Lesson 4: Youth Criminal Justice Act Introduction


Activity 1: Youth Crime in Canada

Have your students complete Handout 1: Crime Quiz – How much do you know? by working in pairs or small groups. Compare the students’ answers with the answer sheet to stimulate discussion. Then give the students Handout 2: Statistics on Youth Crime to finish off the activity.

See Answer Key for Handout 1 in the Assessment section.

Activity 2: Introduction to Youth Criminal Justice Act


A few weeks prior to starting this lesson have your students research the media for a variety of current cases involving youth. Students should collect news articles for about a month prior to introducing the YCJA. They can look at the various events portrayed in the articles and discuss them. Among the points of discussion would be the facts in the case (who, where, why, what, when and how) and whether or not there is enough evidence to proceed to trial. Students could also determine what offence the person would be charged with, how the Crown might proceed and what would be a viable defence. Students could work in pairs or in groups to collect articles and to summarize them.  They could present their information in a short current events session each week.


Ask the group if anyone has ever heard about the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA). If someone has, let him or her tell the group what they know about it. If no one has heard about it, ask what they think it might be about. Explain they are going to learn more about it and ask them to suggest why it is important for youth to know what the law says.

Go over Topic 2 in the content section which includes why we have youth legislation, its principles and some details on its application. Compare these with the solutions your students raised with regard to their news articles. If you do not want to do the pre-activity you can use one of the following scenarios and the questions below it to start a discussion with your students.  Have them identify the who, where, why, what, when and how about the story and whether or not there is enough evidence to proceed to trial. They could also decide what offence the youth would be charged with, how the Crown might proceed and what would be a viable defence.

Scenario 1: Joy Riding

Jackie is 12 years old. One day, she and her friend Barb, who is also 12, were walking home from school when they saw a car parked at the side of the road. They noticed the keys were in the ignition. They decided to take the car for a joy ride down by the beach because they knew other kids their age would be there and they wanted to impress them. On the way to the beach, however, a police car stopped them because they were speeding. Their joy ride was over.

  1. Do you think these young people broke the law? How?
  2. Do you think they are responsible for their actions, or that their parents should be? Why or why not?
  3. How would the owners feel when they found out the car was stolen?
  4. What should happen to the youth? What would you do? Punish them? Help them? How? Have them repair the harm they did? How?
  5. Do you think their parents should deal with the incident rather than the courts?

Write the different responses on the board. Inform the youth that joy riding is covered under Section 335 (1) of the Criminal Code:

Everyone who, without the consent of the owner, takes a motor vehicle or vessel with intent to drive, use, navigate or operate it or cause it to be driven, used, navigated or operated is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Scenario 2: Theft from Auto

Peter, 17, is in Grade 12. He has an 11-year-old brother, Jimmy. One of Peter’s friends at school, Jack, is 18. One evening, Peter went over to Jack’s house. He took Jimmy with him. Jack suggested they go out. Walking down the street, they saw a car with a lot of things in it. No one was around. Peter and Jack decided to break into the car. Jimmy helped them. Someone saw them and called the police. All three boys were caught. Each of the boys was treated differently. A police officer took Jimmy home to his parents and explained what had happened. Jack and Peter were taken to the police station. The police told Jack that he would have to go to adult court. They told Peter that he might have to go to youth court. The police said that Peter would have a chance to talk to a youth probation officer first, to find out why he got into trouble. Jack said, "That’s not fair. All three of us did the same thing. We should be treated the same."

Instead of having an oral discussion you could ask your students to write about the incident. Have them pretend they are one of the boys (Jack , Peter or Jimmy) and write in the boy’s journal as if they were that boy. They should imagine the boy’s point of view and then:

  • Write about what he did and why he did it
  • Write about how he felt
  • Write what the boy thinks about what happened to him
  • Write what the boy thinks about what happened to the others
  • Write about how the owner of the car felt and why

When discussing this scenario you can ask students to provide reasons as to why they think the boys were treated differently.  Compare it to a case of disciplining a 5 year old and a 12 year old for hitting a classmate. The differences in the maturity of the children require different responses.

Explain to the students that the Canadian legal system recognizes that youth crime and adult crime need to be dealt with differently, too, because we acknowledge that maturity aids us in making responsible choices and foreseeing consequences. Summarize this activity with the following points:

  • The YCJA stresses respect for the law and for others, responsibility for your actions and fairness for everyone, including the victim. Parents, victims and the community are encouraged to take part. Victims can take part by submitting a victim impact statement, which is their right under the Victims of Crime YCJA
  • The YCJA says young people between the ages of 12 and 17 are responsible for their actions. However, penalties are not as harsh as for an adult who commits the same offence. Youth are treated differently under the law because of their lack of maturity in understanding and appreciating the consequences of their actions
  • It is through (a) preventing crime, (b) having consequences that fit the crime, and (c) helping offenders stop their criminal behaviour that society is being protected over the long term
  • The YCJA says consequences should reinforce respect for the values of society and help repair any harm done to victims. The judge will think about the seriousness of the crime. This is one of the things to consider before deciding what sentence to give the young person. For a violent or serious crime, a young person may go to jail. For less serious crimes, like stealing, there are other choices. The sentence should help prevent future crimes as well as pay back, in some way, for the harm the young person did
  • The YCJA emphasizes helping young people with their problems

Activity 3: Overview of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA)

Give your students Handout 3: Overview of the Youth Criminal Justice Act to read for homework prior to doing this activity.  Discuss the information and highlight some of the most important aspects.  Give the students Handout 4: What’s It All About? Youth Justice. They can use Handout 3 to help them answer the true and false questions about the YCJA. See Answer Key for Handout 3 in the Assessment section.

Once your students have some knowledge of the divide them into groups and assign a case study to each group from Handout 5: Working with Case Studies and the YCJA. This activity is designed as a summary activity where students have the opportunity to pull together everything they have learned about the YCJA.

  • 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. Have each group present their case to the class

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

Activity 4: The Law Project and Youth - Optional

Have your student create a video showing their point of view on the YCJA.  Use the website www.LawProject.ca on the topic of Youth. Students will learn about how effective the justice system is in its treatment of young offenders and how much emphasize should be placed on the age and circumstances of youth when they commit criminal offences. 

Students will watch a video and see different points of view on what happens when a young girl steals from a store and is arrested. They will also be able to see a timeline which covers the history of young offender legislation in Canada.  As students work through the materials on this website they can collect video segments and pictures which they can then use to create a video which shows their point of view.  Teacher resources are also available on this site.

Activity 5: Legal Eagle Youth Justice Game

Use the game to preview and review the legal concepts that appear in this lesson. The game can be played on the first day and throughout the lessons.

Materials Needed

  • Game Circle – Handout 6: Legal Eagle Youth Justice Game Circle
  • Questions – Handout 7: Legal Eagle Youth Justice Game Questions
  • Answer Keys for teacher – see Assessment section.
  • Appoint a scorekeeper who can write the results on the board
  • One die


  1. Create a light-hearted, “fun” atmosphere for the game, so that the students are not intimidated by the information. Encourage them to guess if they are not sure of an answer. Do this especially when you first play the game. Give hints as well.
  2. Explain that you will be playing this game numerous times and they will be able to see how the game gets easier as they become familiar with the information. As the participants learn more about the law, the questions will be easier to answer.
  3. Accumulate the scores of each team until the end of the unit when a winner may be declared.
  4. Play the game and keep a record of the scores.

Introducing the Game

The first time you play the game, start with the true or false questions. The teams get to answer a question only when the dice lands on the "true or false" position on the game sheet. If they land on one of the other positions, they pass. Explain that as they become more familiar with the subject of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, they can play the other positions as well.

Set Up for the Game

  1. Divide the group into at least two teams and ask each group to come up with a name that has some legal connection. That will be their team name for the game.
  2. Make an overhead of the game circle or project the electronic copy of it on the wall of the classroom.
  3. Appoint a scorekeeper (or act as scorekeeper yourself).
  4. Team 1 chooses one of their members to come forward and throw the die for the group. The number on the die corresponds to the category of question on the game circle.
  5. The teacher asks the Team 1 player a question from that category. (There are three categories that are repeated twice on the game circle.) Students in the group will brainstorm together to come up with their answer. If a time limit is set the game will move more quickly and be more exciting. Thirty seconds to one minute to answer is suggested.
  6. If the answer is correct, the scorekeeper will record the point. If the answer is incorrect, the team following could try to answer to get the point. This focuses the attention of at least two groups to come up with an answer to the question.
  7. You are the final judge as to whether a player is awarded full points. For those answers that are not “yes/no” or “true/false” you have the right to award half points. Encourage students to take a guess if they are not sure of the answer. Do this especially when you first play the game.
  8. The score from each session is accumulated throughout the lessons to determine a winner at the end.
  9. After the game, deal with the questions that puzzled the students.
  10. Encourage the players by challenging them to get a higher score the next time they play.

Review the rules of play with the youth

  • On your turn, roll the die and move it to the category you rolled
  • Your teacher will ask you a question from the category you rolled
  • If your team answers the first question correctly, continue your turn by rolling the dice again and taking another turn. If you don’t know the answer, take a guess. Half points are awarded for smart guesses
  • If you answer incorrectly, the play passes to another team. Your teacher then asks the question

The game circle follows on the next page. A copy of the questions and answers can be found in the Assessment section. The questions categories are:

  • It’s the Law for Youth-Questions 1-10
  • True or False-Questions 11-31
  • Youth Crime Facts-Questions 32-42