The federal Conservative government has cut its funding for young offenders programs in every province and territory across Canada by 20 per cent.
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced the government will provide “continued support” for the Youth Justice Services Funding Program by supplying $141.7 million annually. That number is down $35.6 million from the $177.3 million that was spent on supervising and rehabilitating young offenders over the past several years.
In the Northwest Territories, the cut translates into $614,000 less for the Youth Justice Services Funding Agreement with the federal government next year when the current agreement expires March 31, 2013. Last year, the NWT received just over $3 million for young offenders programming and services.
NWT Justice spokesperson Sue Glowach said the department was notified of the cuts earlier this month and is in the process of determining how its programs will be affected.
“We can’t really tell you right now what that’s going to mean, because we have the funding until the end of March and we’ve just found out about this cut now. So we have to assess, ‘what does that mean for us?’” she said.
A recent costing exercise done by the GNWT predicts the implementation of the federal crime bill C-10 will mean more youth will enter into the justice system for longer periods of time, meaning the costs of youth justice services will likely rise.
Glowach said the federal funding goes to high-priority services for young offenders, such as programming, facilities operation and probation services.
She said the department will determine whether it’s possible to make up the funding.
“The funding is in place until March of next year, so we will have time to assess what we’re going to do on that. I don’t think we’re going to have a fast answer, you know, within a few days or anything like that.”
In Alberta, $3.4 million will be shaved off the $17 million currently received in federal funding for youth justice services, but Alberta Justice spokesperson Jason Maloney said it is too early to tell which services will be affected.
“We’re looking into that stuff right now, so we can’t say either way,” he said.
Alberta’s funding agreement also expires on March 31.