New v. old: the significant differences.

AuthorBryant, Marian E.
PositionFeature on Youth Justice


In a legislated version of "it takes a whole village to raise a child," Parliament, in the Preamble to the Youth Criminal Justice Act [YCJA], has, for the first time, legislated a moral philosophy regarding youth crime. It is clear that society has a collective responsibility in resolving "the developmental challenges and the needs of young persons and to guide them into adulthood."

The Preamble refers to areas where there are significant differences between the Young Offenders Act [YOA] and the YCJA: the interests of victims; accountability through meaningful consequences; effective rehabilitation and reintegration; and "serious intervention for serious crimes."

Canadian policy regarding young people is contained in the Declaration of Principle: reiterating the Preamble approach, the focus is on crime prevention, rehabilitation and reintegration, meaningful consequences for a young person, reparation of harm to the victims and community with the stated objective that "victims should be provided with information about the proceedings and given an opportunity to be heard." These themes are again repeated under the sentencing sections of the YCJA where significant changes in sentencing options have clarified and strengthened the former sentencing provisions of the YOA.

Differences in Sentencing

Canada has been in the unhappy position of leading the western world in incarcerating young people. Not suprisingly, one of the major differences between the Young Offenders Act and the new Youth Criminal Justice Act is the new range of sentencing options to assist in keeping young people out of custody.

Early Intervention

Provisions not previously contained in the YOA which now are available before beginning judicial proceedings are police cautions and Crown cautions; the ability to refer the young person to a community program or agency remains the same. The presumption is that youth justice judicial proceedings are not to be the first choice when dealing with a first encounter with the justice system.


A judge may now reprimand a young person, as the Court did in R. v. K.D. [unreported April 8 2003] (NSSC Fam. Div.): "I understand that the situation is not a good one at this point, but I want you to understand that these people do not deserve to be physically assaulted by you. Do you understand that? You have to use your best efforts, as it appears you have been trying to, to keep your anger under control ... This is the...

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