If you have involvement in Canada’s Youth Justice System, you may want to learn more about what this means. In this info page you can learn what a youth record is, who has access to it and what information they have, criminal record checks and what happens to your youth record when you turn 18. Definitions can be found in the glossary.
What Is a Youth Record?
A Youth Record is any information about a young person’s involvement in Canada’s youth justice system. A youth record can include, but is not limited to, paper or electronic copies, or audio or video recordings, that contain information that was created or kept for the purposes of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) or for the investigation of an offence that could be prosecuted under the YCJA.
What Information is in my Youth Record?
- Your name and aliases;
- Your Birthdate
- Police reports or Reports to Crown Counsel;
- Interviews, witness, and victim reports;
- Details about the arrest and charge dates;
- Offences you were charged with;
- Outcome or sentence of the charge i.e. found guilty, acquittal, stay of proceedings, withdrawal of the charge;
- Sentence imposed if you were found or pled guilty;
- Information provided by you, your family, school authorities, and victims,
- Reports prepared by police, probation officers, mental health professionals, programs and
- Copies of court documents.
Who Has Access to My Youth Record?
One of the biggest differences between the youth and adult justice system is that the privacy of the young person is protected, and youth’s personal information is kept confidential.
Individuals who may be allowed to see your youth record include:
- You, your lawyers, parents or guardians, and anyone else authorized by the court;
- Crown prosecutors (lawyers acting on behalf of the province);
- Judges, courts, and review boards;
- Police officers involved in your case;
- Your probation officer
- Directors of custody centers where you may have served a sentence;
- People involved in a youth justice conference;
- Someone carrying out a criminal record check for a government job (municipal, provincial or federal); (See below)
- The victim of the offence (limited and upon request such as an apology letter);
- Individuals who have care or supervision of you to ensure compliance, safety, or for rehabilitation reasons.
Can These People Tell Other People About My Youth Record?
No. It’s against the Youth Criminal Justice Act and a punishable offence for people to share information with anyone else such as potential employers, school officials, or volunteer agencies. In most cases, it’s against the law for anyone to publish, including posts or mentions on social media, information about the name of a young person charged with or found guilty of an offence, or any information that could identify the young person being involved with the youth justice system. This also means that you should not publish information related to your youth record.
Is My Youth Court Record Automatically Destroyed When I Turn 18 Years Old?
Not necessarily, the length of time your youth court record remains open depends on the offence committed, the sentence, and whether you committed another offence while your record was still open. The period during which a record is open (still disclosable) is called the access period. Once the access period ends, youth records are sealed. However, if you are over the age of 18 and have an open youth record and are convicted of another crime, your youth record will form part of your adult record.
Learn more about Access Periods.
Sealing Youth Records
If you have finished your access period, your youth records must be sealed, this is an automatic process. When a record is sealed, it means that it’s closed forever, and no one can access it except for you or your lawyer. Anyone else who wants access to your sealed record must get a special order from a youth court judge saying it’s okay.
How Can I Ensure my Youth Records Are Sealed?
To make sure that your youth records have been sealed after your access period ends, ask your local police or RCMP detachment for a criminal background check. Please note, that you will have to fill out a form and pay a fee. If your youth records have been sealed, they shouldn’t show up on a criminal background check.
If your non-disclosable youth record is still there, ask your local police to contact the RCMP and have the record sealed. It’s a good idea to do this even if you were found not guilty of an offence on your record. Make sure the local police (if they are not RCMP) remove their copy of your youth record from the active files as well. If you are not in agreement with the existence or accessibility of your youth record, you should speak with a lawyer who has experience in youth criminal justice matters.
What is an Adult Record?
If you have been convicted of a crime that took place after you turned 18 years old, and have not received a discharge, or if you were a youth (under 18 years old) but sentenced as an adult, you will have an adult criminal record. Criminal records are not made public, but police, lawyers, customs officers, and other officials can see them.
If you have a youth record but have not completed your access period(s) and you get convicted of an adult offence your youth record may convert to an adult criminal record.
What’s The Difference Between a Youth Sentence vs. an Adult Sentence?
In youth criminal court you don’t get “convicted” and you don't get a “criminal record”, instead in youth court you can be “found guilty” and receive a “youth court record”. A youth court record can be retained for up to 5 years. Only adults get “criminal convictions” or “criminal records”. The words are different on purpose.
Youth court record should be sealed after you reach your access period. Typically for adult convictions you need to apply for a record suspension.
What are Record Suspensions? (Only Applies to Adult Records)
Record Suspension’s (previously known as pardons) allow people with a criminal record to have it set aside, please note it doesn’t erase a convicted offence and only applies to adult records. A person’s criminal record is removed from the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database as this helps a person access employment, volunteer, and educational opportunities, and it allows people to reintegrate into society. The Parole Board of Canada (PBC) is the official and only federal agency responsible for ordering, refusing to order, and revoking record suspensions under the Criminal Records Act (CRA). The CRA applies only to records kept by federal organizations, but most provincial and municipal criminal justice agencies also restrict access to their records once they are told that a record suspension has been ordered by PBC.
To apply for a record suspension, you have to complete all of your sentence(s) this includes imprisonment, any probation orders, payment of any fines, costs, surcharges, compensation orders, and/or restitution.
After completing your sentence(s) you must wait a set number of years based on the date when you committed your first offence before applying for a record suspension. For example, if you committed your first offence on or after March 13, 2021, the waiting period is 10 years for an offence that was prosecuted by indictment or 5 years for an offence that is punishable by summary conviction.
You can apply for a record suspension on your own by getting an application guide. To do this call the PBC’s toll free number at 1-800-874-2652, check out the PBC website or visit a regional PBC office.
What Happens to my Fingerprints, Photographs, and Information About Me if I Am Found Not Guilty?
Your fingerprints and photographs, along with other information such as records of conviction (adult process) and findings of guilt (youth process), will be kept in the RCMP Central Repository. The findings of guilt records are sealed after the open access period ends. The other records are not destroyed, however the information they contain can’t be disclosed after the open access period ends. As long as your photographs and fingerprints remain in the police files, they can be used during criminal investigations for the purpose of identifying suspects.
What About my DNA Records?
If you are charged with a very serious offence, you may be asked to give a DNA sample (this can include saliva, hair, or blood). You may even be asked to give a DNA sample in certain circumstances if you are charged with a less serious offence. Your DNA sample may be destroyed after a certain period, or it may be kept indefinitely in a National DNA databank. Learn more here.
The following people will have access to your DNA record:
- Your lawyer;
- Your parents;
- Crown Counsel;
- The police or law enforcement agency relating to your case;
- The Court hearing your case; and
- Others granted permission by the Court to have access.
What Do I Do if a Potential Employer Asks for a Criminal Background Check?
Many employers may ask you to provide your own criminal background check. This is usually something you have to schedule through your local police or RCMP detachment and this is something you need to pay for. It may contain your youth records that are not sealed. You do not need to share this information with potential employers, but it may preclude you from the position if you don’t share.
If your youth record has been sealed or if you were found guilty of an offence that is not connected to the job, potential employers are not allowed to fire you, refuse to hire you, or put you at a disadvantage because of it. However, an employer can fire you for a different reason like saying you do not have the qualifications or skills for the job. In such cases, it might be difficult to prove you were fired solely because of your record.
Insider tip: Look carefully at the questions and see if they are worded with adult words like conviction, or youth words like finding of guilt.
Are There Different Types of Criminal Records Checks?
Criminal Record Check
A criminal record check will determine if a person has been charged or convicted of a crime. There are two ways to check if you have a criminal history:
- Using names and birth dates is the most common way. However, the name-based check has weaknesses in verifying a person's identity. This is because some last names are the same, differences in spelling, use of nicknames, legal name changes, and intentionally changing names to avoid a record of criminal history.
- When a name-based criminal record check doesn’t provide a definite way of confirming a person's identity, you may be asked to provide fingerprints. This is also known as a "certified criminal record check."
Vulnerable Sector Check
The decision to request a vulnerable sector check is made by the hiring or volunteer organization. The person being checked only has to provide consent. This request is made if the hiring or volunteer organization determines that the position is one of trust or authority over children (anyone under the age of 18) or vulnerable persons (including individuals due to their age, disability, or other circumstance).
A vulnerable sector check is a police information check plus a check to see if a person has a record suspension (pardon) for sexual offences.
Once the police service has determined that the position meets the requirements for a vulnerable sector check, a name-based criminal record check will be conducted. In some cases, you may be required to submit fingerprints to confirm your identity.
Once the vulnerable sector check is complete, the police service sends the results to the requesting organization.
What Happens if my Criminal Background Check Reveals my Youth Record?
Youth records and adult records must always be kept separately, so if the police or RCMP find a youth record during your criminal background check, they must create two (2) separate reports:
- A criminal background check report that shows only the youth records. They can only give this report to you, and you should not show this report to anyone except a lawyer.
- A criminal background check report that shows any other records and doesn't mention the youth records.
If your youth record is sealed, you should get a clear criminal background check. If your youth record should have been sealed, but it's still showing on your criminal background check, ask the police or RCMP to seal the record.
If your access period is still open, the criminal background check will show up on your youth records. But you can ask the police or RCMP to suppress the record. Suppressing a record means that it’s sealed before the end of the access period so that it won't show up on a criminal background check.
It's up to the police or RCMP to decide whether they will suppress your youth record. They might do this if they think your youth record unfairly impacts your attempts to find employment. A lawyer may also be able to help you with this process.
On a Job Application, How Do I Answer, “Do you have a criminal record” or “Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offence”?
If you have a finding of guilt, an arrest, or involvement with youth justice system you don’t need to disclose this information to potential employers or volunteer positions. Many places of employment ask questions about arrest or convictions, and it is legally ok to answer “NO” to those questions, unless you are charged and convicted for an offence you committed after you turned 18 years old or you received an adult sentence when you were a youth. Arrest is not a finding of guilt under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and a finding of guilt is not a conviction.
On a Job Application, How Do I Answer, “Have you ever been found guilty of a crime”?
Once your youth sentence has finished, it’s the same as if you were never found guilty. For example, if you were sentenced to 1 year probation and finished your youth sentence, you can answer “NO”.