Visible Minority Youth Need Our Support


On March 3, 2014 the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met to discuss the issue of visible minority youth and the criminal justice system. As you may be aware, visible minority youth constitute a disproportionate amount of individuals involved in our criminal justice system.

Emma Rhodes from the Canadian Council of Criminal Defense Lawyers presented our committee with a narrative of her typical visible minority youth client. I wanted to share her testimony with you because she provides us with the opportunity to see through the eyes of those most vulnerable, allowing us to accurately recognize the problem and make positive changes.

Emma Rhodes’ testimony paints a picture of a visible minority youth facing a criminal justice system that lacks regard for his wellbeing. Once the visible minority youth is picked up by the police on the first offense, he enters a system that can be difficult to get out of, in part because of its prejudice against him.

Understanding why visible minority youth are more likely to find themselves facing the criminal justice system is a complex question with many variables. From Ms. Rhodes’ testimony, it is clear that many visible minority youth who end up in our justice system are victims of circumstance. They often face systemic discrimination and they come from a background of poverty. What is common amongst almost all of them is that they are unable to access the support and services they need to get out of their spiral into delinquency.

In my next blog I would like to examine the relationship between the police and visible minority youth.