Lesson 5: Youth Criminal Justice Act – Key Elements


Activity 1: Legal Rights of Youth

Assign Handout 1: Legal Rights of Youth for reading at home.  Discuss the highlights with your students and give them Handout 2: Legal Rights of Youth Scenario to work on. Read the scenario to the class. Discuss the options for Jude and ask your students to indicate which they think is correct and why?

See Answer Key for Handout 2 in the Assessment section.

Summarize the following for your students:

  • Young persons, particularly those who are inexperienced with the law, often do not understand their rights or are too intimidated by the process to use them
  • Young people have the same rights and freedoms all Canadians are guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  • If the police arrest anyone, they have to tell him or her why
  • Everyone who is arrested or held by police has the right to get prompt legal advice
  • Youth have the right to remain silent. If the police ask questions, a person does not have to answer them
  • Generally, youth have to tell the police their name and address when stopped or detained
  • A young person, just like anyone else, has the right to have a lawyer present while he or she makes any statement to the police and is entitled to this whether or not he or she has committed a crime
  • As a youth, Jude also has the right to have a parent, guardian or adult caregiver with him at all times when the police question him
  • Police need to tell Jude he has these rights
  • If the police didn’t tell Jude about his rights, anything Jude said to police would not be accepted by a court

Note: Lesson 8: Legal Rights for Youth will cover in more depth some other types of scenarios that youth may find happening to them.

Finish this activity by having your students complete Handout 3: Legal Rights of Youth - Quiz.

See Answer Key for Handout 3 in the Assessment section.

Activity 2: Extrajudicial Measures and Sanctions

Give students Handout 4: Extrajudicial Measures and Sanctions to read for homework.  Go over the highlights and then have your students apply their knowledge in Handout 5: Police Discretion, Crown Diversion and Court Options.

Police Discretion, Crown Diversion, and Court Options: Teacher Notes

Teachers may find that when discussing appropriate sentences for crimes students tend to be very harsh. Teachers will need to spend time discussing with students that society's goal is to create a safe and harmonious environment for all. Students will need reminders such as, "would that punishment benefit society in the long term?" when they suggest a very harsh punishment. A discussion may be needed on life in prison and how that experience can often "harden" individuals and how it might make them less able to fit back into society as productive, caring, and law-abiding citizens.

Depending on the circumstances of the crime and the youth's background the young offender may be diverted away from the formal court process. Police diversion may occur if the youth has not been in trouble with the law before. If the best interests of the youth and society can be served with a warning, a discussion with the parents or a referral to a community program then that is the action that the police might take. If not, the police will investigate the incident and make a report to Crown counsel.

Crown counsel may divert the young offender if it is a first offence and if the offender shows remorse. A letter may be sent to the parents or Crown counsel may recommend extra-judicial measures in the community. The accused will be interviewed by a youth court worker who will make recommendations to Crown counsel as to what measures should be taken, such as community work hours, apology to the victim, restitution, compensation or counselling for the accused. If the young offender does not complete these conditions s/he may then be taken to court. Any statement of guilt made by the accused in these cases cannot be used in the court proceedings. In other cases, particularly for more serious or for repeat offences, going to court remains the only option. Discuss with the class what makes one crime more serious than another (where it is a repeat offence or where serious injury resulted or was threatened).

In this activity students will get an opportunity to look at case snapshots and determine whether the case is likely to be diverted by the police, diverted by the Crown or more likely to go to court. Ask the students to keep the above factors in mind when answering the questions.

If time permits have your students work in groups on more case studies on Handout 6: Working with Case Studies and the YCJA.  They will present their solutions to the class. This activity is designed as a summary activity where students have the opportunity to pull together everything they have learned:

  • Students will read case studies and determine whether police diversion,
  • Crown diversion, or court proceedings are most likely
  • Students will also determine what alternative measures might be used or what the sentence would be and what conditions of probation would be suitable
  • Students would also assume the role of the victim and write a victim impact statement to present to the class. Have them consider whether or not restitution or compensation to the victim is possible or appropriate

Review the key points of youth legislation as noted below with the students:

  • Whether the young offender has committed a serious crime
  • Whether the youth is a repeat offender
  • The provisions for sentencing youth who have committed crimes
  • The involvement of the community, parents and victims
  • The treatment of youth crime in ways that fit the seriousness of the crime and the  youth's level of maturity
  • Diversion by the police or by Crown counsel
  • Alternative measures that provide for the young offender to become voluntarily involved in compensation, restitution, community service, drug and alcohol counselling, anger management programs, curfews, not being allowed to associate with certain people, attending school or job training

See Answer Key to Handout 7 in the Assessment section.