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In Canada, those charged with offenses that are alleged to have occurred between their twelfth and eighteenth birthdays are referred to as “young persons” and dealt with under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Children under the age of 12 who engage in offending behaviors are typically dealt with by voluntary measures arranged by their parents, though child welfare authorities may also become involved, and in very serious cases a child might be removed from parental care under a court process and placed in a foster home or mental health facility under child welfare legislation.


For the purposes of criminal liability, adulthood in Canada commences on the 18th birthday, though those who commit offenses prior to that date will be dealt with as youth offenders. In exceptional cases involving very serious offenses, there is the possibility of a young person receiving an adult length sentence, though no one under the age of 18 may be detained in an adult correctional facility, and young persons’ receiving an adult sentence of life imprisonment for murder are eligible for parole earlier than adult offenders who have committed the same offense.

For most civil law purposes in Canada, adulthood also commences at 18, though in British Columbia the age of majority for some civil purposes is 19.

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