Canada's Youth Criminal Justice System.

Date01 January 2020
AuthorSteingard, Jessica

In April 2003, the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) replaced the Young Offenders Act. The YCJA sets out the justice system that applies to young persons--aged 12 to 17--charged with an offence in Canada. Children under 12 cannot be charged with a crime. The YCJA looks at your age when the crime was committed.

Canada's youth justice system operates according to several guiding principles, including:

* protecting the public by holding you accountable for your actions while also recognizing you may not fully understand the consequences of your actions

* promoting your rehabilitation and reintegration back into society

* encouraging you to repair the harm done to those impacted by the offence, including the surrounding community.

In this article, I will summarize some of the stages of the youth justice system.

What happens if the police catch me?

The YCJA promotes using measures outside of court processes (called "extrajudicial measures") to respond to less serious youth crime. Extrajudicial measures include:

* Taking no further action.

* Giving an informal warning.

* Giving a formal warning, called a police caution. This could be a letter to you and your parents or a meeting at the police station between you, your parents and a senior police officer.

* Referring you to community programs or agencies that may help you not to commit offences.

If extrajudicial measures are not appropriate, the police can lay charges or give you a ticket. They may or may not arrest you, depending on the offence you committed.

What happens if the police charge me?

  1. The police will give you a document that says when you must appear in court.

    It may be called a Promise to Appear or a Recognizance. You must report to court on that day or there may be further consequences. All youth are eligible to receive representation by a lawyer through Legal Aid Alberta. Contact Legal Aid Alberta for more information.

  2. The police will contact your parents or guardians.

    You cannot keep it a secret from them. If the whereabouts of your parent is not known or if your parent is not available, then the police must notify an adult relative or other adult who is known to you and is likely to assist you.

    There is an exception: if you were under 18 when you committed the crime but are at least 20 years old when you first appear before a youth justice court, your parents do not have to be notified.

  3. The police can hold you in custody until your court hearing.

    At a bail hearing, a judge...

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