Volume 93, Issue 98

Tuesday, April 4, 2000


Editorial Board 1999-2000

Responsibility 101

Editorial cartoon

Responsibility 101

According to a new law, the old adage "Do the crime, do the time," doesn't quite cut it for young offenders.

The Parental Responsibility Act, to be tabled in the legislature today, will make parents of young offenders directly responsible for the actions of their children. The proposed legislation makes it easier for the victims of youth crime to sue the youth's parents in small claims court.

These parents would be held financially responsible for property damages committed by their kids for up to a maximum of $6,000. However, if the parents can prove the crime was unintentional, or that they provided adequate supervision of their child, they would then be absolved of the charges. The youth would still face punishment from the courts.

This is not so much a new law, as it is a mirror reflection of the current one. Presently, the victims of a property crime must prove the perpetrators were negligent in order to win their case. Under the proposed legislation, parents are guilty until proven innocent. Is it really worth the switch?

Absolutely. Although this law can't force parents to care about their children, it will encourage them to care about their kids' actions. Six thousand bucks can cause a big dent in a parent's bank account. Money has always been a great motivator, why not use it proactively?

If children know their parents could be the ones suffering the financial ramifications of their criminal actions, they may think twice about setting the neighbour's car on fire, or breaking window panes with reckless abandon.

Some may argue punishing the parents could actually encourage improper behaviour – kids are notorious for acting out against authority figures. However, most kids rebel in order to get a reaction that is based upon disappointment – they enjoy the routine of pissing off their parents, being sent to their room and getting grounded. The reaction from a parent who has just been told they owe $4,000 because their kid redecorated the front of his school with spray paint will not be based on disappointment, but pure anger. It's sad to say, but hitting a parent's wallet may elicit more reaction than simply the embarrassment of knowing their child is capable of crime.

Parents, who are victims themselves of uncontrollable children, won't be damned to the poor house as a result of the legislation – as long as they can prove they are not negligent parents and care about their kids, they're off the hook. Those who cannot, deserve the punishment.

This legislation seems to be a near perfect solution to increase parental interest in their children's after-hours activities. It's a bit of a sad reality, that in order to raise awareness, money has to be thrown into the equation. Who knows – perhaps after a generation of parents who make a habit of monitoring their children for the sake of their bank books, a more responsible family unit will return to the societal stage.

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