It is possible for a teenager to be convicted of a criminal offence. The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) recognizes that criminal responsibility should not be applied to young people in the same way as adults, meaning criminal proceedings involving youths can differ greatly from ones involving adults. 

It’s not unusual for youth and teenagers to make mistakes or fail to anticipate the consequences of their actions. That is why Canadian criminal law  considers minors differently than adults. Youth accused of committing crimes in British Columbia  are judged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), even if they turn 18 prior to sentencing. In some cases, though, a judge may sentence a teenager as an adult for more serious offences, or if there are other contributing factors. Youth records in BC are handled differently than an adult criminal record. 

What is the Youth Criminal Justice Act?

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The philosophy behind the YCJA is an understanding that youth have a diminished moral blameworthiness or culpability and that Canadian criminal law should provide an opportunity for a young person to become a contributing member of their community. It emphasizes parental involvement in monitoring the actions of teenagers and encourages communities to assist in rehabilitating young people through programs or services focused on the needs of struggling teens.

Privacy is a critical component of the YCJA. It can make it easier for teenagers to keep details of their past crimes private as adults and keep their identities or other identifying information out of the news. The Act prohibits the publication of identifying details of youth offenders and their involvement with the British Columbia youth court system and restricts access to youth records.

The goals of the YCJA are:

  • Reduce youth crimes by examining the reasons teens commit crimes
  • Establish viable methods of helping at-risk youth change their behaviors to reduce crimes
  • Rehabilitate young people and help them become law-abiding members of society
  • Protect the public at large by imposing meaningful consequences on teen offenders

One of the most important aspects of the YCJA is the privacy of youth records and the protection of the privacy of young people convicted of less serious offences. Permitting teens a legal vehicle to learn from criminal mistakes and change for the better is critical to reducing recidivism.

What is a Youth Criminal Record?

Youth records contain information created and kept by the YCJA, including investigating youth criminal offences prosecutable under YCJA jurisdiction. The youth record contains specific personal information about teen offenders, including:

  • Name and birthdate
  • Details about the arrest and criminal charge(s)
  • Any summary conviction offence
  • The sentence imposed for the charge or the type of charge the teen was indicted for

The youth record may also contain pertinent information provided by family, friends, the school, coaches, neighbors, and victims of the crime.

Who Has Access to Youth Criminal Records in Canada?

The privacy of youth criminal offenders is one of the main differences between the Canadian youth justice system and the adult one. Names and personal information are more strictly regulated for youth than adults, and access to youth records is restricted to:

  • The young person themselves and their lawyers, parents, and any party specifically authorized by the court
  • Judges, review boards, and juvenile courts
  • The police officer or officers who investigated the case or made the arrest
  • Crown prosecutors
  • The director of the youth correctional facility where the minor serves their sentence
  • Parties involved in a youth justice conference
  • The victim or affected parties of the crime
  • Any party conducting an official youth worker background check

How Long Does a Youth Record Last in Canada?

The length of time before a youth record is expunged depends on the offence they were convicted of, the sentence they were given, and whether the youth commits another criminal offence while their record is still open. The open period is also referred to as the access period. Once it’s complete, the records are destroyed or sealed.

If, however, the offender commits another crime while the record is open and they are over age 18, then the youth record becomes part of their adult record and visible to anyone who has access to that  adult criminal record.

Will a Youth Criminal Record in Canada Prohibit Me From Traveling Abroad?

Other countries have access to Canadian youth records only under extremely rare circumstances, such as those governed by international agreements for cooperating in criminal investigations. If another country obtains information about a Canadian youth offender, it may create a record of its own for that individual.

A criminal record may bar your entry into another country, even for minor offences. Canadian laws do not apply outside of its borders, so any person seeking entry into another country may only do so in accordance with that country’s laws. Some countries may prohibit entry to anyone with a criminal record.

Will a Youth Criminal Record Keep Me From Getting a Job?

Your job options may be limited if you have a youth record. If you plan to apply for a government job as an adult, the police might be required to provide information about your youth criminal record. However, they are not permitted to share youth record information with private employers.

An employer may ask about a person’s criminal past or require a criminal record check as a condition of hire. You have the right to refuse any criminal records check by an employer, but bear in mind this may jeopardize your eligibility as a candidate for the job. Saying that, if a youth successfully went through the access period without issue, a criminal records check as an adult will not include any youth convictions.

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