How Has The Youth Justice System Changed?

There have been three different pieces of youth legislation in Canadian history:

  • the Juvenile Delinquents Act
  • the Young Offenders Act; and
  • the Youth Criminal Justice Act (current legislation)

In 2012, numerous amendments were made to the YCJA. For example, since the amendments, a young person under the age of 18 at the time of sentencing must be placed in a youth detention centre.

Also of note, the provisions of the YCJA relating to pre-trial detention (where a young person is in custody awaiting resolution of their matter) were amended with the aim of ensuring that youth be released and managed in the community where possible. The amendments created a new test for bail (different from the grounds of detention which are assessed for in adult matters at a bail hearing). Since 2012, a young person may be detained where:

  • the youth has been charged with a serious offence (an offence for which an adult would be liable to imprisonment for five years or more) or has a history of either outstanding charges or findings of guilt;
  • one of the following grounds exists:
    • there is a substantial likelihood that, if released, the youth will not appear in court when required;
    • detention is necessary for public protection, having regard to the circumstances, including whether there is a substantial likelihood that the young person will, if released, commit a serious offence; or
    • if the youth has been charged with a serious offence and neither (i) nor (ii) applies (i.e., detention is not necessary to ensure that the youth appears in court or to protect the public), but there are exceptional circumstances that justify detention as necessary to maintain confidence in the administration of justice; and
  • releasing the youth with conditions would not be sufficient to address the court's concern about releasing the youth.


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