A Weberian Perspective of the Reform of the YOA to the YCJA

In Canadian history, we have gone through three different acts that have affected the youth in our nation. There has been the Juvenile Delinquent Act from 1908 to 1981, the Young Offenders Act from 1981 to 2003 and to the most current act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act which started in 2003. Though, without a doubt, the most significant reform was the transformation between the Young Offenders Act (YOA) and the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA).

On February 1981 the YOA bill was introduced and on April 1, 1984 the YOA was officially enacted. This bill coincidently was “passed the same year as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”(Davis-Barron pg 57), which then allowed for the YOA to follow the Charter. This act came with a heavily detailed outline with steps and roles from the arrests of the youth to the transferring into adult custody. This act gave more legal rights to the youths and allowed for them to be tried fairly and not judged quickly for their actions. Though one of the most significant changes that the YOA made was banning the publication of the youths name, or any information that could lead to their identification, to protect the safety of the youth or negatively labelling of the youth to which could lead to more negative consequences. However, the YOA was not always perfect as this act lead to very high incarceration rates. Due to these many imperfections of the YOA, new bills were being introduced.

In 2000, Bill C-7 was introduced and passed, though it took a merely three years for this new act to be in effect. On April 1, 2003 the Youth Criminal Justice Act was fully enacted. How the YCJA is truly remarkable is that it improved on the JDA and more importantly the YOA, as it took the most important factors of the previous two acts and expanded to them. One main highlight from the YCJA is that it looks into alternative measures and ways to divert youth from custody sentences.

In regards to Weber’s legal theories, the reform from the YOA to the YCJA can be connected or relate to his theory in one way or another. One way that Weber would apply his theory is through his beliefs of “a growing tendency towards rational-legal authority”(Pavlich 2011:107). This means that there is a product after the legal process is complete, for example a policing agency. Though how a police officer would act around a youth who appears to be performing an illegal activity, can strictly correlate to how the youth views the police officers power as on enforcer. If a youth does end up proceeding through a court system route, the YCJA helps prevent the youth from being victimized from any sorts of identification from the public and choosing a form of ‘punishment’ to which best sorts the youths needs in order to be directed to a better lifestyle. With the rules that the YCJA set out, the legal authorities that are “empowered to exercise”(Pavlich 2011: 107) them, all share the same knowledge for the best outcome of any particular youth.

Weber’s theory can also be directed through power by a means of social action. For Weber, “law is a power” (Pavlich 2011:114), this power ultimately is a specialized trained group of individuals who can go and enforce the set out order or law, as mentioned in Pavlich (2011:114). In regards to the reform of the YOA to the YCJA, it has trained people to better enforce the policies that this act has placed to ensure the safety of the public and the law breaking youths. These rules that have been placed by the YCJA are there to ensure consistency and fairness to all that it affects. From Weber’s perspective, the YCJA would have a more social action approach to how it handles youth and how the enforcers of the act, such as the police, should handle these youths. The YCJA provides many different options for these trouble making youths to be diverted instead of receiving a custody sentence, for instance a community service sentencing.


Davis-Barron, Sherri. (2009). Canadian youth & the criminal law: one hundred years of the youth justice legislation in Canada. Markham, Ontario: LexisNexis. ISBN: 9780433452003.

Pavlich, George (2011). Law & Society Redefined. New York: Oxford University Press.


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One response to “A Weberian Perspective of the Reform of the YOA to the YCJA

  1. Weber offers a typology of ‘basic categories of legal thought’.

    Can this typology be applied to make sense of the transition from the YOA to the YCJA? Which category – or categories – of legal thought best describe the current youth justice regime in Canada? Does the increased emphasis on due process reflect the rationalization of law, or is the continued reference to the best interests of the youth under the YCJA reflect a substantively rational legal form?