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A Comparative Analysis of the Mental Health Act, 1990, and the Youth Criminal Justice Act, 2002


The Mental Health Act of 1990 and the Youth Criminal Justice Act of 2002 are critical Canadian laws dealing with a few legal problems (Cesaroni & Bala, 2023). Canada’s youth justice system is regulated by the Youth Criminal Justice Act of 2002, while mental illness is regulated by the Mental Health Act of 1990, which sets out guidelines and a judicial process for dealing with mentally ill people. This article will compare and contrast these two Acts, focusing mainly on objectives, legal foundations, and social consequences.


Legal Foundations

In Ontario, Canada, the Mental Health Act of 1990 (MHA) covers the administration, care, and treatment of the mentally ill, as well as a variety of subjects having to do with mental health. Its primary purpose is to prevent people from being compulsorily admitted and treated in psychiatric hospitals. Its basis is respect, and it excludes no one. It allows medical professionals to step in when required to balance patient rights and needs.

On the other hand, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, 2002 (YCJA) governs youths between 12 and 17 years who are charged with committing crimes (Bromwich, 2019). The primary objective of YCJA is to safeguard the public through Juvenile justice through punishment appropriate to the crime’s seriousness and the juvenile’s degree of responsibility.

Impact on the Society

The Mental Health Act of 1990 impacts both the general public and those with mental health problems (Browne, 2010). For instance, the Act stipulates that a person who meets specific criteria can be ordered by police officers to be examined by a physician to determine if the person has a mental illness. Also, the Act seeks to balance everyone’s safety. e.g., patient rights, which include procedures such as the right to appeal to the Consent and Capacity Board. The Act’s emphasis on enhancing society and defending individual liberties demonstrates a commitment to respecting the dignity and independence of those with mental health concerns.

The YCJA also benefits the community and the youths at large. It acknowledges that young people who commit crimes must be held accountable by measures commensurate with the force of the offense in order to safeguard society (Lawson, 2022). For example, the Criminal Code’s adult sentencing guidelines differ from the YCJA’s unique guidelines for juvenile offenders, whereby judges typically apply one of the YCJA’s juvenile sentence options. Nonetheless, the court does have the authority to impose an adult sentence in dire circumstances. The actions are intended to assist in youth rehabilitation, facilitate their effective reintegration back into society, and deter them from committing crimes in the future.

Objectives and Goals

The Mental Health Act of 1990 delineates the authorities and responsibilities that Ontario’s psychiatric facilities bear. It sets guidelines for patient assessment therapy therapy and the various patient admittance categories. Essentially, the Mental Health Act is a legal framework that outlines the rights and treatment options available to individuals with mental health illnesses as well as the community. In contrast, the primary objective of The Youth Criminal Justice Act of 2002 is to safeguard the public by enforcing measures against young people that are commensurate with their level of responsibility and the gravity of the offense. This offers a well-rounded penalty that may deter the child from pursuing a life of crime in addition to safeguarding society. The Youth Criminal Court Association (YCJA) is especially concerned that juveniles should not be involved in the adult court system since they are not as mature as adults and should be kept informed. The YCJA’s objectives around this concept are to improve procedural protections, emphasize rehabilitation and reintegration, acknowledge prompt intervention, and align responsibility measures with young people’s lower level of maturity.



Both the Mental Health Act of 1990 (MHA) and the Youth Criminal Justice Act of 2002 (YCJA) are laws that protect fundamental human rights and make sure that everyone has a fair hearing. They demonstrate the importance of protecting people’s rights in public. The Mental Health Act governs those who have to go to treatment and those who have to be sent to a mental health establishment using strict rules. At the same time, however, it affirms a person’s right to appeal and the Consent and Capacity Board’s obligation to protect his or her liberty. Punishment and rehabilitation are compromised based on the principles of proportionality and consideration of individual circumstances. The Youth Criminal Justice Act also targets young offenders. While the two acts have different ends, fairness, openness, and everyone’s rights are all promoted. Canada This is how human rights and justice come first in the law system in Ontario, Canada.


In conclusion, the Ontario, Canada Mental Health Act 1990 and the Youth Criminal Justice Act 2002 are separate laws passed to address mental health and juvenile crime. Under the Mental Health Act, those who suffer from mental illnesses can receive the care, treatment, and supervision they need. It also covers other mental health-related problems. However, the Youth Criminal Justice Act governs Canada’s youth justice system. It involves young people who are charged with a crime and are at least 12 years old but not over 18 years old. There is a difference, but they both try to tell us that human rights are essential through youth problems and mental health.


Bromwich, R. (2019). Cross-over youth and Youth Criminal Justice Act evidence law: Discourse analysis and reasons for law reform. Man. LJ, pp. 42, 265.

Browne, A. (2010). Mental health acts in Canada. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 19(3), 290–298.

Cesaroni, C., & Bala, N. (2023). Deterrence as a principle of youth sentencing: No effect on youth, but a significant effect on judges. In Juvenile Offending (pp. 149-183). Routledge.

Durant, S. M. S. (2019). Visions and Shadows: A Socio-history of the Mental-health Policy Reform Agenda in Canada (Doctoral dissertation, University of Toronto (Canada)).

Lawson, H. (2022). Reducing Judicial Reliance on Incarceration: Lessons from the creation of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Journal of Law & Equality, 19(1).


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