In April 2003, the Canadian Government created the Youth Criminal Justice Act. It says that all youth aged 12 until they reach the age of 18 are treated differently by police, diversions programs, as well as the court and correction systems. Everyone has a right to a defense lawyer, no matter their age or gender, but not everyone is going to have the same needs. Youth are known for not being fully developed. They don't always think things through before going through with an act, largely being driven by their impulses and peers. These decisions can ruin the rest of their lives, depending on what they do.


Just a few years ago, Canada had higher youth incarcerations rates than just about all the other OECD countries. Young people were receiving more punishments that included jail time, but other countries throughout the world were going the other way. Programs through the United Kingdom, Australia, and even the state of Texas were finding success is targeting diversion, rehabilitation, and prevention. Their crime rates among youth declined with fewer recidivists after release. Once a person serves jail time, they are less likely to get a job, so countries and people benefit society as a whole when it is avoided.

Special Considerations

The main principle underlying the Act is that Canada is trying to help address the needs of the law while still weighing the factor of the offender's age. There is a strong responsibility to take care of the needs of their young people and provide the necessary guidance and support. The youth system differs from the adult systems in some very important ways such as:

  • measures of accountability relative to reduced maturity levels
  • enhanced procedural protections
  • emphasis is given to rehabilitation and then to reintegration
  • timely intervention is given prominence

This does not mean that they are going to get off without any consequences. Instead, the entire situation is reviewed, with the victims of the crimes and any damages done taken into account.

How It Applies

The offences covered by this act are mandated by federal law, not provincial law. The Act's primary objective is to help the youth of Canada become responsible adults while also deterring future youth from committing crimes. The best thing to do if you or a youth in your life breaks the law is to hire a defense attorney (such as one from Connolly & Associates) who specializes in youth crimes. They will know the best course of action and how this act specifically applies to their situation.