Impending changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act have some Manitoba criminologists concerned.
Russell Smandych at the University of Manitoba says young offenders' names, up to now protected under the law, could be made public under the changes being proposed as part of the federal government's get-tough omnibus crime bill.
If the names become public, there could be irreversible repercussions, he said.
"Kids will end up having their names in the newspaper. Any one who forever Googles their name is going to find that they were in the Winnipeg Free Press or in the CBC News and that they were shamed when they were 14 years old because they did this stupid thing. Do we really want that for our young people?"
Bill C-10 promises to introduce stiffer and longer jail sentences and toughen child exploitation laws.
Formally known as the Safe Streets and Communities Act, the bill actually comprises nine smaller bills that were introduced by the Conservative government during its minority rule, but were never passed.
Manitoba Attorney General Andrew Swan has said the province supports the bill, particularly the young offender provisions. Quebec, on the other hand, wants to be able to opt-out of the clause allowing names of violent young offenders to be made public.
Critics insist it will be harder for young offenders to turn their lives around if their names are tarnished early on. Others, though, will use it as a badge of honour.
"Young gang members would love to see their names in the newspapers. The new rite of passage into full-fledged gang membership will be getting your name in the Winnipeg Sun or the Free Press that you're a violent offender," said Smandych.
Phil Dubuc, 19, told CBC News the gang prevention program he's in now has changed his life.
"I'm not the same person. I don't got a chip on my shoulder all the time and I don't got that itch to commit crime," he said.
He is looking forward to his second chance — one he might not have gotten if the dark shadow of his past was easy to access by future employers.