Newsletter, December, 2001
Minister of Children and Family Development
Youth Probation officer
Ministry of Children and Family Development
c/o Youth Forensic Psychiatric Services
304 - 3405 Willingdon Ave
Burnaby BC V5G 3H4
Dear Darryl Persello
I was delighted to be asked to submit an article for your newsletter. This gives me the opportunity to not only extend my warmest wishes to all my former colleagues and friends, but also to talk about some of the exciting things occurring in youth justice, an area that holds a personal interest for me.
I left Corrections Branch in 1997 to represent the riding of Surrey-White Rock in the Legislature. Since being appointed Minister responsible for Children and Family Development in June of this year, I have been impressed to learn of the significant improvements in youth justice services that have occurred since 1997.
I am aware that, across the province, the average probation officer caseload is about 30, which is a far cry from the average numbers when I was a practicing probation officer. As well, youth custody counts have declined by over 30 percent - the lowest point since implementation of the Young Offenders Act in 1984
Supports to youth justice have increased significantly over the past few years. The work of community and custody staff has been supported and complemented by implementation of programs, such as the Intensive Supervision and Support Program, Violent Offender Treatment Programs, and Drug and Alcohol Programs.
Another exciting development is the Family Group Conferencing Pilot at the Burnaby Youth Court. Hopefully, lessons from this pilot can be modelled in other parts of the province as we prepare to implement the new Youth Criminal Justice Act.
It is my pleasure to announce that we are proceeding with construction of the new Victoria Youth Custody Centre. Due to open in June of next year, the first custody centre built since 1988 will replace the current outdated Victoria facility.
Most of you have heard about the core services review that is currently being undertaken by all ministries. As part of our core review, six strategic shifts have been identified. These shifts have significantly impacted the Community Living and Child Protection Divisions of the ministry. What was very satisfying for me to learn was that the strategic shift had already occurred in youth justice over many years, including the period that I spent with Corrections. In meeting the challenges of your profession, you have produced, among other things, the lowest incarceration rate in the country on a per capita basis, strong community based alternatives to custody, and the lowest per capita rate of youth on probation in the country.
The last few months have been very rewarding, for me. It has been personally gratifying to see former friends and witness first hand the progress and work of dedicated professionals like you. While significant challenges remain ahead for all of us, I am confident that youth justice will continue to provide leadership and strength in communities all across the province.
Thank you, again, for the opportunity to communicate to members and supporters of the Probation Officers' Association.
by Barry Neufeld, Youth Probation Officer, MCFD Abbotsford
Our little DivorceCare group is growing: strictly by word of mouth. We started off by borrowing the videotapes from our church Conference Library. Since we had no budget and no idea of how many would come, I borrowed 5 student workbooks from a larger church in the next city: just to get us started. We had ordered the kit from head office and I promised to pay back the five borrowed ones when our shipment arrived. They finally arrived and just in time! Because two new people had shown up. My day off is Friday, so I have run all my errands that day. Friday afternoon I scurried out to my pastor’s and picked up the books: I set five to pay back the one I borrowed and put the rest in my briefcase.
I had initiated a small claims action in Court against a disreputable mechanic. So I had to file some papers in the Court Registry. I got there a few minutes before closing on Friday. As usual, there are confusing little procedures, and I was in a hurry to finish and get out of there and to the bank before it closed. Monday evening, I was preparing for the DC session and I couldn’t find the five new books. I figured they were in my briefcase, which I thought was at my office 20 miles away. We had a great session......When I got home, there was a message on my answering machine from the Court Sheriff that my briefcase had been found at the Courthouse, this morning. I called and left a message on the sheriff’s voice mail to thank him for finding my briefcase and that I would pick it up Thursday
I was called at work today by a female Sheriff. I began to thank her for taking care of my briefcase, to which she replied "Actually WE BLEW UP YOUR BRIEFCASE!"
"WHAT???" I exclaimed!
They had an incident with an angry man that morning that had made them all nervous. She said that the briefcase looked very suspicious because of the stickers on it. It was a battered Samsonite briefcase issued to me when I sold Life Insurance 30 years ago and it had a sticker ---NEW YORK Life. Also, I had traveled to Washington Dc for a conference in 97, and on the other side it had a travel sticker: You guessed it: UNITED AIRLINES!!
So they called in the Bomb Squad!
They came, dressed up like spacemen & evacuated the whole Courthouse, (including the prisoners in the cells). Blocked off the neighbourhood and gingerly X-rayed the briefcase: they were certain it contained what looked like a bundle of dynamite! (It was actually a box of six felt marking pens) Nowadays the police don’t mess around with terrorism, so they brought in a water cannon and blew my poor old briefcase to smithereens! It also blasted a hole in the Courthouse wall! There were a few business cards of one of my support workers so they phoned him at home and accused him at first. All that was left to identify me were soggy pages from the DivorceCare manuals and a few utility bills that I had paid.
For more background (and to see if I am exaggerating) you can check this Newspaper article on the Web.
Now WHO has a better story to tell than that?
The Parental Responsibility Act
The Parental Responsibility Act was introduced as Bill 16 in August by Solicitor-General Rich Coleman, with the reported aim of holding parents financially responsible for crimes committed by their children. The legislation allows those victimized by property crime to recover up to $10,000 through civil court proceedings against the parents of young offenders, with the onus on the parents to prove they exercised reasonable supervision and should not therefore be held liable. The Court may consider factors including age and maturity, prior conduct, psychological and other disorders, and efforts to improve parenting among other factors.
Hailed by some as a positive move for law and order, Bill 16 has been criticized by others for sending the wrong message to young people and unduly punishing families. In the North American context, Bill 16 represents an ongoing trend where youth crime is characterized as out of control, a family problem for which parents are to blame. All U.S. states have laws holding parents civilly liable for the acts of their children, and B.C. joins Manitoba and Ontario as Canadian provinces with similar laws. However, since 1988, 17 American states have passed laws imposing criminal liability on parents, with penalties including imprisonment. For example, Rhode Island and Texas have laws requiring parents to participate in their children’s community service, Idaho, Indiana and New Hampshire can compel parents to pay for their child’s incarceration, and Kentucky imposes the cost of a child’s adjudication on parents. Alabama fines parents who fail to ensure compliance with probation terms, and California can assess fines up to $2500 and a year in prison. Will Canadian province follow this trend of criminalizing parenting?
Proponents of these laws argue that youth crime originates in the family and the threat of liability encourages parents to deal with children’s behaviour. Parental liability is also promoted to give priority to the rights of victims. Opponents suggest that these laws are ineffective, unduly punish mainly poor and struggling families, and send the wrong message to young people.
In my research, these laws do not take account of the actual experience of parents, the reality of parenting in difficult circumstances, and the numerous factors influencing youth crime, all of which warrant deeper discussion. Bill 16 was a low-key election promise by the governing Liberals, but attracted very little attention and, as a result, little public awareness. Some issues that the public might have considered worthy of examination include the following:
1. Is it fair that the adoptive parents of a youngster with FAS, already burdened by lack of services and huge management problems, should have to go to Court to prove that they have done all humanly possible to deal with a youth with no impulse control?
2. Did the legislators intend, as Bill 16 allows, that grandparents be taken to Court for the crimes of their grandchildren?
3. Is it significant that in Manitoba, where such a law has been in effect since 1995, only four cases have resulted in judgements, all brought on by insurance companies?
4. Is Bill 16 a sop to the law and order vote, giving an appearance of action while actually avoiding the tougher issues, including the support needs of struggling families?
Of course there is more to be said, but hopefully Probation officers, as informed participants in the justice process, will join the discussion when Bill 16 becomes an issue in their community.
Doug Hillian, PO, MSW
Hillian, Douglas (2000) How the Parents of Boys Experience the Youth Justice System, University of Victoria Library.
McNaught, Andrew (1998) Parental Responsibility Legislation and Young Offenders, Ontario Legislative Library Research Services.
Don Hermansen Retires
What a trip, 35 years of craziness. First of all I want to thank Chris for her support and patience. Even after all these years she can still take my breath away when she walks by. We have grown up together and will be celebrating our 32nd wedding anniversary on December 20. One of the reasons I got married was for the tax break not realising how much it costs to raise a family.
I would also like to thank the committee for organizing this function. I know they started meeting back in August. I really appreciate the efforts of Kirsten. She spearheaded the organizing committee. As most of you know Kirsten is following in my footsteps and I guess this is the ultimate compliment. A few years ago my nephew Jeremy was studying Criminology and considering Probation. At that point I asked Dave Buckley how I could discourage him and he said show him your cheque. Jeremy went to law school so I know Kirsten didn’t choose this profession for the money.
On the committee are some of my closest friends, Jack Duke, Mike White, Sandra Mercer, Trish Digby, Bill Yeung, Lewis Liu, Mia Mackoff, Tom Taylor, Emilio Godoy, and Kim Delowski. My other daughter Sandra and her husband Sean helped out with the invitations. Sandra’s time was restricted because she just started working as a schoolteacher. In a way she is also following in my footsteps because I always enjoyed the role of being a mentor. I would like to thank Jack Gillis, Dave Bahr, Gordie Hogg, and Mike White for trusting in me and providing me with special work opportunities.
In this room are people from every phase of my life. There are my relatives here who due to genetics are stuck with me. There are friends from my childhood; Keith Bracken and I were buddies in Elementary School, Fred and Ann Forester are my steadfast friends from Regina, Charlie Borodinski who I met at Brandon University. When I first started in social work in 1967 I went to Cranbrook with my co-worker Ann Gregoire who is here.
When I started at Family Court at Yale Street in 1970, which was known as the zoo, I joined a new extended family. As Jack Duke coined the phrase, this was the golden age of Probation. It always reminded me of the MASH TV series. There was bedlam until the helicopters came in and then people got down to business and did it professionally. Many of the people from that era are here today and there are too many to name but I love every one of you.
When we were taken over by the Province I worked in a series of offices in Vancouver and the extended family just got larger. One thing I know about working in the criminal justice and child welfare systems is that the majority of people are of a high quality. We try to do the best and do it in a just, generous and compassionate fashion. We are not perfect but we strive to be.
I also worked at the Regional office and YDC. Again the pattern continued. Good people, and good friends. Donna McLean, Dave of course, Bill Turner are here to help me celebrate today.
With all that has happened recently I would like to pay homage to the friends and colleagues who are no longer with us. Gone but not forgotten are Judge Earl Vance, Judge Winifred Murphy, Deputy Sheriff Neil Frederick, Deputy Sheriff Creighton O’Malley, Probation Officers Joel O’Hara, Al Fitch, Jack Cobbbin, Betty Kerr and Jim Major Correctional Officer John McIntyre, Justice of the Peace Nora Davies and Family Court Counsellor Supreme Bernie Vinge. At Bernie’s wake this past spring Jake Gillis said in his eulogy that Bernie was the most outrageous character he had ever met and this was an understatement. At lunch last week Bob Morris said it is too bad Bernie wasn’t here because he would have loved this party.
One of the experiences I have enjoyed most is mentoring students from Simon Fraser University and the Justice Institute. It is not true that I only want students because I can’t type. The relationships I have had with the students have been really special. Most of the students have become friends for life and are working in the system in some capacity. Some of the students even surpass me. For example Al Shoom and Dana Cosgrove are Regional Directors in Corrections. Kristine Forbes has the dubious distinction of being my last student. One student I sort of have a special memory for is Lewis Lieu. When I came back to the line after the replacement project was cancelled I was quite depressed until I walked in to the coffee room and was introduced to Lewis as my student. Being with Lewis made me realise how important the work on the line is. If we were honest, most supervisors would agree that the work the Probation Officers and Social Workers do is harder than what we do.
I would like to thank PLEA for their recognition. I have been involved with the DARE program since its’ inception in 1972. It is one of those brilliant ideas that has endured. I would like to acknowledge Bernie Agg, the founder and my mentor, who is here tonight. I appreciate working with Ann Alexander and Mike Jefferies.
I have enjoyed my relationship with Step-Up and Genesis School. Step-Up was the first alternate school in Vancouver and it was started by Bernie Agg. The Genesis program which has three schools in the brainchild of Dave Buckley. The staff in these programs are of high quality and dedicated. Over the years they have become close friends to me.
My last five years at Robson Square have been a great last step before my retirement. I’ve had the privilege of working with the best. I will miss seeing them on a daily basis. The staff during this period were Mia Mackoff, Carol Fletcher, Karin Hartner, Barbara May, Iain Bendall, Marta Miranda, Graham Kell, Emilio Godoy, Ray Stellingworth, Tanya Van Schilentz, Maria Lennox, Deborah Rayne, Tami Porter, Sandra Mercer and Kim Delowski. Our coffee breaks were brief but meaningful.
Car 278, a joint venture with MCF and the VPD was another function I enjoyed being involved with. In today’s world of looking at outcomes and bottom lines, Car 278’s bottom line was perfect. During the five years I was involved with them there was not one complaint even though they are working with a difficult clientele base on the mean streets of Vancouver. I would like to give recognition to the following, Constable Terry Lashner, Constable Adam Dahilwal, the late Constable Rick Ozier, Al Duncan, Dennis Matonovich, and Grant Bunker.
My greatest passion, however, is working with the young people. I do not pretend to understand what they have gone through in their life. My brother George who is here with his wife Suzanne and I were fortunate to have outstanding parents. I think of them every day. We also have a great extended family who have been there for us as well. My aunt Phylis and Bob Hermanson and three of their daughters, Katherine, Lynn, and Jennifer are here to celebrate this special day with me. Other relatives that are here include Allan Hermanson, and Wendy Rienhart. The extended family has grown recently, my nephew Jeremy who is a Crown Counsel and my niece Diane who is a family court counsellor had a baby boy named William Mark. Although some of my friends have achieved significant accomplishments like Gordie Hogg being a Cabinet Minister and Austin Collins, a Supreme Court Judge, my heroes are the young people at risk who despite the odds against them become productive members of the community. This is an accomplishment beyond words and is usually the result of a lot of work of the youth and supportive adults. Despite what the flavour of the month promises there is no quick fix. Young people become successful through education, work, and the support of responsible and caring adults. I most likely will miss playing hockey and basketball with the kids the most.
Thanks for celebrating this special day. I love you all. In response to what comes next I can only say old Probation officers never die they just fade away. Don Hermansen
Jan Land Retires
*And all the best to Jan Land, the Local Manager for Langley Community Corrections, who announced her retirement to take effect August 31, 2001. Jan has many future projects in the works, including time in Palm Springs with her husband, Ian Land. During her three decades with the branch, she mentored many a young PO. Thanks Jan!
Kathleen Archibald Retires
This is to announce that Kathleen Archibald, Family Justice Counsellor, Victoria, will be retiring December 31, 2001. Kathleen attended the Social Work Program in Victoria, in 1983 and it was during her practicum that she developed an interest in the career of Probation Officer/Family Justice Counsellor. When she graduated, in 1985, the government was not hiring, so she worked for a year at Victoria Court Registry, typing summons. In 1986, Kathleen applied for the job of Probation Officer, was successful, and was placed in Campbell River. She worked in that office for twelve years. When specialization occurred, Kathleen moved into the Family Justice Counsellor role. A year later, in 1998, she was able to achieve her final career goal of moving to Victoria in preparation for her retirement, by transferring to the Victoria Family Justice Centre.
Kathleen will be missed by her colleagues, but not without enormous envy. No doubt she will be enjoying even more line dancing on the shores of Sidney, B.C., and other enviable activities including enjoying her adored dog, Koko. (Koko, by the way, having accompanied Kathleen on many interviews and home studies, and coming to work at the office, is retiring as well!)
It is time again to check in with everyone across the province and see what is happening….
A Congrats to Dean Ginther, the acting Local Manager for Surrey North Community Corrections and his wife, Leanne, who welcomed a son, Lucas, this summer. Lucas joins big brother, Ryan.
HAnd a big warm welcome to Brianna Bruce, born to Diane Bruce of the Justice Institute and her husband in August 2001.
AHey, thumbs up to the Prince George Community Corrections who all dressed up in celebration of Halloween and did their part to scare people!
HAnd way to go to Derek Tangedal of the Surrey Southeast Community Corrections office and, his wife, Tracy, who became the proud parents of Keira Elyse in August 2001.
&And hold the phone…we have a few other additions to the Corrections family and a few transfers to report on.
As for those transfers, Burnaby Community Corrections welcomes
Congratulations to the Focus Foundation of BC who have been granted additional funding and will be opening up another youth daytime attendance program (January 2002) in Burnaby (similar to Youth Futures in Langley) in
an effort to better serve clients in the Greater Vancouver area.
Pacific Legal Education Association (PLEA) will be hosting its third PARCA conference. This year there will be 2-day conferences in Vancouver Nanaimo Kelowna and Prince George. They are excellent resource and networking opportunities for youth probation officers. For more information contact
PLEA Vancouver at 604 871-0450.
On February 20-22, 2002 the BC Inter-Ministry Committee on Youth Violence and Crime will be hosting a conference entitled "Putting the Pieces Together". For more information call 1-866-775-3066 or see
The Chicken Wings Epic
And finally for those of you who have been waiting with baited breath (this will come up a lot in this story), an update on the chicken wings epic. Our roving reporter, Perry Deol, currently with the Justice Institute while on leave from the branch, has been good enough to submit this news story.
Many requests have arisen asking what became of the last wingnite. I apologize for the delay in response, but the events of that evening were such that a digestive recovery period was mandated for all involved. Recently, that period has expired (as has the processing capacity of our tummies) so here is the scoop you have waited for ... On October 12 a new wing-eating champion was crowned ... or should I say the crown was returned to the rightful owner, Derek Tangedal (Surrey Southeast PO). He amazed all those present by eating whopping 73 wings. That’s right folks, seventy-three, this isn't a misprint! And these were not wings from some skinny, unfed and abused chickens either; these were healthy poultry parts. Furthermore, each delicious morsel was dripping with various tongue tingling sauces.
MMMMMM MMMMMMMMH. What makes his feat even more amazing was that he ate all the wings without taking a single breath (I suspect those living with Derek wished they could do the same later that evening ... heeheeheehee). Without any corroborating evidence, it is expected that this feat will lead to national recognition of our wingnites. Well done Derek!
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