Adult "justice" for kids unjust

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Trying youth offenders as adults when they commit “adult” crimes is a popular position.

Teenagers have always been out of control, of course. Ogruk the boulder repairman complained about his unruly son back when fire was the latest luxury.

Young people appear to be committing serious crimes more often, though. That’s a problem. But trying children as adults isn’t the solution.

We generally accept young people are not as responsible for their decisions as adults. This is the justification for not letting them drink alcohol or vote. And we recognise poor choices may lead them to run afoul of the law.

What is odd, however, is the idea that children who make really terrible choices, such as killing someone, have somehow demonstrated a greater level of responsibility for their actions.

An immature mind is an immature mind, however serious the crime. Young people who commit serious crimes should face serious consequences. But they should face the consequences of being very bad teens, not very bad adults. (If there’s a case for lowering the age of adulthood for all teens, let legislators make it.)

One of the highest profile cases of a very bad teen is making headlines this week. Omar Khadr has requested transfer from Guantanamo Bay back to Canada. It’s Public Safety Minister Vic Toew’s call.

You don’t have to be a bleeding heart to see problems with the way Khadr’s been treated. He was a child soldier and an enemy combatant who ended up convicted as a war criminal. His family upbringing all but guaranteed he’d become a jihadist. Yes, he fought for a repugnant cause, but he was a child when he took up that banner.

Khadr was captured in 2002 after throwing a grenade in a firefight that killed one Amercian and blinded another. He was sentenced by a military commission eight years later, in 2010, to a further eight years.

Ten years imprisonment so far. If he has to serve more, it should at least be in Canada.

Vengeful anger from victims is entirely understandable. But politicians and judges should be level-headed. Children judged as adults isn’t justice.

Geographic location: Canada, Guantanamo Bay

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