Skip to content

Justice Committee is changing young lives

Youth justice committees across the province, including the Big Country Youth Justice Committee, will share $350,000 in provincial grants this year.

Youth justice committees across the province, including the Big Country Youth Justice Committee, will share $350,000 in provincial grants this year.

The money will help provide an alternative to the formal court process for youth between the ages of 12 and 17.

“These committees show young people their actions have real and serious consequences for both their victims and their communities,” said Frank Oberle, solicitor general and minister of public security.

“Supporting the work of these committees as they steer young people back onto the right path helps makes Alberta a safer place for everyone.”

This year, individual committees will receive between $500 and $60,000 in grant funding, based on factors like caseload and services provided.

The Big Country committee operates in North West Rocky View, dealing with youth from the communities of Linden, Acme, Beiseker and Irricana.

The program, which has operated for more than 10 years, has been an effective means of working with kids who have committed minor offences, such as vandalism and petty theft.

“We are proud of our program, and our program is pretty typical of others around the province,” said founding member Ray Courtman of Beiseker.

“I really believe in this program. I believe we need to channel their (young offenders) energies to be more constructive.”

According to Courtman, the board deals with about five cases per year and has a low re-offend record, about one to three per cent.

“It works out really well for the kids,” said Courtman, who is a former teacher. “Very, very few of our kids re-offend. We hopefully help in a small way, getting them back on the track to non-criminal activity.”

Youth that participate in the program do so confidentially, after an admission of guilt. They will receive no criminal record, allowing them a fresh start.

“In most cases, it is one chance only,” said Courtman. “If they get in trouble again, they go straight to the court system.”

Instead of appearing before a judge, the youth meet with members of the committee. They are interviewed and then assigned consequences for their misdemeanour.

Often, a letter of apology and community service of between 25 to 50 hours is assigned.

The program works, said Courtman, partly because the kids are dealt with in their community and their consequences are much more immediate.

According to Courtman, the Youth Justice committee program originally started First Nations reserves.

About 20 years ago, it was expanded into other communities across the province.

Now there are 126 Youth Justice Committees in Alberta with more than 1,500 volunteers.

Be the first to read breaking stories. Allow browser notifications on your device. What are browser notifications?
No thanks