Youth Criminal Justice + Access to Justice

If one is under the age of 18 in Canada and charged with a criminal offence, one is almost certainly charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA). As someone accused of a YCJA offence, one is subject to additional entitlements not afforded under the Criminal Code of Canada. The pivotal features and considerations enshrined in the YCJA are summarized as follows:

i) Society has a responsibility to address the developmental challenges and needs of young persons.

ii) Communities and families should work in partnership with others to prevent youth crime by addressing its underlying causes, responding to the needs of young persons and providing guidance and support.

iii) Accurate information about youth crime, the youth justice system and effective measures should be publicly available.

iv) Young persons have special guarantees of their rights and freedoms, including those set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

v) The youth justice system should take into account the interests of victims and ensure accountability through meaningful consequences, rehabilitation and reintegration.

vi) The youth justice system should reserve its most serious interventions for the most serious crimes and reduce the over-reliance on incarceration.

In Canada, our Criminal justice system does not treat youths in the same way as adults. There are circumstances in which the Crown Prosecutor could proceed with an adult charge on a youth but those circumstances are the exception and not the rule.

Of particular importance to those charged under the YCJA is that of Section 25 and its provision of ones constitutional right to counsel. Young persons have a right to retain and instruct counsel, just as adults do. "Counsel" does not mean a counsellor (as in a clinical psychologist) or councillor (as in a politician), it is the Canadian way of referring to someone licensed to practice law, i.e., a lawyer. A lawyer in Ontario is both a Barrister (i.e., an orator, litigator, or someone who physically appears in Court frequently) and a Solicitor (i.e., a desk-based practitioner who appears in Court less frequently, but deals with very important transactional/corporate/business/real estate areas of the Law). What determines ones identity as to Barrister or Solicitor is largely dependent on which areas of law one practices (and both are not mutually exclusive). The lawyer one hires for representation on a YCJA matter, should be one with experience in criminal law and particularly in youth matters.

Similar to adults, young persons have the option of retaining (i.e., hiring) a lawyer privately or via a legal aid certificate. If the young person cannot afford to retain a lawyer privately, they must then meet the eligibility requirements of having their matter paid for by the government via a legal aid certificate. If the young person is eligible for legal aid, they are granted a certificate which stipulates that the government will pay their legal fees at prescribed rates. It is important to note that some lawyers accept legal aid certificated clients, and others do not. The reason for this is that lawyers paid by legal aid certificate often have unacceptable limits placed on the hours they can spend on their cases and disbursements.

Mr. Tekenos-Levy accepts legal aid certificates for all youth matters.

If a young person comes to find that legal aid is not an option due to ineligibility, please do call Mr. Tekenos-Levy. Mr. Tekenos-Levy will bring a Section 25 YCJA application asking the judge to order that the legal fees of the young person be paid. Whether the application is granted depends on a number of factors and Mr. Tekenos-Levy can help apprise the Court in that regard. If you are a young person who has been denied legal aid, please do call 613-893-5673 to request a consultation.

Jordan Tekenos-Levy