Indigenous youth, like Indigenous adults, are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. See Canadian Crime Statistics.
In 1999, in a criminal case commonly referred to as Gladue, the Supreme Court of Canada provided direction on special measures that are to be applied when an Indigenous person (adults and youth) gets in trouble with the law. The court recognized that colonialism has created unique challenges for Indigenous peoples and that consideration must be given to those challenges in their interactions with the criminal justice system.
Youth who are charged with a crime and identify as Indigenous are entitled to all the same rights as other young people, plus some other rights and options due to their experience with colonialism, racism, residential schools, and other factors.
At all stages of the youth criminal justice system, the courts must consider the unique circumstances of Indigenous peoples and of the particular Indigenous youth. During sentencing, the judge must consider sentencing options other than jail (although they may still determine jail is appropriate) and try to find a sentence that addresses the Indigenous youth’s particular challenges and is appropriate for their heritage.