What Happens if a Minor Kills Someone in Self-Defence?

What Happens if a Minor Kills Someone in Self-Defence?

Self-defence is a fundamental right that ensures our safety when faced with danger, but what happens if a minor kills someone in self-defence? 

What happens when someone under 18 finds themselves in a situation where they must defend themselves by resorting to lethal force? While the principles of self-defence are universal, the legal and ethical implications surrounding minors and lethal self-defence actions require careful examination. 

We are here to explain the complex legal and ethical considerations surrounding minors and self-defence clearly and concisely.

What are the Legal Consequences When a Minor Kills Someone in Self-defence?

In cases where a minor finds themselves in a situation where they have had to take another person’s life in self-defence, a complex legal consideration comes into play. Let’s learn about the legal consequences about what happens if a minor kills someone in self-defence.

Understand Self-Defence

Self-defence is the act of protecting oneself or others from harm when no other reasonable options are available. It is a principle deeply established in our legal systems to protect someone from harm and prevent unjust aggression. This concept applies to all, regardless of age.

Self-Defence Law in Canada

Self-defence is a well-established legal concept in Canada, preserved in the Criminal Code. It permits someone to use reasonable force to protect themselves or others from an immediate threat. The key principles include:

Proportionality: The force used in self-defence must be proportionate to the threat faced. Lethal force is defendable only when there is a genuine fear of death or unfortunate bodily harm.

Duty to Retreat: Unlike some jurisdictions, Canadian law does not command a strict duty to retreat. Individuals have the right to stand their ground, which may only apply in some situations.

Reasonable Belief: People using self-defence must reasonably believe their force is necessary to protect themselves or others from harm.

Legal Considerations for Minors in Self-defence

When minors are involved in self-defence situations in Canada, several unique legal considerations come into play:

Age and Maturity: Canadian courts consider the minor’s age and maturity when assessing their actions in self-defence. Minors may be expected to show a different level of judgment and restriction compared to adults.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act: Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act governs how the justice system treats young offenders. The Act emphasizes rehabilitation in society, prioritizing the minor’s best interests.

Public Interest: In cases involving minors using lethal force in self-defence, the court must weigh the minor’s right to safety against the broader public interest. The goal is to balance the need for protection with preserving a just and safe society.

The Principle of Last Resort: Canadian law generally follows that lethal force should be a last resort, used only when no other reasonable option is available.

Legal Proceedings for Minors

When a minor takes another person’s life in self-defence, there are still legal proceedings, including an investigation and a trial. The court will consider whether the minor’s actions were defendable. If found that the force used was reasonable and necessary for self-defence, the minor may not face criminal charges.

Rehabilitation and Support

In Canada, when minors are involved in self-defence situations, the focus is on rehabilitation and support rather than punishment. The objective is to help the minor cope with the emotional aftermath of such an incident and reclaim them into society as responsible citizens.

Community Safety

The Canadian legal system strives to balance the rights and needs of the minor with the community’s safety. In extreme or unreasonable behaviour by a minor, tougher punishments may apply for public safety.

Ethical Considerations

While the law provides a framework for self-defence, minors, their families, and society must consider moral and ethical implications. Lethal force should always be a last resort, primarily focusing on preserving life.


Self-defence is a basic human right that applies to all, regardless of age. Minors have the right to protect themselves from immediate danger, which the legal system acknowledges. Canadian law recognizes the right of self-defence for minors, with specific legal considerations for age, maturity, and rehabilitation. 

When a minor is forced to use lethal force in self-defence, the legal system aims to balance protecting the minor’s rights and ensuring the community’s overall safety. It’s important to consult with legal professionals and consider the specific circumstances and laws in your jurisdiction when dealing with legal matters in Canada.


Is self-defence a valid reason for minors to use lethal force in Canada?

Yes, self-defence is a valid reason for minors to use lethal force in Canada, just like adults. However, the force must be reasonable and proportionate to the threat. The Canadian legal system recognizes that individuals, regardless of age, have the inherent right to protect themselves or others from immediate harm.

Are there age restrictions on using Self-defence as a minor in Canada?

Canadian law doesn’t impose specific age restrictions on the use of self-defence. Instead, it considers the minor’s age and maturity when assessing the actions taken in self-defence. 

What is the “duty to retreat,” and does it apply to minors in Canada?

Unlike some jurisdictions, Canada does not have a strict “duty to retreat.” This means that individuals, including minors, can stand their ground when facing threats. However, this right may only apply sometimes and depends on the specific circumstances of each case. 

How does the Youth Criminal Justice Act affect minors involved in self-defence cases?

The Youth Criminal Justice Act is crucial to the Canadian legal framework when dealing with minors in self-defence cases. It emphasizes rehabilitation and reintegration into society rather than strict punishment. The Act considers the minor’s best interests and seeks to provide support and guidance, all while balancing the need for community safety. 

What are the consequences if a minor’s self-defence actions are deemed unreasonable?

If a minor’s self-defence actions are determined to be excessive or unreasonable, they may face strict consequences. These consequences can vary but generally emphasize the need for public safety.