D. The role of non-governmental
The development of partnerships between government departments and non-governmental organizations recognizes the strengths that each partner brings to share and values the ability to do more together than separately. An alliance between the non-government organizations and government departments changes the image of a system that is responsible for the punishment of offenders from a simple-minded approach of applying "pain and torture" to those who break the law, to one which shows a careful articulation of values and principles which our society holds in high regard. Voluntary sector organizations do a great deal to promote the value of integration, to have people perceive the issues of criminal justice in terms other than simply punishment, and to broaden criminal justice issues so that they can be understood within the context of general social issues affecting other aspects of social and economic life in Canada.
An example of the strength of non-government organizations can be seen in the development of the Youth Justice Coalition in December of 1994. The Coalition brought together more than forty organizations and individuals to collectively voice their opposition to the notion that Canadian society was in the grip of a youth crime crisis. This group, which ranged in membership from leading experts in the field of criminology and children's mental health to front-line agencies which have little or no involvement with the criminal justice system (i.e. early childhood educators, Canadian Safety Council), joined together despite ideological differences or preferences for rehabilitation. They insisted that an over-reliance on punishment of young people, rather than focusing on illiteracy, inadequate housing, school failure, alcohol and drug abuse and so on, is a short-term strategy that will do little to reduce the root causes of youthful offending. The focus of this group and other like-minded non-governmental organizations, is one of community education wherein the hundreds and thousands of volunteers within local communities across Canada are able to work directly to inform and promote a more balanced vision of the value of rehabilitation of young persons for the ultimate goal of protecting society. As the organization responsible for the creation of the Youth Justice Coalition, the John Howard Society is committed to the value of partnership with other non-government organizations and government departments.
It is with this spirit of partnership and a sharing of our long history of work with offenders in the community that we offer the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs our reasoned positions related to youth justice in Canada. It is our hope that our efforts at strengthening the network and relationships between the non-government sector and the government organization will continue in the future. We believe that we are a valuable ally in the communication of the essential message presented in the now legislated principle of youth justice that "crime prevention is essential to the long-term protection of society and requires addressing the underlying causes of crime by young persons and developing multi-disciplinary approaches to identifying and effectively responding to children and young persons at risk of committing offending behaviour in the future" (s. 3(1)(a)).