The Youth Criminal justice Act of Canada (known as the YCJA) is the governing Act for criminal offences committed by persons between the ages of 12 and under 18, often referred to as “Young Offenders”. The Act recognizes that there are a number of factors which differentiate an adult offender from a youth offender, and as such, youth offenders are to be treated differently than an adult offender.

The YCJA recognizes that young people have less moral culpability and focuses on rehabilitation and reintegration into society. The approach taken is one of correcting tendencies, rather than punishment – the court will undergo to balance the interests of society and the interests of the offender. It is for this reason that youth offenders are dealt with under a specific youth criminal court.

Section 1 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act – Key Principles

Section 1 of the YCJA sets out key principles of youth justice in Canada and can be summarized as:

  • The consequences to the youth offender should be meaningful to ensure accountability and responsibility.
  • Measures proportionate to the seriousness of the crime and degree of responsibility, should be employed to hold the youth offender accountable.
  • Rehabilitation and reintegration should be the focus of the youth court
  • Youth offenders should be referred to programs and community agencies to support prevention of crime by addressing the circumstances underlying the behavior in question.
  • The youth offender should be afforded enhanced procedural protections and an enhanced right to privacy.


What Does ‘Diversion’ Mean?

Diversion refers to extrajudicial measures, where the charges are diverted out of the criminal justice system and if the conditions of the diversion are met, it will ultimately result in the charges being withdrawn. There are a number of factors which are considered before diversion is offered, including, the seriousness of the offence, injury or loss to the victim and the criminal record of the offender. These are methods used to address behavior without engaging a formal court proceeding.

Some examples of extrajudicial measures are:

  • A firm warning to the young offender
  • Administering a caution
  • Referral of the young person to a program or agency which specializes in helping youth avoid crime and/or addresses underlying behavior


Youth Charged Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act?

Although the penalties for youth offenders is not as severe as those for an adult offender, nevertheless, the consequences can be harsh; these include heavy fines, required counselling, or even juvenile detention and in certain circumstances, the youth offender may have to relocate schools. Even a youth criminal record can affect the ability to find a job, obtain a driver’s license, rent property and obtaining credit.

Pleading guilty before speaking with a lawyer can have negative consequences and result in a worse conclusion to the case. Often times a lawyer is able to negotiate a more favourable result, such as an alternative to incarceration.  The lawyers at G Law Group have experience in dealing with the youth court and the YCJA itself.

If you need a lawyer, please call us at, 905-497-7200