Definition of Youth

According to a 2010 paper by United Way of Calgary and Area, the federal government uses several definitions of youth: Statistics Canada defines youth between 16-28 years, whereas for Human Resources and Skills Development Canada it is 15-24.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 18
  • 16
  • 16
  • Female
  • 18
  • 16
  • 16

  • Without parental consent, marriageable age is 18 except in five provinces where it is 19. With parental consent, the age is 16 except in two provinces where it is 15 and one where it is 18. Same-sex marriage is legal. Source: UNSD, ILGA

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
Source:  Criminal Code of Canada

Majority Age


Age of majority differs by province, with some provinces having a majority age of 19. Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada (2011)

Voting Age


Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • -- Male (15-24) %
  • -- Female (15-24) %
  • Year: No data.
  • Source: UNESCO

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • --Male %
  • -- Female %
  • Year: No data.
  • Source: UNESCO

Situation of Young People

Prevalence of HIV

Male (15-24) %
Female (15-24) %

Tobacco Use

Consumed any smokeless or smoking tobacco product at least once 30 days prior to the survey.
Both sexes (13-15) %
  • -- Male (13-15) %
  • -- Female (13-15) %
  • Year: No data.
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
There is a national employment program, but no national youth policy. A 2008 report from United Way Toronto compares regional ones.

A 2010 report from Policy Research Initiative states that very few federal policies have a direct impact on youth. Instead, policies at the provincial or municipal level address youth-related issues, including education, health, employment and participation. For example, the province of Québec has one of the only well-established youth policies in Canada. It has a Québec Youth Policy  and a related Youth Action Strategy, which identifies measurements and indicators for success. Youth action strategies have been developed two times since the publication of the youth policy: in 2006 and 2009. A Youth Secretariat, reporting directly to the Premier, implements the strategy.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
No one national authority has a mandate for youth, but rather several agencies have well-defined youth responsibilities relating to justice and crime, employment and health. Departments and ministries relating specifically to youth exist at the provincial and municipal levels. For example, the province of Ontario has a Ministry of Children and Youth Services. Other provinces, such as Nova Scotia’s Youth Secretariat, have one agency responsible for coordinating youth interventions across different sectors.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
There are no national or regional youth councils in Canada. According to Innovations in Civic Participation, youth participation in civic life is primarily through civil society organisations. For example, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada, one of the largest youth-serving agencies in the country, has youth councils where young people serve as ambassadors for other youth in local, provincial and national levels of the organisation. Youth councils also exist in the private sector, such as the Youth Committee of the Canadian Association of the World Petroleum Council, which seeks to bring a youth perspective to the petroleum industry.

Budget & Spending

What is the budget allocated to the governmental authority (ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth and/or youth programming?
As most youth programming is either decentralised to the provincial or municipal level, or is the responsibility of NGOs and civil society, there is no exact number for how much money is spent on youth work or youth programmes in Canada. According to the World Bank, Canada spent 5.50% of its GDP on education in 2010, but does not calculate what this translates to in terms of percentage of government expenditure.
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank

Additional Background

From the Innovations in Civic Participation Canada page:

Canada maintains a long tradition of relying on private, nonprofit and voluntary organizations to address the needs of its citizens. The nonprofit sector accounts for 6.8% of the nations GDP and employs 12% of Canada’s economically active population. Many of Canada’s civil society organisations (about 74%) focus on the delivery of direct services such as education, health and housing. However, recently many youth civic participation initiatives have begun to focus on the environment/climate change and unemployment/skill-building [...]

Young people in Canada face many challenges today, including unemployment, homelessness, risky behavior and rising cases of HIV. Canadian youth face an unemployment rate of 20% for those ages 15-19. The labor market in Canada is also changing as an increasing number of jobs (an estimated 35%) will require employees to have attained a university degree. Conversely, the number of jobs requiring few skills has slowed significantly. As a result, several civil society and government-supported initiatives focus on equipping young people with the skills to find employment and to address critical needs in their communities through civic participation [...]

From Current Realities and Emerging Issues Facing Youth in Canada: An Analytical Framework for Public Policy Research, Development and Evaluation (2010):

The country's move towards an economy that is very strongly based on knowledge is one of the main change engines that have shaped the transitions to adulthood for Canadian youth over the last 15 or 20 years. Major technological changes and a decline in unskilled jobs have accompanied increasing demand for skills, including at the beginning of a career. It is currently estimated that 35% of new jobs to be created in Canada by 2015 will require a university degree [...]

Another major challenge for Canadian youth with respect to the growing diversity of jobs offered on the labour market is that of matching their educational training and career choices to the jobs on offer, while bearing in mind their abilities and resources. Many Canadian youth today seem to be coming under pressure to pursue a university education in the current labour market context and some of them say they have been "pushed" towards further education rather than "attracted" by a genuine desire to learn [...]

From Youth Policy: What Works and What Doesn’t? A Review of Youth Policy Models from Canada and Other Jurisdictions (2008):

Descriptions of Youth-Specific Policy Frameworks by Jurisdiction

Toronto (City of Toronto) Toronto Youth Strategy
  • Population-based strategy supporting several aspects of youth services in Toronto. Targets youth aged 12 24 for improved outcomes in the areas of:
    • Education, employment and income
    • Families, communities and neighbourhoods
    • Engagement
  • Youth were engaged in developing the strategy along with non-youth.
  • Sets priority actions and proposes a Youth Strategy Panel to facilitate the implementation of the strategy through a Youth Action Plan.
Vancouver (City of Vancouver) Civic Youth Strategy
  • A population-based strategy with a mandate to promote the development, assessment, and delivery of civic services with direct impact on youth (ages 13-24).
  • The strategy commits to:
    • Ensure that youth have a place in the city
    • Ensure a strong youth voice in local decision-making
    • Promote youth as a resource to the city
    • Strengthen the support base for youth in the city
Province of Ontario (Ministry of Children and Youth Services), Youth Opportunities Strategy
  • A risk prevention and resiliency approach for youth at risk (ages 14-18).
  • Objectives: improving outcomes for marginalized youth in the areas of:
    • Job readiness
    • Engagement
    • Access to information
    • Crime prevention and diversion
    • Police-youth relations
Province of British Columbia (Ministry of Children and Families) - Youth Policy Framework
  • The Youth Policy Framework is a population-based policy framework for youth (ages 16-19). The Youth Policy Framework is based on extensive research on resiliency and was developed through consultations across the sector. It outlines the Ministry of Children and Family s approach to youth services, guides policy and program development, and supports the implementation of Ministry of Children and Family’s priorities related to youth services, which include:
    • Meeting the basic needs of youth
    • Reduced severity of problematic behaviour by youth
    • Improved physical health
    • Meeting the developmental challenges of adolescence
    • Successful transition into adulthood
    • Increased self-reliance and self sufficiency
  • The B.C.Youth Policy Framework serves as the philosophical basis for all youth work and is a common frame of reference for all activities related to youth in the province.