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Why are LGBT+ Youth Ending Up in the Juvenile Justice System?

Canada has a significant history when it comes to LGBT+ rights. Being one of the first countries in the world to legalize same-sex marriage and having a thorough human rights record, the country is a safe haven for many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, including immigrants who are fleeing persecution from abroad.

However, not every LGBT+ person enjoys a free life in Canada or Ontario. This is especially true for LGBT+ youth, some of which are ending up in the juvenile justice system as charged young offenders. In this post, we will be exploring why these young people are at risk of youth crime and why it is important for them to receive the best defence possible.

What Crimes are LGBT+ Youth Committing

Canada’s juvenile justice system functions somewhat differently to its adult counterpart. While young people can still be sentenced and given criminal penalties, these are typically less severe and serve to warn them off a repeat offence later in life. Nevertheless, having an interaction with the law at such a young age can have a significantly negative impact on their future and their transition into adulthood.

Like most young offenders, LGBT+ young offenders largely commit petty or minor crimes. In the adult criminal justice system, these are deemed as summary offences and include:

  • Shoplifting
  • Minor assault
  • Public disruption
  • Rioting
  • Trespassing
  • Drug possession

Reasons for LGBT+ Youth Crime

While all crimes have their own unique motivations, there are many common reasons why LGBT+ youth commit crime. The main leading factors for LGBT+ youth crime include:

Lack of Emotional & Mental Support

One of the most important drivers of youth crime is the lack of social, emotional, or mental support in their community. Teenagers experience many changes growing up and are vulnerable to significant disruption in their early life. A research report from Public Safety Canada noted that examples of this disruption might include poor schooling, bullying, a broken family, or parental conflict.

Because the vast majority of LGBT+ children grow up in a heterosexual or cisgender family, it can be hard for them to seek support on matters like identity, relationships, and sexual education, especially if their parents disapprove. Consequently, LGBT+ young people are more likely to commit delinquencies or ‘fall in the wrong crowd’ within friendship circles than their heterosexual peers due to this lack of support.

Fortunately, extrafamilial assistance from social workers, teachers, counsellors and other influential adults can help support the young person. 


While acceptance of LGBT+ people is generally high across Canada, there are some exceptions. Certain communities, whether for religious, cultural or political reasons, find it incompatible to have a LGBT+ person in their family. Young people are particularly vulnerable because they have no other safety net to protect themselves if forced out onto the streets.

Unlike other discriminative issues like race, ethnicity, religion, LGBT+ are much less likely to be born into a family or community with other people like them. Therefore, they lack the support network others benefit from and can experience discrimination within their family or household. 

Being homeless is a leading factor in causing non-violent crime, regardless of sexuality or gender. Petty crimes such as theft, muggings, or pickpocketing become a lifeline for many homeless LGBT+ youth who have no other options for survival that they can trust.

Youth Criminal Lawyers in Toronto & the GTA

If you are a parent or guardian of a LGBT+ young person who has been charged with a crime, it is important you act soon to protect their future. While youth sentencing is more lenient and shorter than adult sentencing, it will nevertheless impact one of the most stages of their life. 

At What The Law, our youth offenders lawyers work with you and the young person to develop a robust defence as we advocate for their future. We will support you all the way through the process and are available 24/7. We also understand the financial burden of legal expenses, which is why we offer flat fees, flexible payments and will accept legal aid certificates. 

No social, economic, or cultural barrier should ever prevent you or a young person from receiving the legal support they deserve. Contact our team of young offender defence lawyers in Toronto and the GTA today and tell us what happened - we are here to fight for you.

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