- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 6 May 1915, p. 208-216
- Boyd, Commissioner E.J., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The work of the Juvenile Court, practically speaking, to make men who will be fitted for anything that may life in front of them in life, and to make men out of material that is not always the easiest to work with. The establishment of the Court some three years ago in the city of Toronto. Details of staff and facilities. The cases that came before the Juvenile Court during those three years. The authority to treat these children in one of four ways. The children that come before the Court. The definition of a juvenile delinquent. The limited, virtually non-existent probation system due to lack of staff. Some statistics. The speaker's attempts to use outside agencies for some of the probation work. Details of the speaker's efforts. The option of sending the children to industrial school. The impossible task being attempted at these schools. Details of conditions and numbers in these schools. The issue of the feeble-minded child one of the great menaces, one of the great factors, which is making it impossible to rejuvenate the children of this province through the industrial schools. A definition of feeble-minded. The high proportion of this kind of child in the industrial schools. The Auxiliary Classes Act. The lack of appropriate facilities for these children. The speaker's suggestion for a home where these children could be cared for, with details of necessities. The story of what started the Big Brother Movement among the Jews. Helping your boys by putting them on their honour and trusting them.
- Date of Original
- 6 May 1915
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- THE WORK OF THE JUVENILE COURT
AN ADDRESS BY COMMISSIONER E. J. BOYD
At the Annual Meeting of the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, May 6, 1915
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN, -I suppose I am really entitled to speak to the Empire Club because, to some extent, I am a recruiting officer. The work of the juvenile Court is, practically, to make men who will be fitted for anything that may lie in front of them in life, and to make men out of material that is not always the easiest to work with. The Court was established some three years ago in the city of Toronto; it was given temporary and unsuitable quarters, which it still retains; and it was given a staff of a clerk, a chief probation officer, and four assistants. Two of these are women, two of them are men. The cases that came before the juvenile Court in the first year of its existence amounted to about 2600, the second year about 41oo, and last year about 2900. The statute which brought the Court into existence says that these children are to be treated as requiring nursing rather than castigation and imprisonment; and it authorises the Court to treat them in one of four ways, either to return them to their homes after they have been before the Court, to make them wards of the Court, putting them on probation, or sending them to an industrial school.
The children that come before the Court are boys and girls up to sixteen years of age. A juvenile delinquent is defined to be a boy or girl up to sixteen years of age who has committed some breach of the law; whether it be Dominion, provincial, or municipal law, for which breach he or she may be fined or imprisoned. On account of the numerical weakness of the staff, I may almost say that the probation system does not exist. The only probation work which is done, or which can be done, under the present existing equipment of the Court, is to bring the unfortunates once a week into the court and give them a little talk. Saturday is probation day, and the average number attending on probation, between the hours of nine and one, has been about 150 children. There are two officials only able to receive them. Consequently the two officials have to do the rejuvenating work for 150 children within the period stated. I presume all of you have been Sunday school teachers to some extent, and you know that it is generally stated that one hour a week is hardly sufficient to lead into the way of righteousness the children that attend our Sunday schools. You can therefore realise how much two men, sitting and receiving calls from 150 boys-the girls have no chance-how much they can do with these 150 boys in that short time on Saturdays. In consequence of that, I felt that it was absolutely necessary to devise some other scheme to get some probation work done; and, very much against the wishes of the chief probation officer, who thought that the work should be held entirely in the Court, I -have been endeavouring to use outside agencies. Last year I sent out 232 boys to outside agencies on probation, using the Boys' Dominion and its different provinces, the Y.M.C.A., and the ministers of the parishes where the boys came from. I found of the 232 that were sent out in that way only 25 repeated. I am not going to give the figures of repeats among those who attend in the Court; I do not wish to give them because they are not so encouraging; although I must say that the very greatest effort possible is made with boys who come to the Court on probation. You will, I think, appreciate that where there are a large number coming every Saturday in this way, with two people only to receive them, that the influence of the few minutes talk with each boy may be somewhat counteracted by the gang influence that is outside the door while the different members are awaiting their turn to go through the short interview which is available for them.
The only other method of dealing with the children is to send them to an industrial school, and I find (I regret to say I do not think it is as widely known as it should be) that our industrial schools, magnificent as they are in conception, and splendid as axe the efforts of the officers in charge of them, are working with an impossible task. In Victoria Industrial School at Mimico, which is always filled to its capacity, there are about 30o boys. There are various estimates of the number of boys there who are capable of being improved. The question of the feebleminded child is one of the great menaces, one of the great factors, which is making it impossible to rejuvenate the children of this province through the industrial school. One of the high medical authorities in this province on this special subject, told me, after hearing me mention that there were 25 per cent. of the boys there who come within the meaning of the term feeble-minded, that I was entirely wrong, that there were at least 4o per cent. and probably 50. That does not mean, by any means, that that large percentage are what we would in the ordinary sense call feeble-minded. The feebleminded are graded the same as sane people, and they run all the way down from the child who is only a year or a year and a half or two years behind its normal standard of intelligence, to the child who is eight or ten years behind. The moment the child is five years behind its standard, they say there is very little chance of its coming back. And there are in that institution, and also in the Alexandra School for girls, a very high proportion of this class of child. If any of you have ever attended any of the annual meetings of either of these institutions, you could not help being struck with the class of face that you see there, and it would not take you long to realise what an effect it is having on the children themselves. Some two months ago I attended a meeting called in the Zionist building on Beverly Street to organise the Big Brother Movement among the Jews, and I heard a young man get up there, who stated that he had been a teacher at the Victoria Industrial School at Mimico, and he described the moral tone among the boys as being very low. He said, " Men, you have no idea of what goes on in that institution among the boys. The talk, the language, and the tales that pass from mouth to mouth there are a disgrace to humanity, and the feeble-minded child is made use of by the, quicker--witted boy, who has no moral sense, and the result is very bad indeed--and yet there are splendid men on the staff of that school who are doing their best under existing circumstances. I fully believe that no one could do much better than is being done at the Alexandra School for girls, under existing conditions, than the present head, Miss Brooking. She is a marvel among girls, but she has been given an impossible task; and it does seem to me that the citizens of this city and the inhabitants of this province should rise in their vigour and compel the proper authorities to take out of these institutions these unfortunate feeble-minded children. There have been endeavours made before the council of this municipality, and before the local government, to get this question solved. Last year the government passed an Act called the Auxiliary Classes Act, authorising the Board of Education to create an institution for the care of the feeble-minded of a certain standard, the child who was of the mental age of not less than eight years. The Board of Education put in their estimates for this year the sum of $200,000 for the purpose of securing property and erecting buildings to start the work; and the Municipal Council threw out that item, claiming that the stress under which we are now living is such that they could not now undertake it. No member of the Municipal Council, and, I think, very few of the citizens of the city, appreciate the awful menace under which we are living in connection with this question of the feeble-minded.
That is the problem, both among the adult and the juvenile, which raises an awful difficulty in dealing with children. I am sending to the Wednesday clinic every week children to be examined. And the report comes back, This child is so many years backward; it is feeble-minded; it must be kept under strict supervision. The present state of affairs in this city is that every public institution has closed its doors to these children. The Shelter, the Boys' Home, the Girls' Home, every institution in the city says, " We will take no more of them." There is no place at the present moment, there is absolutely no place where you can send these children to be cared for, except the Industrial School; to increase the seething mass that is already there. That is the actual condition of affairs in this city today.
A HEARER: What do you suggest?
COMMISSIONER BOYD: A home where these children could be cared for. There are lots of them capable of maintaining themselves under proper supervision in a proper home, by manual labour, when properly trained. It is being done m the United States all the time. Some of them would always have to be kept under supervision; a few of them would have to go into institutions like Orillia; but the vast majority of them would gain so as to be able to earn their own living in whole or in part. Today they are a total care; they are not only a total care but they are taking the last chance of the same boy who has fallen morally, by herding them all together in a mass; for you can easily appreciate that the boy with ginger-and it is very often the boy with ginger who gets into trouble and is sent to a school the very boy who ought to be saved is placed right alongside the boy of feeble mind, and he is the feeder for that boy in keeping him wrong. That is the condition in the industrial schools, the last chance for the boy who has had no chance. They should be separated. We should have 500 to 1000 acres at Mimico, with cottages properly graded; then undoubtedly we would have something to work on. Today you are asking the juvenile Court to do the impossible; although I do not say that we are not doing a lot of good, too 1 I could tell you some stories of boys that have responded wonderfully to the treatment of trusting them. I had a little Jew boy fourteen years of age, who had been before me eight or ten times. Let me tell you that the first thing that struck me when I went into the juvenile Court was the number of cases of thieving, and the apparent lack of moral sense in the children as to the wrong-doing in stealing. Let me tell you something else; it is not only the street boy that comes into the juvenile Court. I had before me today five boys, absolutely decent boys, boys whom you would be astonished to see there. They come up and say calmly, "Yes, I am guilty of thieving," " I stole the bicycle," and say it without a suggestion of hesitation, or any feeling of wrong-doing. It is appalling; it shocked me. I am perhaps getting a little hardened to it now, but it was a shock to find how wide was the absence of moral sense. This little Jew boy had been before me eight or ten times. When he came up the next time his father came and said, " Mr. Boyd, I am through with him, I have done everything I can for him; send him to Mimico, or do anything you like with him." The boy was a softspoken little fellow, and I said to him, " Ikey, you hear what your father says? Well, I am not through with you, Ikey. I am going to give you another chance;" and I put my hand in my pocket and took out an old penny, a King George penny, and I said to the boy, " Do you see that? " He said, " Yes, sir." I said, " Do you know what it is? " " No, sir." " Well," I said, " that is a King George penny, it was coined in the time when there were no weights, and you threw your penny on the scales and got a pennyworth of bacon, or whatever it was. You can take that down to the coin dealers and they will give you a dollar for it. I know you have been stealing and staying out at nights, I know you belong to what they call the Swipers' Gang. I want you to give me your promise that you will play no more truant, that you will not stay out at nights, that you will steal no more, while you hold my penny. I am going to give it to you; I am going to trust you to keep it for me, and while you hold that penny you have got to remember that I have got your promise. Can you do it? " He said, " Mr. Boyd, my brothers go through my pockets every night." I said, " I am sorry then, I cannot do it, for I value that penny." " Yes," he said; " yes, Mr. Boyd, I think I can." "Well," I said," I will take a chance," and I handed him the coin, and I said, " You have been here so often that I am quite sure you want something else beside your promise, although I am going to trust your promise, and I think we ought to see each other pretty often. You sell papers after school, and I want you to come in and sell me a paper every day; if I am not here, leave the paper, and I will know it is all right." The paper was there for four days; the fifth it was not there, and I sent a probation officer after the boy. It was four days after that that he was found. When brought in he was a sight; his hair and clothes were covered with filth. But what caught me was the look in the boy's face when he came in and saw me, and had to look me in the eye. He knew he had broken faith when I had trusted him, and I thought of course my penny was gone. I said to him, " Ikey, I am sorry for this; where is my penny? " And he dived into his pocket and brought out the penny. I should have told you that I had said to him when I gave him the penny, " Remember, I am trusting you, but if you break faith, you go to Mimico, unless something unforeseen occurs." I did not know what to do; he had kept the penny, and I made up my mind if possible in some way to keep my word with him, and yet if possible to avoid sending him to Mimico. It was Friday he came up, and for want of some reason for saying that I would not send him to Mimico this time, I adjourned the hearing till Monday. I was asked on Sunday to go down to the meeting at the Zionist Club in the Jews' quarter, where they were organising the Big Brother Movement. After they heard the President of the Big Brother Movement and myself and another-after we three had spoken-a Jew got up in the back of the room and he commenced to abuse us in every way imaginable. He said, " Look what the Christians have done to the Jews in Russia; look what these people have done to us everywhere. I don't believe there is any necessity for this Big Brother Movement. If it is necessary let the City Council appoint officers and pay for them; we pay our taxes. I think they are grossly exaggerating the evil of our boys." He was all against the institution of the Big Brother Movement to help the boys. I asked the chairman of the meeting to allow me to tell them a story, and I told them the story of this boy Ikey, and I said to them, " There is nothing under heaven standing between that boy and Mimico, unless some of you will undertake to be his big brother, and be responsible for him." That started the Big Brother Movement among the Jews, and they have today one of the best organisations, and they are looking after their people now just as well as any church or any other body in the city. That boy was taken into partnership by a big brother, a Jewish commercial traveller, and he is now in the newspaper business; the commercial traveller having put up a dollar capital, and the boy reporting once a week, and he is in part supporting a broken home, and is in a fair way of becoming a decent citizen. He certainly was on the ragged edge. I cannot guarantee yet where he will land, but he is a fine boy at the present time.
I could tell you dozens of stories like that. You can get these fellows when you put them on their honour and trust them; and even the feeble-minded are amenable to a certain extent. But we are badly handicapped in this matter of the feeble-minded, and in the want of a fuller staff and proper equipment for the Court.
A vote of thanks to the speakers of the evening was tendered on the motion of ex-President J. F. M. Stewart, B.A.
The special toast of " The Veterans of 1866, and the Canadian Contingents of today," both of which were represented by invited guests, was entrusted to Mr. F. B. Fetherstonhaugh, K.C. The splendid continuity of the old British spirit, passing from sire to son, was emphasised; and a graceful tribute to the wives of the Veterans and to the mothers of the young men of today was paid by Mr. Fetherstonhaugh by the recital of his poem, " The Vigil." Replies were made by Capt. J. B. Perry, who recalled the incidents connected with his distinguished comrades at the Veterans' table; and by Col. Geo. Denison, jun., who eloquently vindicated the soldier's duty, and, like Captain Scott in the Antarctic, committed their families to a grateful country's care.
The election showed that the newly-chosen president was ALBERT HAM, Esq., Mus. Doc., F.R.C.O., whom the retiring president felicitously introduced.
Dr. Ham said: " It would not be kind on my part to keep you any longer. We have had a most delightful evening, and have heard some most delightful speakers. I can only say that I appreciate the very high honour that you have conferred on me in electing me to the presidency of this Empire Club. I shall use my best endeavours to carry on the work that has been carried on for some time. The question has been asked, 'Are we justified in going on with the Empire Club? Have we not finished? Has the Empire Club outrun its usefulness? ' Gentlemen, after the speeches of this evening I feel there can be only one answer to that, and that is that we are only just beginning. When we look into the future, when we think of the ideals we stand for, as we have heard tonight from Mr. Justice Riddell, the thought comes to us that we ought to remain in existence, at any rate until this terrible war is over. We have to see that pledges of national honour are not broken with impunity. We stand for national honour in this Club, and, gentlemen, peace-loving people as we are, we cannot allow these war-lords of Germany and their Kaiser to try to crush this Empire of ours that has always stood for the right. Their moral sense is so warped that in the cause of humanity alone it is our duty to do all we can to crush that militarism and that dreadful spirit that now exists in Germany, for the sake of Germany itself. But we ought not to stop now; we must go on because if we stop too soon our children's children will have to fight this over again. I must apologise for even touching on the fringe of this subject, but it is so tempting. Our ideals are so high; and, I am sure, every heart in the Empire Club beats in sympathy with my own in saying that we will do our level best to uphold the dignity and honour of the British Empire. Gentlemen, we have a very serious task facing us in the future when all this is over. When peace comes we have a very grave responsibility; and we, as members of this Empire Club, ought to make up our minds to assist those who are in power, to devise some means whereby we shall preserve this unity of Empire. It bristles with no end of difficulties, but if the Empire Clubs throughout the world make up their minds to solve those difficulties, I think the British Empire will be greater and greater and greater. Let me thank you very much, and again reassure you that I will do my best to further the interests of this Empire Club."
The meeting closed with the singing of the National Anthem.