Role of Parents

Parents have an important role in the youth justice system. The Youth Criminal Justice Act defines parents to include more than mothers, fathers and step-parents. It includes any person “who is under a legal duty to provide for the youth or any person who has, in fact or in law, the custody or control of a young person.” 

The act recognizes parents’ role in dealing with youths involved in the youth justice system and says “parents should be informed of measures or proceedings involving their children and encouraged to support them in addressing their offending behaviour.” 

Some of the special rights and responsibilities relating to parents in the youth justice system include:

  • A youth has the right to consult with their parent(s) when arrested by police and at any other stage of formal legal proceedings
  • Parents, extended family and the youth’s community will be given every reasonable opportunity to be involved with and assist in responding to the youth’s needs
  • Parents are able to speak to youth court judges, Crown, police officers, youth probation officers and youth custody staff
  • Parents will be told their child is in trouble with the law and they will be asked for their views and opinions
  • Parents have the right to attend court and to speak at certain proceedings, such as sentencing hearings
  • Parents have the right to see legal information or documents about their children during the proceedings or while the youth is serving a sentence
  • A youth has a right to a lawyer independent of his or her parents and that lawyer must take instruction from the youth, not the parent

Under the act, parents cannot be held responsible for crimes committed by their children. Under a separate provincial law - the Parental Liability Act - a parent can be held legally responsible for losses or damage to property (up to $10,000) caused by crimes committed by their children. Parents will not be held responsible for these costs if they can show the court they exercised reasonable supervision over the youth and made reasonable efforts to prevent or discourage the youth from committing crimes.