Tories slash funding for young offenders by 20 per cent

Published on Sunday July 01, 2012
Tonda MacCharles
Ottawa Bureau

OTTAWA—The Conservative government has slashed 20 per cent of federal funding for youth justice programs in Canada, cutting $35.6 million used to supervise and rehabilitate young offenders, the Star has learned.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson made no mention of the drastic cut Wednesday in a news release that trumpeted “continued support” for the Youth Justice Services Funding Program.

It is a key federal initiative that has directly transferred money to provinces and territories to deliver services to troubled youth ever since the original Young Offenders Act was passed in 1985.

Instead, Nicholson said only that starting next spring, the Conservative government will “continue” to fund the program at $141.7 million annually.

However federal justice officials confirm that’s down from $177.3 million now spent on the program, a level that’s been stable for the past several years.

It is a significant programming cut, one that was not detailed in the federal budget document, directly hits the provinces, and represents more than half the $60 million in savings that the federal budget indicated the Justice Department must find next year.

Although the Conservative government has been loath to outline program cuts and did not publicly announce the reduction, it notified provinces and territories privately in correspondence this week.

Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s minister of children and youth services, was stunned by Ottawa’s move.

“The federal government’s decision to cut more than 20 per cent from youth justice funding is shocking and completely unacceptable. They did it without consultation,” he said.

“This is not the first time they have downloaded costs to Ontario. Once again, they have failed to be a reliable partner in our justice system.”

Hoskins vowed to “fight this cut” and said he will seek a meeting with Nicholson “to ensure he knows that he cannot balance his department’s budget on the backs of Ontarians.”

B.C.’s Minister of Children and Family Development, Mary McNeil, said she is “carefully reviewing” the implications, but right now it is “too early to say what the impacts might mean for our government.”

The changes take effect April 1, 2013.

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