In Canada, there is something called the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), which was created in order to protect young persons who are accused or convicted of crimes by keeping their identity confidential. Due to a reduced capacity compared to their adult counterparts, young offenders are treated differently and are dealt with in a separate youth court. When a young offender appears in court, a publication ban is attached to the file, meaning that the media is unable to publish any information that could identify the individual.
Typically, when an adult person is convicted of an offence, their record is permanent. For young offenders, however, criminal records are restricted and are only available during a certain access period. During the access period, a criminal record check will bring up the information of the offence. If, during this period, the young offender turns 18 and is convicted of another offence, the youth record will be converted into an adult record. If the young offender does not reoffend during this period, the record will be sealed and will not show up on a criminal record check. The access period duration will depend on the severity of the offence and the sentence imposed. It is important to note that, in the case of very serious charges, a youth record can be kept indefinitely. After the access period has expired, the TCJA provides strong protections against disclosure of youth criminal records. In fact, it is an offence for anyone (other than law enforcement) to disclose to anyone outside of law enforcement anything about the existence of a past youth criminal record unless the youth record has become part of an adult criminal record for the reasons already indicated. As such, a person with a dated youth record and no adult convictions is entitled to say they have no criminal record.
Except in very rare circumstances, other countries do not typically have access to youth records. However, a criminal record of any kind may prevent travel to another country. Canada’s laws only apply within our borders, and it is up to the discretion of the country you are seeking to enter whether they allow entry.
A youth record may also impact a person’s employment prospects. Except for a government job, the police will not disclose a youth record to any employer. However, an employer may ask a potential employee to perform a criminal record check. You are allowed to refuse, but this may hinder your ability to secure employment.
Ron Ellis is a criminal defence lawyer based in London, Ontario and practices criminal defence law all over Southwestern Ontario, including Grand Bend, Sarnia, Woodstock and Kitchener.