The Youth Justice System

If it weren't for the rules that govern people, the world would be a worse place than it is now. To exist in peace and harmony, people must follow rules and regulations. Criminal activity begins at a very young age, and while some children may understand that breaking the law is wrong, others are too young to understand this. Age therefore influences both violating the law and the punishment meted out to offenders. Depending on their age, offenders are either sentenced to prison or kept in correctional facilities. (Government of Canada, 2015). Most countries have a Youth Justice System that is relied upon to take the necessary action of establishing correctional measures on youths and minors. In this essay, the writer will talk about Canada’s Youth Justice System and its ability to deal with youth/ age offenders; by defining the age that should be subjected to sentencing, following up on the minors after custody and putting up programs that will help the youths and minors refrain from engaging in bad behavior. Apart from age, they are other factors that determine the action to be taken upon a youth lawbreaker such as; the rate of mental and social growth of the child, the rate of differentiating right from wrong and laws and Acts governing the Youth Justice System among others. The paper illustrates the efforts by the youth justice system in understanding the reason behind youth crime and the measures the system has put across to reduce the crime rate.

Thesis Statement: Youth justice system of Canada is important because it helps in reducing juvenile delinquency and ensures that teens indulging in crime get charged reasonably.

The Youth Justice System is a system that is concerned with the youths, just as its name suggests. The Youth Justice System of Canada has a legal foundation which forms its base, and it is known as the Youth Criminal Justice Act (Government of Canada, 2015). The latter Act has evolved with time from previous Acts which were not age-friendly, and they were reviewed with time to form the current Act. The system is concerned with establishing correctional measures for youths and minors who break the law in Canada. The federal government of Canada is responsible for the formulation of the youth justice system while those responsible for the administration of the system are the provinces and territories (Government of Canada, 2015). The role of the federal government is further broken down into various duties including; policy development, provision of funds for the youth justice programs and conducting more research about the system (Government of Canada, 2015). However, it should be clear that the government does not offer legal advice to the public concerning youth cases; it is the work of a lawyer to do the latter. Canada is divided into provinces and territories, and as seen earlier, they too play a significant role in the implementation of the Youth Justice System in their respective areas.

The Canada’s youth Justice system is governed by the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and it applies to law-breakers between the ages of 12 and 18 (Government of Canada, 2017). People have different levels of understanding, a notion that can be associated with age. As people grow older, they become aware of that which is right and wrong; and they can either engage in lawful or unlawful acts. It is the work of the government and various territories to ensure that criminals are punished according to their ages, mental status, and level of knowledge. The government of Canada has in the past century formulated three youth justice statutes which have been amended with time. The three statutes include; the Juvenile Delinquents Act (1908-1984), the Young Offenders Act (1984-2003) and the current Act which is the Youth Criminal Justice Act which has been in use since 2003 (Government of Canada, 2017). People change with time and with such changes come new types of crimes. Therefore, it is important to come up with new regulations that cater for the new crimes. The federal government of Canada had to come up with the current Act as a result of the changing times (Government of Canada, 2015). The Act would help with issues such as recurrent criminal offenders, interests of victims, ensure fairness and overuse of courts among other matters (Government of Canada, 2017).

The system had to be amended to be able to cope with the age of offenders. It would be unfair to charge a seven year old minor the same as a 14-year-old teenager. The age gap is wide, and so is the capability to differentiate right from wrong. A 14-year-old teenager is better placed to differentiate right from wrong and understand the consequences of the same whereas it would be difficult for a seven-year-old child to do the same. For the federal government of Canada to provide fair judgment in the two scenarios mentioned above, they had to amend the Juvenile Delinquents Act to the Youth Criminal Justice Act (1984) (Doob and Cesaroni, 2014). With the amendment mentioned in the latter statement, the age of those who could be taken to correctional institutions was revised from 7 to 12 years. The Juvenile Delinquents Act had been adopted to save children from bad behavior emanating from the effects of urbanization and industrialization in the nineteenth century (Leon, 1977). Remember it is during the nineteenth century that the world experienced high rates of urbanization, and new crimes came along with this development.

The discussion in the two previous paragraphs is proof that the Canadian Youth Justice System has made efforts in ensuring that the age of offenders is considered while administering punishment to law offenders under the age of 18 years. The federal government of Canada realized that children under the age of 11 were still guided by their parents and in most cases were not responsible for their actions (Carrington, 2001). These children have not also developed fully to know that one should be responsible for their wrongdoings. The federal government of Canada therefore, thought it would be unfair to punish such minors and furthermore, the minors could not comprehend the reason for punishment. Due to the latter fact, if a minor is punished by being put in correctional institutions, they would leave custody and repeat the same crimes. The youth justice system is tasked with ensuring that these children are enrolled in social programs whereby they are taught about the risks of indulging in crime (Government of Canada, 2017). This is because they are not aware of the reason behind the punishment or what the punishment is supposed to yield in their lives.

Before the Juvenile Delinquents Act was enacted in 1908, all criminals were sentenced the same and subjected to similar punishments despite their age. Children and adults were housed in the same prisons, and their criminal charges were heard in the same courts. As seen earlier, this led to unfair judgment and also the unfair treatment of the youths and minors. The Canadian Youth Justice System was put in place to deal with the youths and minors committing a crime. However, the primary task of the system is to prevent such crime by looking into the factors that lead the minor into engaging in offensive behavior (Hoge, nd). If the factors leading the youth into committing crime are dealt with, then there would be few juvenile cases in countries like Canada (Government of Canada, 2015). The Youth Justice System is also tasked with habilitating the young people who have already committed crimes and found themselves in correctional centers (Hoge, nd). Most young people find themselves in same situations of crime even after punishment because, after their release, no one follows them up. The youth justice system in Canada has been ensuring that the young people are subjected to the right and meaningful punishment so that they may refrain from engaging in the same criminal activities (Hoge, nd).

The youth justice system in Canada realized that the youths and young children were indulging in criminal activities due to their level of maturity (Allen and Superle, 2014). One’s level of maturity highly determines their behavior. The level of maturity of an adult aged 25 years and above cannot be compared to that of a youth age between 12 and 17 years. An adult will reason before committing a crime but a child would not. Therefore, the youth justice system has concentrated on the issue of youth crime, and it has helped reduce the crime rate among the youths in Canada (Government of Canada, 2015). In 2014, the crime rate among the youths in Canada was 4.3% (4322 per 100,000 of the youth population were being reported by the police to have committed a criminal offense) (Allen and Superle, 2014). However, this was not the case in the previous years. The crime rate among the youths was higher in 2006 than it was in 2014 as the rate had reduced by 42% (Allen and Superle, 2014). It is important to note that the rate started reducing after the induction of the Youth Criminal Justice Act in 2003. The Youth Justice System has ensured that the youths and minors are getting subjected to other forms of punishment rather than being kept in custody. According to Allen and Superle (2014), the number of youths who have been committing crime and earning a sentence to custody has reduced; thanks to the youth justice system.

The rate of mental growth of a person highly affects the ability of that person to understand the rules and regulations governing him/her (Pitts, 2009). People develop differently, and so do their mental abilities. The process of understanding the law and the consequences of breaking the same is different in children and the youths (Pitts, 2009). The Youth Criminal Justice Act states that a child aged between 12 to 17 years can be held responsible for their crimes and can, therefore, be charged under the court of law. However, it is important to note that at the age of 12, one cannot be in a position to fully understand the law and its consequences. The latter is because the child is still young and under the care and guidance of the parents. However, the current act still insists that the children are to be held responsible for their crimes and it is at this point that the youth justice system steps in. The system ensures that there are programs that indulge such children and enlighten them on law and the consequences of breaking it; thus reducing youth crime in Canada (Government of Canada, 2015).

People indulge in criminal activities due to the social circumstances they find themselves in. According to Stevens, Hartnagel, Odynak, and Brazil (2013), the youths find themselves committing crime as a way of expressing the difficulties they encounter while transitioning from childhood to adolescence. Sometimes, it is hard for the teenagers to be heard by their parents and this makes it difficult for them to confide in the adults in their lives. The only other options they got are their teenage friends to share with thus they end up committing crimes (Stevens et al., 2013). The youth justice system in Canada realized the above issue, and they came up with programs to help the adolescents, thus reducing the crime rate among the youths (Allen and Superle, 2014). Once the energy is diverted somewhere else apart from crime, the adolescents become responsible people, and they grow to refrain from criminal activities even in their adult life. People aged between 12 and 17 years acquire social roles and physical material that subject them to criminal behavior (Stevens’ et al., 2013).

In conclusion, people start to make mistakes from a very tender age, and if they are not managed at this early age, this habit continues into adulthood. At a tender age, the child cannot differentiate right from wrong and therefore, cannot be held responsible for the crimes they commit. Children aged between 0 to 11 years are not held responsible for the crimes they commit in Canada. These children are considered to be minors whose mental capacity does not allow for punishment. There are various Acts that govern the system tasked with ensuring the youths aged between 12 to 17 years are treated appropriately after committing criminal offenses in Canada. The current Act is known as the Youth Justice Criminal Act which was introduced in 2003, and it is in this act upon which the foundation of the Youth Justice System is built. The youth justice system ensures that the youths are sentenced appropriately according to their ages. It also ensures that those sentenced to custody receive the right education after having served a sentence, to prevent reoccurrence of crime. The system has also led to the reduction of the crime rate among the youth in Canada by coming up with programs that keep the young from criminal behavior (Government of Canada, 2015). Age has been the main consideration for the success of the system. The youths are no longer charged in the same courts as adult offenders, and they also receive different forms of punishment from those of adults.


Allen, M, K and Superle, T. 2014. Youth crime in Canada, 2014. Statistics Canada. Retrieved from

Carrington, P. J. (2001). Population Aging and Crime in Canada. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 331-356.

Doob, A. N., & Cesaroni, C. (2014). Responding to Youth Crime in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Hoge, R, D. nd. Introduction of the Canadian juvenile justice system. Retrieved from

Leon, J, S. (1977). The development of Canadian Juvenile Justice: A background for reform. The Osgoode Hall Law Journal, 15 (1), 71- 106

Pitts, J. (2009). Reluctant Gangsters: The Changing Face of Youth Crime. The British Journal of Criminology, 49 (4), 597–599.

Stevens, G., Hartnagel, T., Odynak, D and Brazil, J. Demographic trends and crime in the province of Alberta. International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies, 2013 (1), 24-41

The Government of Canada. 27th April, 2015. The Youth Justice System. Retrieved from

The Government of Canada. 8th August, 2017. The Youth Criminal Justice Act summary and background. Retrieved from

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