that extradition is not an option so long as the case continues in the Netherlands.

With the expansion and complexity of technology it has become difficult to determine the jurisdiction and legal implications of international crimes. Cybercrime and exploitation have become easier through the internet and various social media facets. Alternatively, these tools also serve to create social awareness and can be used as tool for victims to have a voice. For instance, Amanda Todd made a YouTube video explaining how she was exploited and bullied.

Countless youths are targeted and blackmailed by unknown faces online and then isolated by their peers when their story is brought to the public eye. Unfortunately, there are still individuals who suggest “don’t show your boobs online “is the solution but the topic is far more complex than nudity, legally and morally. Sometimes victims are unaware that photos are being taken of them or being shared. Predators often have information about the victim’s family, their residence, their school and more to manipulate their victims such was Amanda’s story: .

What are your thoughts?

Do you believe Coban should have a Canadian trial?

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Tough On Crime or Just Tough On Your Wallet?

The American criminal justice system is known for its “tough on crime” stance while the Canadian criminal justice system is sometimes portrayed as too lenient with criminals. Canada does not support the death penalty and a life sentence is only 25 years. Has Canada been successful in maintaining a lower crime rate? How effective is the “tough on crime” mentality in practise?

Canadians don’t have the death penalty.  Although many individuals might support the death penalty for the most heinous crimes, there can be travesties of justice which result in innocent individuals being put to death.  There have been cases where individuals have spent the better part of their lives in jail cells for crimes they did not commit, only to be found innocent decades later.  These individuals do receive compensation for the miscarriage of justice; however money does not recompense individuals for their losses including time with their family and friends and respect among their co-workers due to ongoing stigmatization.

The Canadian justice system is more focused on the rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates into society.  Many individuals may not see reason to reintegrate individuals back into society but many inmates’ can successfully become contributing citizens after participating in rehabilitative programs. Most offenders enter the criminal justice due to social factors including poverty, lack of education and broken homes (common amongst youth). In this sense, Canadians are less focused on punishing and more focused on providing second chances.   Despite popular belief, most crimes are not violent.

Although the United States is known to be “tough on crime”, the approach   has not proved to be successful.  For instance, some of you may be familiar with the “three strikes you’re out” policy in California. The policy states that if an offender re-offends three times, they are to serve a life sentence. This policy aims to keep child molesters, rapists and murders behind bars but today more than half of the incarcerated individuals under this law are serving life sentences for nonviolent crimes.   In 2012, a new act was passed in California to allow inmates serving life sentences for nonviolent crimes to petition before the court for an early release – 1000 prisoners were successful which resulted in Californian’s saving over $10 million.

Conversely, in Canada, the crime rate had decreased significantly before the Conservative government implemented the “tough on crime” stance. Accordingly, many criminal legal professionals argue that the “tough on crime” position it is more expensive for Canadians and fails to make Canada any safer. The “tough on crime” attitude results in inmates staying in the criminal justice system longer which is means inmates are aging.  As inmates age they have more health issues while others have mental illnesses which taxpayers help pay for.

Some legal professionals are arguing the “tough on crime” stance is ineffective as it results in more costs than benefits for citizens. A 2012 Globe and Mail article stated that it costs about $312 to keep an inmate in prison which is approximately $113,880 a year. Many argue that reintegrating offenders back into society with rehabilitative programs can help stimulate the economy and help offenders become contributing members of society.

Points of discussion:

  1. Should Canada adapt the American criminal justice system?

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The Problem With Retirement

Don’t have a workplace pension plan? That’s about to change!

A bill has been passed that will put in play a workplace pension plan for businesses that do not already have one starting January 01, 2017. The Liberal government has pushed this legislation in order to put in place an Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) in an effort to counteract the Conservative party’s decision to not improve the Canada Pension Plan.

Currently, approximately two thirds of provincial workers do not have a pension plan; thus these individuals will be forced to join the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan.  Many individuals without a workplace pension plan are saving up for their retirement via RRSP’s while others have no savings at all.  Baby boomers have expressed their concerns about very late retirement and in some cases lacking the option to retire all together due to their lack of savings.

According to the ORPP, employers and employees will be required to contribute 1.9% over the course of two years. This initiative will come into play in January of 2017 and continue to expand thereafter. The bill will first tackle bigger companies and eventually trickle into smaller businesses such as dry cleaning services.

What are the consequences?

Business assemblies are forewarning that this plan is problematic. This bill would require employees to make an annual contribution of $1,643 for each employee. Furthermore, employers would have to match that amount each employee. Consequently, this is likely to result in less jobs due to higher costs for businesses. Unemployment and a lack of employment opportunities is a pre-existing issue for many youths today, without the ORPP in place.

New Democrats argue that this is the best option to enhance the CPP while Conservatives argue that this bill will result in less jobs and more taxes.

Small business workers are concerned that they will be laid off as their employer will not be able to contribute to their pension plans. Individuals belonging to smaller businesses are also concerned about wage cuts and still being able to make ends meet.  For instance, daycare owners are concerned that their business will likely come to a halt as they will not be able to pay their employees retirement costs.

Conversely, individuals working in more stable and larger corporations feel the bill is an effective way to address the future issue of retirement for many baby boomers.  However, small business workers are suggesting that the optimism on behalf of larger corporation workers is fuelled by the minimal impact it will have on their income and overall lifestyle.


Points of Discussion:

What are your concerns?

How does retirement work in your country?

I’d love to read your comments below.

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Youth Issues: High school, University, Graduation and then Dead End?

High school, university, graduation and then career, the line to success is no longer linear.  With a staggering population of unemployed youth, especially 1981-1994 babies, something has to be said about the issue.

A university degree was once a guarantee to obtaining a job but is now merely a stepping stone. As the most educated generation, one has to wonder why so few youths have a job. It is no shock that youths with jobs are often overqualified for their jobs. Why?

Although youth make up a third of the population there are few job perspectives for them. A large contributing factor to this dilemma is that baby boomers are postponing their retirements. As more baby boomers continue to work, there is less space for youth to enter the workforce and take senior positions.

According to the National Post article, “by 2030, millennials will make up roughly 75% of the workforce, and the last of the boomers will be leaving the labour market, while the oldest millennials — just shy of 50 — will be entering leadership roles.” Find the link to this article at the end of this post.

Although this matter is complex I believe there are some ways youth can begin to help themselves.

A key step for youth is to voice their concerns to their local government representatives in order to get the support they so desperately need. This in return will help get their voices heard and concerns addressed.  It is no surprise that this tactic would be most effective in large numbers.  The more youths continue to write in, the harder it will be to ignore the message. University and college students as a whole need to be more proactive and involved in shaping their future.

Secondly, youth can begin to vote. MP’s are less likely to address the needs of a group that is not going to give them potential votes. Although voting is not a guarantee to have youth voices heard, it is a step in the right direction. MP’s will take youth opinions seriously, if youth take voting seriously.

Of course, this is not a linear line, the effort will take time.

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Let’s Talk About Sex-Ed! New Legislation

The Ontario government has decided to update the sex-ed cirriculum legislation. The legislation aims to provide a holistic view of sexuality rather than just a biological background. Sex-ed education will begin at a much younger age, as young as first graders.

Some individuals are arguing this is far too young while others believe it is important to empower children to speak out against possible cases of sexual abuse which can only be accomplished if children know that something is wrong.

Some individuals argue that sensitive topics such as sex should only be discussed at home and taught by parents. Conversely, other individuals are concerned that not everyone will get the same education if sex-ed is taught at home, especially in conservative families where such topics are taboo.

The legislation will address physical, emotional, mental, biological and social aspects of sexuality. The legislation addresses issues of sexting and cyber-bullying which have arisen since the drafting of the 1998 legislation. Topics such as anal sex, consent and masturbation will also be discussed in the course but questions will be answered at the discretion of the teachers. If educators feel the question addresses a topic that the youth should know about then they will proceed answering the question and can use their discretion when answering the question. Unlike the 1998 legislation, this legislation will also discuss same-sex relationships; the goal is to include a spectrum of families and relationships rather than just focusing on heterosexual relationships.

The curriculum will look something like this:
Grade 1-  students will be taught the appropriate names for their genitals and inappropriate touching
Grade 3 – will introduce discussions about same sex relationships
Grade 4 – children will learn about online safety, puberty and reproduction
Grade 6 – will cover masturbation, consent and healthy relationships
Grade 7 – will discuss the implications of sexting, preventing STI’s/STD’s, oral and anal sex
Grade 9 – will discuss components of mental health

Below are links to the elementary, middle and high-school revised curriculums.
Grades 1-8
Grade 9-12

How do you feel about the new sex-ed curriculum?

Do you think sex-ed should be taught at home or in school? Is grade 1 to early to talk about sexuality?

I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Part 3 – Why Youths Should Not Be Tried As Adults

The Youth Criminal Justice Act came into force on April 1, 2003. Some individuals argue that the youth justice system is too lenient with youth and that youth should be punished in the same way as adults. I disagree with this perspective and here is why:

1. Youth have a better chance of reforming themselves than adults when provided the right tools.

Since youth are still impressionable, they can be guided in the right direction versus an adult who is far less impressionable and has formed their belief system. Furthermore, unlike adults, youths do not have a voice in the youth criminal justice system as their parents make decisions on their behalf. Hence, youth do not partake in the justice system as adults do. Finally, youth crime usually ends by age 24 but adult crime continues.

2. If youth are exposed to adult criminals in adult penitentiaries the result will be higher crime rates among youth and exploitation of youth.

With exposure to adult criminals, youth will form an adult mentality toward crime. Thus the youth will come out of jail equipped with more knowledge of how to commit crimes. For instance, when the Youth Offenders Act was in place youth were placed into adult jails which resulted in many youths being exploited and mistreated by adult inmates.

3. Youths aren’t adults.

The brain of a youth is not as developed as an adult brain. Youth tend to act more on impulse and cannot evaluate the seriousness of a crime as well as adults. Youth are also more impressionable than adults due to peer pressure and have a need to feel like they belong.

4. Lack of knowledge.

Although youths are aware that there are negative consequences for breaking the law, not many youths know exactly what those consequences entail. Similarly, youth aren’t always aware when their rights are being violated for instance their right to remain silent. Consequently, youths often incriminate themselves. Finally, youth often believe they are powerless within the legal realm due to their lack of knowledge of the criminal justice system prior to entering it.

On the surface it seems very simple – “you do the crime, you do the time” but it’s just not that simple when it comes to youth. There are multiple contributing factors that need to be assessed before coming to verdict. Youths have special needs and challenges that need to be addressed which cannot be achieved in the adult criminal justice system.

Did you find this enlightening? Did you learn something new? Leave a comment below.