In the Blog
Opening Up a Dialogue about Teen Violence
On New Year’s Day Toronto’s 14-year-old Stefanie Rengel died of stab wounds to the abdomen. She was found at 6:15 PM on Tuesday, bleeding on the sidewalk, and later died in hospital.
Rengel was described as an A-student who came from a good family - the daughter of two police officers who consented in releasing her name to the media. Two high school students, a 15-year-old girl and 17-year-old boy (whose names have not been released because they are minors,) have now been charged with her murder. Today details of the case emerged, most notably that the Crown alleges “that there was an expression at some point in time that (the girl accused) indicated to someone that she wanted or wished that the deceased were dead.” The teens accused face charges of first degree murder and could serve adult sentences if found guilty.
Rengel’s murder was the first homicide in a year that promises to legally and politically reevaluate Canada’s youth justice act:
Parliament is expected to vote in 2008 on legislation to radically toughen the Youth Criminal Justice Act by increasing sentences for serious youth crimes and making it easier for judges to keep young people locked up before their trials if they are considered a risk to public safety.
If convicted and sentenced as adults, those accused of murdering Stefanie Rengel would face life sentences, rather than the maximum of 10 years they would face as youth offenders. Their names would also be realeased to the public. Are harsher punishments really the solution to the problem of teen violence? If not, what is?
Details about the murder are only now emerging so the motive behind Rengel’s murder is unknown, but the case is already a very clear opportunity to open up a dialogue about the prevelence of youth violence in Toronto and across the country, and the current Youth Criminal Justice Act. With the high school first-degree murder of Jordan Manners earlier in 2007 and now the stabbing of Rengel on New Year’s Day, we (at the very least) have a responsibility to start talking about the root of teen violence, whatever that may be.