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Youth Criminal Justice Act (S.C. 2002, c. 1)

Act current to 2024-06-19 and last amended on 2019-12-18. Previous Versions

Youth Criminal Justice Act

S.C. 2002, c. 1

Assented to 2002-02-19

An Act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other Acts


WHEREAS members of society share a responsibility to address the developmental challenges and the needs of young persons and to guide them into adulthood;

WHEREAS communities, families, parents and others concerned with the development of young persons should, through multi-disciplinary approaches, take reasonable steps to prevent youth crime by addressing its underlying causes, to respond to the needs of young persons, and to provide guidance and support to those at risk of committing crimes;

WHEREAS information about youth justice, youth crime and the effectiveness of measures taken to address youth crime should be publicly available;

WHEREAS Canada is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and recognizes that young persons have rights and freedoms, including those stated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights, and have special guarantees of their rights and freedoms;

AND WHEREAS Canadian society should have a youth criminal justice system that commands respect, takes into account the interests of victims, fosters responsibility and ensures accountability through meaningful consequences and effective rehabilitation and reintegration, and that reserves its most serious intervention for the most serious crimes and reduces the over-reliance on incarceration for non-violent young persons;

NOW, THEREFORE, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:

Short Title

Marginal note:Short title

 This Act may be cited as the Youth Criminal Justice Act.


Marginal note:Definitions

  •  (1) The definitions in this subsection apply in this Act.


    adult means a person who is neither a young person nor a child. (adulte)

    adult sentence

    adult sentence, in the case of a young person who is found guilty of an offence, means any sentence that could be imposed on an adult who has been convicted of the same offence. (peine applicable aux adultes)

    Attorney General

    Attorney General means the Attorney General as defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code, read as if the reference in that definition to “proceedings” were a reference to “proceedings or extrajudicial measures”, and includes an agent or delegate of the Attorney General. (procureur général)


    child means a person who is or, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, appears to be less than twelve years old. (enfant)


    conference means a group of persons who are convened to give advice in accordance with section 19. (groupe consultatif)

    confirmed delivery service

    confirmed delivery service means certified or registered mail or any other method of service that provides proof of delivery. (service de messagerie)

    custodial portion

    custodial portion, with respect to a youth sentence imposed on a young person under paragraph 42(2)(n), (o), (q) or (r), means the period of time, or the portion of the young person’s youth sentence, that must be served in custody before he or she begins to serve the remainder under supervision in the community subject to conditions under paragraph 42(2)(n) or under conditional supervision under paragraph 42(2)(o), (q) or (r). (période de garde)


    disclosure means the communication of information other than by way of publication. (communication)

    extrajudicial measures

    extrajudicial measures means measures other than judicial proceedings under this Act used to deal with a young person alleged to have committed an offence and includes extrajudicial sanctions. (mesures extrajudiciaires)

    extrajudicial sanction

    extrajudicial sanction means a sanction that is part of a program referred to in section 10. (sanction extrajudiciaire)


    offence means an offence created by an Act of Parliament or by any regulation, rule, order, by-law or ordinance made under an Act of Parliament other than a law of the Legislature of Yukon, of the Northwest Territories or for Nunavut. (infraction)


    parent includes, in respect of a young person, any person who is under a legal duty to provide for the young person or any person who has, in law or in fact, the custody or control of the young person, but does not include a person who has the custody or control of the young person by reason only of proceedings under this Act. (père ou mère ou père et mère)

    pre-sentence report

    pre-sentence report means a report on the personal and family history and present environment of a young person made in accordance with section 40. (rapport prédécisionnel)

    presumptive offence

    presumptive offence[Repealed, 2012, c. 1, s. 167]

    provincial director

    provincial director means a person, a group or class of persons or a body appointed or designated by or under an Act of the legislature of a province or by the lieutenant governor in council of a province or his or her delegate to perform in that province, either generally or in a specific case, any of the duties or functions of a provincial director under this Act. (directeur provincial ou directeur)


    publication means the communication of information by making it known or accessible to the general public through any means, including print, radio or television broadcast, telecommunication or electronic means. (publication)


    record includes any thing containing information, regardless of its physical form or characteristics, including microform, sound recording, videotape, machine-readable record, and any copy of any of those things, that is created or kept for the purposes of this Act or for the investigation of an offence that is or could be prosecuted under this Act. (dossier)

    review board

    review board means a review board referred to in subsection 87(2). (commission d’examen)

    serious offence

    serious offence means an indictable offence under an Act of Parliament for which the maximum punishment is imprisonment for five years or more. (infraction grave)

    serious violent offence

    serious violent offence means an offence under one of the following provisions of the Criminal Code:

    • (a) section 231 or 235 (first degree murder or second degree murder);

    • (b) section 239 (attempt to commit murder);

    • (c) section 232, 234 or 236 (manslaughter); or

    • (d) section 273 (aggravated sexual assault). (infraction grave avec violence)

    violent offence

    violent offence means

    • (a) an offence committed by a young person that includes as an element the causing of bodily harm;

    • (b) an attempt or a threat to commit an offence referred to in paragraph (a); or

    • (c) an offence in the commission of which a young person endangers the life or safety of another person by creating a substantial likelihood of causing bodily harm. (infraction avec violence)

    young person

    young person means a person who is or, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, appears to be twelve years old or older, but less than eighteen years old and, if the context requires, includes any person who is charged under this Act with having committed an offence while he or she was a young person or who is found guilty of an offence under this Act. (adolescent)

    youth custody facility

    youth custody facility means a facility designated under subsection 85(2) for the placement of young persons and, if so designated, includes a facility for the secure restraint of young persons, a community residential centre, a group home, a child care institution and a forest or wilderness camp. (lieu de garde)

    youth justice court

    youth justice court means a youth justice court referred to in section 13. (tribunal pour adolescents)

    youth justice court judge

    youth justice court judge means a youth justice court judge referred to in section 13. (juge du tribunal pour adolescents)

    youth sentence

    youth sentence means a sentence imposed under section 42, 51 or 59 or any of sections 94 to 96 and includes a confirmation or a variation of that sentence. (peine spécifique)

    youth worker

    youth worker means any person appointed or designated, whether by title of youth worker or probation officer or by any other title, by or under an Act of the legislature of a province or by the lieutenant governor in council of a province or his or her delegate to perform in that province, either generally or in a specific case, any of the duties or functions of a youth worker under this Act. (délégué à la jeunesse)

  • Marginal note:Words and expressions

    (2) Unless otherwise provided, words and expressions used in this Act have the same meaning as in the Criminal Code.

  • Marginal note:Descriptive cross-references

    (3) If, in any provision of this Act, a reference to another provision of this Act or a provision of any other Act is followed by words in parentheses that are or purport to be descriptive of the subject-matter of the provision referred to, those words form no part of the provision in which they occur but are inserted for convenience of reference only.

  • 2002, c. 1, s. 2, c. 7, s. 274
  • 2012, c. 1, s. 167
  • 2014, c. 2, s. 52

Declaration of Principle

Marginal note:Policy for Canada with respect to young persons

  •  (1) The following principles apply in this Act:

    • (a) the youth criminal justice system is intended to protect the public by

      • (i) holding young persons accountable through measures that are proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the young person,

      • (ii) promoting the rehabilitation and reintegration of young persons who have committed offences, and

      • (iii) supporting the prevention of crime by referring young persons to programs or agencies in the community to address the circumstances underlying their offending behaviour;

    • (b) the criminal justice system for young persons must be separate from that of adults, must be based on the principle of diminished moral blameworthiness or culpability and must emphasize the following:

      • (i) rehabilitation and reintegration,

      • (ii) fair and proportionate accountability that is consistent with the greater dependency of young persons and their reduced level of maturity,

      • (iii) enhanced procedural protection to ensure that young persons are treated fairly and that their rights, including their right to privacy, are protected,

      • (iv) timely intervention that reinforces the link between the offending behaviour and its consequences, and

      • (v) the promptness and speed with which persons responsible for enforcing this Act must act, given young persons’ perception of time;

    • (c) within the limits of fair and proportionate accountability, the measures taken against young persons who commit offences should

      • (i) reinforce respect for societal values,

      • (ii) encourage the repair of harm done to victims and the community,

      • (iii) be meaningful for the individual young person given his or her needs and level of development and, where appropriate, involve the parents, the extended family, the community and social or other agencies in the young person’s rehabilitation and reintegration, and

      • (iv) respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences and respond to the needs of aboriginal young persons and of young persons with special requirements; and

    • (d) special considerations apply in respect of proceedings against young persons and, in particular,

      • (i) young persons have rights and freedoms in their own right, such as a right to be heard in the course of and to participate in the processes, other than the decision to prosecute, that lead to decisions that affect them, and young persons have special guarantees of their rights and freedoms,

      • (ii) victims should be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect for their dignity and privacy and should suffer the minimum degree of inconvenience as a result of their involvement with the youth criminal justice system,

      • (iii) victims should be provided with information about the proceedings and given an opportunity to participate and be heard, and

      • (iv) parents should be informed of measures or proceedings involving their children and encouraged to support them in addressing their offending behaviour.

  • Marginal note:Act to be liberally construed

    (2) This Act shall be liberally construed so as to ensure that young persons are dealt with in accordance with the principles set out in subsection (1).

  • 2002, c. 1, s. 3
  • 2012, c. 1, s. 168

PART 1Extrajudicial Measures

Principles and Objectives

Marginal note:Declaration of principles

 The following principles apply in this Part in addition to the principles set out in section 3:

  • (a) extrajudicial measures are often the most appropriate and effective way to address youth crime;

  • (b) extrajudicial measures allow for effective and timely interventions focused on correcting offending behaviour;

  • (c) extrajudicial measures are presumed to be adequate to hold a young person accountable for his or her offending behaviour if the young person has committed a non-violent offence and has not previously been found guilty of an offence; and

  • (d) extrajudicial measures should be used if they are adequate to hold a young person accountable for his or her offending behaviour and, if the use of extrajudicial measures is consistent with the principles set out in this section, nothing in this Act precludes their use in respect of a young person who

    • (i) has previously been dealt with by the use of extrajudicial measures, or

    • (ii) has previously been found guilty of an offence.

Marginal note:Certain offences — extrajudicial measures deemed adequate

  •  (1) Extrajudicial measures are presumed to be adequate to hold a young person accountable for a failure or refusal referred to in section 137 and for a failure referred to in section 496 of the Criminal Code unless

    • (a) the young person has a history of repetitive failures or refusals; or

    • (b) the young person’s failure or refusal caused harm, or a risk of harm, to the safety of the public.

  • Marginal note:Certain offences — various measures

    (2) In the cases referred to in paragraphs (1)(a) and (b),

    • (a) extrajudicial measures should be used if they are adequate to hold the young person accountable for the failure or refusal; and

    • (b) if the use of extrajudicial measures would not be adequate under paragraph (a), but issuing an appearance notice under section 496 (judicial referral hearing) of the Criminal Code or making an application for review of the youth sentence referred to in section 59(1) as an alternative to proceeding by charge would be adequate, then the applicable alternative should be used.

Marginal note:Objectives

 Extrajudicial measures should be designed to

  • (a) provide an effective and timely response to offending behaviour outside the bounds of judicial measures;

  • (b) encourage young persons to acknowledge and repair the harm caused to the victim and the community;

  • (c) encourage families of young persons — including extended families where appropriate — and the community to become involved in the design and implementation of those measures;

  • (d) provide an opportunity for victims to participate in decisions related to the measures selected and to receive reparation; and

  • (e) respect the rights and freedoms of young persons and be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence.


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