Source: (1996) Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in the School of Criminology: Simon Fraser University

Aboriginal youth are over-represented in Canada’s youth justice system. Many aboriginal communities have become overwhelmed with substance abuse, violence, and crime and these problems are likely to intensify as the already disproportionate population of aboriginal youth continues to grow. Dissatisfaction with the Canadian criminal justice system and the fails to address the conditions that lead to youth crime have driven aboriginal groups to begin developing their own community-based justice initiative both at the adult and youth levels. Criminologist argues that the present trend in youth justice is towards crime control oriented policy. In contrast, aboriginal views of justice are more restorative in nature. This thesis explores the hypothesis that the principles of the Young Offenders Act are incompatible with aboriginal views of youth justice. The research suggest that the present direction in youth justice is towards twin trends-bifurcation, where minor offenders receive diversion and unintrusive sentences and major punitive sentences are reserved for violent offenders. While recent amendments to YOA have concentrated on crime control objective there is also evidence of increasing support for restorative justice. An examination of the principles of the Young Offenders Act further reveals that the underlying Modified Justice Model has the capacity to facilitate restorative justice practices. Most aboriginal communities that are assuming control over justice are proceeding incrementally. Often lacking the basic infrastructure and resources necessary to develop and maintain autonomous justice programs, communities have opted to take responsibility gradually. Contrary to YOA critics, the bifurcated YOA appears capable of meeting present First Nations aspirations. However, incremental objective lie within the broader goal of self government, which could pose complex political challenges for aboriginal youth justice in the future. Despite the encouraging initiatives, the current political and media emphasis on crime control reforms in youth justice policy is inappropriate for aboriginal youth. It is argued that a bifurcated approach in youth justice policy should be intensified and promote community-based justice programs that are more restorative in nature. As well aboriginal communities need to develop the necessary community justice infrastructure. Finally, aboriginal youth justice will require far grater policy coordination with provincial and federal governments.