PURPOSE AND PRINCIPLES
The Declaration of Principles in the Act outlines the principles and key goals of this law for young people. The principles in the YCJA are meant to assist judges, lawyers, police and others interpret the law when applying it to youth. The principles reflect Parliament’s interpretation of how Canadian society desires to respond to youth crime through its youth criminal justice system.
The Declaration of Principles has four main sections:
The first section of the Declaration says that the youth criminal justice system is meant to:
- prevent crime by looking at the underlying or basic reasons for the behaviour;
- rehabilitate youth and reintegrate or bring them back into society;
- ensure that youth receive meaningful consequences for breaking the law.
The second section of the Declaration says that the criminal justice system for youth has to be separate from the adult system and focus on:
- rehabilitation and reintegration;
- fair and proportionate accountability consistent with young persons’ greater dependence and reduced level of maturity; this means that young persons’ accountability for their crimes needs to be in line with or fairly balanced with the fact that they are not as mature as adults;
- enhanced procedural protection in the youth justice process to ensure that young persons are treated fairly and that their rights are protected;
- timely responses that reinforce the connection between the offence and the consequence;
- promptness and speed in the system’s response, given young persons’ perception of time.
The third section of the Declaration of Principle says that within the limits of fair and proportionate accountability, responses by the system to youth crime should:
- reinforce respect for society’s values;
- encourage them to repair the harm done to victims and the community;
- be meaningful to the young person, taking into account his or her needs and level of development, and where it is appropriate, involve the parents, other family members and other agencies in the young person’s rehabilitation and reintegration;
- respect gender, ethnic, cultural and language differences and respond to the needs of Aboriginal young persons and of young persons with special requirements.
And finally, the fourth section of the Declaration says that special factors apply to proceedings against youth. These special factors include: