This post is for those of you who work with teens in your libraries and want to learn more about the law as it relates to kids, both those in conflict with the law and more generally in terms of their unique legal rights and responsibilities, such as their right to legally change their name or to get married.
First, we’ll focus on youth and criminal law, sharing some background information on the Youth Criminal Justice Act as a sort of primer to help you get the most out of this upcoming training opportunity:
When: September 9th at 10:00 am – 12:00 pm PST
Who: Sandra Couture with Justice Canada
How: Via Zoom; includes time for Q & A period
LawMatters and Clicklaw have partnered to support this session presented by the Department of Justice Canada and hosted by Courthouse Libraries BC. It was designed for front line service providers, public librarians and legal advocates to help them better understand the legislative changes, the objectives behind them, and the overall principles of the act.
We’ll also highlight online resources and services you can share with your teen patrons to help them find answers to questions they have about the law, their rights, and/or sources of available support in the community.
Youth and Criminal Law
The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) is Canada’s federal legislation governing how criminal laws are applied to kids aged 12 – 17. Children under the age of 12 cannot be criminally charged and once a child turns 18 they are charged as an adult; the YCJA applies to the kids in between.
The YCJA initially came into effect in 2003, replacing the preceding Young Offenders Act. The goal was to ensure a fairer, more effective system and shift away from the incarceration of youth towards prevention, rehabilitation, and reintegration. The Act was significantly amended in 2012, and just now again in 2019. These recent changes took effect on December 18th, 2019.
To help explain the changes and increase understanding among professionals working with teens, the Department of Justice Canada developed training with the purpose of providing insight into the YCJA and its guiding principles. They’ve also produced a two-page handout highlighting the key changes:
There are several sources of online information that more fully explain the background and intent of this legislation, and also define some of the terms and language you will hear during the webinar, such as “administration of justice offenses or ‘AOJO’. Please note that some of the linked resources are provided more as contextual information and have not yet been updated to reflect the 2019 changes. Besides each link, you will see the date of last review (where such a date has been provided by the source).
- The Law Students Legal Advice Program (LSLAP) Manual Chapter 2: Youth Justice: provides an overview of the relevant federal and provincial legislation; includes a glossary of terms. (last reviewed July 2020)
Justice Education Society of BC:
- Explore the YCJA: contains plain language content structured for youth as well as teachers and other professionals to help increase understanding of the law.
- Legal Help Guide: Youth and Crime: explains the basics and purpose of the YCJA and Youth Court, and answers some common questions. (last reviewed Nov 2018)
West Coast Prison Justice:
- Youth in Custody booklet explains the rights of youth in custody in BC. (December 2018)
People’s Law School:
- Young people and criminal Law & Youth Justice Court Trials Dial-A-Law scripts provide a broad overview of these topics and links to sources of help. (last reviewed Aug 2017)
- Youth Justice: Explains the basics of the youth justice system in BC: what you can expect, how the process works, the rights of youth victims and offenders, as well as services available for youth, their family members, and friends.
- Youth Services: links to legal resources, court resources, & support services.
Government of Canada Department of Justice:
- The Youth Criminal Justice Act Summary and Background (Last reviewed August 2017)
- Overview of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (last reviewed March 2015)
Legal Rights and Services for Youth
Below are some free sources of information on the legal rights of children and youth and a few options for legal support services. It is not an exhaustive list by any means but rather a starting point.
Society for Children and Youth BC:
- Child & Youth Legal Centre: Drop-in legal clinics are currently suspended, but phone or video appointments are available; FAQ for youth and adults on how to access services, all of which are free for children and youth.
- SCY Publications: A range of resources for anyone curious to learn more about the rights of children and youth; available in multiple languages and formats.
Justice Education Society of BC:
- Legal Rights for Youth in BC explains age-based rights and laws for children and youth. Includes a summary table where you can see at a glance what rights correspond to what age, as well as plain language content explaining a range of topics, such as medical decisions, housing & renting rights, driving, school, family, etc.
People’s Law School:
- Understanding Children’s Rights Dial-a-Law script includes some basics on children’s rights and answers a few common questions. (last reviewed July 2018).
Clicklaw Common Questions:
- I’m under 18 and in trouble with the law. What are my rights?
- Can they search my school locker without my consent?
- Doesn’t a youth record go away after a few years?
Each response includes a list of free online sources that can help answer each question and a list of available support services. You can use the Clicklaw Helpmap to find out if there is someone in your community. (all last reviewed Sept 2018)
Urban Native Youth Association:
- Mediation Program supports Indigenous Youth aged 13 – 18 in resolving conflicts in their lives, which can be crucial in avoiding legal issues.
Egale: Ontario-based organization supporting LGBTQI2S people and communities.
- Legal Advocacy: learn about the Canada-wide advocacy work they do.
- Resources: Use the filters to find youth specific and/or legally focused content.
If you have any questions, suggestions or feedback, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.