Monday, December 24, 2012

Year in Review: JFCY and the PLE Team!

Both JFCY and the PLE Team had a great year in 2012.

JFCY's work in 2012

JFCY lawyers assisted hundreds of young people this year with various legal issues, ranging from defending youth on charges under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, representing youth in family court in making claims for financial support, advocacy around entitlement to social benefits like Ontario Works, negotiations and defending youth facing school expulsions, representing youth victims of crime in applications to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, and many other types of cases.

In addition to direct representation at court and tribunals in the Toronto-area, JFCY lawyers also provided legal advice and brief services to young people across the province.

JFCY intervened in two important cases at the Supreme Court of Canada, including one about children's rights to appropriate special education supports.  To read more, check out our related blog post here.

JFCY lawyers also conducted legal education workshops and seminars for other lawyers, social workers, teachers, guidance counselors, front-line support workers, social service professionals and, of course, youth themselves.  These sessions focused on a variety of issues, from youth criminal justice to school education law and were conducted across the province, including as far away as Thunder Bay.

JFCY did all of this despite a small staff of only six people!  A special thanks to our dedicated crew: Mary (Acting Executive Director), Samira (intake lawyer), Andrea (litigation lawyer), Johanna (street youth legal services lawyer), Karien (office manager) and Marie (admin).

Finally, a VERY big thanks to JFCY's many volunteers, from our Board of Directors to our law student interns to our committees, including the PLE Team, featured below.  The work of our volunteers is crucial in allowing us to be able to fulfill our mandate, while keeping connected to the communities that we serve.

The Public Legal Education Team ("PLE Team")- 2012 Year in Review

Launched in the summer of 2010, the PLE Team has grown and improved in the past two years.  Led by our litigation lawyer, Andrea, and supported each academic year by a law student volunteer from U of T's PBSC program, the PLE Team is responsible for this blog, as well as JFCY's Facebook, YouTube and Twitter presence.  Additionally, the PLE Team regularly publishes print and online newsletters, zines and other special projects. To read the Bullying 'Zine that we published in 2012, click here.

2012 saw JFCY's blog stats increase significantly, thanks in large part to the consistent and high-level effort of the PLE Team volunteers, who include high school students, post-secondary students, law students, lawyers and others. To read our most popular blog post written in 2012, click here.

The YouTube subcommittee of the PLE Team produced and uploaded four videos in 2012, including topics such as Leaving Home and Fake ID.

Thanks to the 20+ active volunteer members of the PLE Team, including 8 high school students, our PBSC law student voluntreers Leora Jackson (2011/12) and Lauren Grossman (2012/13), our YouTube coordinators Arif Hussain and Bianca Thomas and our video editor Terence Chen (a grade 12 student who was recognized as JFCY's Volunteer of the Year at our 2012 AGM.)


The PLE Team in 2013?

Around the corner in 2013, stay tuned for a new YouTube video on school expulsions.  We are also in the process of creating an interactive game that will be used at JFCY workhsops.  The Youth Action Committee members of the PLE Team have several plans up their sleeve, including some awareness raising initiatives and events to help encourage young people from diverse backgrounds to consider future careers in law. We are looking forward to another fun and successful year of PLE in 2013.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Law and Youth Novice Drivers in Ontario: Part 3

Being young and driving with a G2 license in Ontario: What the law says

This is Part Three of a three-part series on the law around novice driving and graduated licensing in Ontario. To see the scenarios on which this part is based, click here and here. The legal info was written by JFCY. 

woman driving a car
Image source:

Novice Drivers in Ontario

Before getting behind the wheel, youth novice drivers should be informed of various different laws, including the G2 License rules, the Highway Traffic Act, the Liquor Licence Act and the Criminal Code ofCanada.  

G2 License rules and possible offences

The G2 License rules come from regulations under the Highway Traffic Act, specifically the Regulation called Driver’s Licenses, which sets out most of the rules regarding G2 licenses.

Number of Passengers:

Novice drivers must be careful about following the rules on number of passengers allowed while driving with a G2 license. During the day, the number of passengers is limited to the number of working seatbelts. However, at night the rules are more restrictive.

If a novice driver has had their G2 license for less than six months and is aged 19 and under, s/he cannot carry a passenger aged 19 and under between midnight and 5 a.m. After the first six months, G2 drivers aged 19 and under cannot carry more than three passengers aged 19 and under between midnight and 5 a.m.

These restrictions do not apply to a G2 driver aged 19 and under if the G2 driver is accompanied by a G class driver in the front seat, or the passengers are immediate family members.

Under the graduated licensing system, what are the consequences of drinking and driving for novice drivers?
Drinking and driving leads to accidents, including death and injury.  It can also lead to charges being laid against the driver, fines and license suspensions, and the impoundment of a vehicle.

In Ontario, if you are age 21 and under, there is a zero blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rule while driving.  (See s. 44 of the Highway Traffic Act) This means that regardless of which kind of licence you have (G, G1, G2), if you are caught with any alcohol in your blood, you will receive an immediate 24-hour roadside driver licence suspension.  You will likely then be charged with impaired driving.  If you are convicted of the charge, you can be fined between $60 and $500, and your licence can be suspended for 30 days. There are also possible criminal charges (see below). 

If you are a young driver with a G1 or G2 licence, you can face even stricter consequences, including being returned to the start of the Graduated Licensing System.  For example, this means that if a young person has her/his G2 and is caught drinking, s/he may lose her G2 licence (which allows her/him to drive her friends unaccompanied by an adult) and be returned to the start of the licensing process.

Higher BACs (between 0.05-0.08, and above 0.08) lead to even more severe consequences.

Criminal Code offences
Across Canada, it is a criminal offence to operate a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs and/or while having a blood alcohol content of 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood or more (called “0.08”).

With high blood alcohol levels, adults and youths may be charged with impaired driving. Impaired driving, which means driving while your ability is affected by alcohol or drugs, is a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada under Section 253(1)(a). Driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or more is also a crime under Section 253(1)(b). Your vehicle does not even have to be moving; you can be charged if you are impaired behind the wheel, even if you have not started to drive. If convicted or found guilty, you will be sentenced by a court.  

It is also a criminal offence to refuse to provide a breathalyzer sample without a reasonable excuse. Not knowing you have to provide a sample, or saying that a lawyer told you not to blow for a breathalyzer are NOT reasonable excuses. This is covered by Section 254 of the Criminal Code which also explains how the breathalyzer process works.

If the person being charged is between the ages of 12 and 17, the Youth Criminal Justice Act will apply to them.  As a result it is not possible to predict as clearly what sentence he could get if found guilty. However, this also changes the way the police officer must interact with these young people. For example, s. 146 of the YCJA imposes a different standard for obtaining evidence, not binding youth to certain written and/or oral statements that were obtained when the youth didn’t have the opportunity to speak with a parent and/or alawyer.  Also, police must speak to youth using words that the youth is able to understand.  

Liquor License Act offences
It is an offence under s. 32 of the Liquor License Act to operate a motor vehicle while there is open alcohol in the car.  You can be charged even if you are not the person drinking and even if you have had nothing to drink at all.

Caught in a bind? What are some other options?
Sometimes youth and novice drivers chose to drink even though they had agreed to be the designated driver.  Now they have another decision to make: drive home or find alternative options.  If an impaired person chooses to drive home, they risk the safety of themselves, their friends, and others on the road.  They also risk being caught driving while impaired, either because of an accident or because they are stopped by a police officer, which could have a serious impact on their ability to drive in the future.  If they drive home drunk, they may also have to consider what will happen if their parents/guardians find out about what they have has done.

Instead of driving home, drivers who have been drinking can find out whether one of their friends has a parent or sober friend who would be willing to pick them up.  They can pick up the car in the morning.  If one of their friends lives nearby, everyone might be able to stay there for the night.  Or, they and their friends friends can share a cab – 1-888-TAXIGUY is a toll-free number which is available in 250 towns and cities across Ontario.  It connects callers directly to a partner taxicab in their city. 

This post was written by JFCY. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Law and Youth Novice Drivers in Ontario: Part 2

This is Part Two of a three-part series on the law around novice driving and graduated licensing in Ontario.  This scenario was written by JFCY PLE Team volunteer Leslie-Anne Walker, a student at Ryerson University. To see Part 1, click here and to see Part 3, click here.

Scenario: Alicia and the grade 12 house party

Alicia is a seventeen-year old Grade 12 student who has just gotten her G2 license. Tonight she’s going to a holiday house party with some friends who will be drinking, despite the fact that they’re not yet age 19. Normally Alicia will have a few drinks at parties as well, but tonight she’s so excited about her new license that she decides to "take one for the team" and be the designated driver.

That night, her friends decide to meet up at their friend Natalie’s house to have a few drinks before heading to the party. Everyone’s having fun and they lose track of time. Before they know it, they’re running late: it is after midnight! Everybody rushes to finish their drinks and get their coats and boots on, but Natalie has just cracked open a new vodka cooler. Natalie insists she bring the cooler with her in the car, because leaving it “would be a waste.” Natalie is clearly intoxicated, and Alicia doesn’t want to spoil the good mood everyone is in by picking a fight, so she figures“whatever, she’s not the one driving so who cares?”

On the way to the party, they come across a R.I.D.E. program checking for intoxicated drivers. As she pulls up to the police officer on her side of the road, Alicia is worried for her friends, who are all underage and clearly intoxicated. Still, she’s grateful that she hasn’t touched any drinks and isn’t doing anything wrong herself. She rolls down her window, and the officer peers inside.

“Good evening, have you had anything to drink tonight?” he asks.

“Nothing at all,” says Alicia, looking him straight in the eye.

But the officer isn’t looking at Alicia; he’s looking at the backseat.

“Is that open liquor in your hand?” he asks Natalie, who is clearly too drunk to have even attempted to hide the bottle.

'Oh no, poor Natalie,' thinks Alicia as she cranes her head around to cast her friend a sympathetic glance. 'She’s only 17; she could get in a lot of trouble for underage drinking.'

But when Alicia turns around again, the officer is addressing her. “It’s illegal to have open alcohol in your car miss. License and registration, please.”

“What?” thinks Alicia, her head spinning. With her heart pounding, she reaches for the glove compartment.

Legal Troubles for Alicia?

While Alicia made a smart choice to keep her friends safe by not drinking and driving, she could still have some legal trouble as a result of driving in these circumstances. 

Since Alicia is a novice driver and under the age of 21, she can face legal penalties as a result of violating the rules of Ontario's Graduating Licensing System, as well as other laws.   

Here is a quick summary of some the charges that Alicia could be facing.  For a full explanation of the law, please stay tuned later this week to Part 3 of this blog series.

1) Since it is illegal to drive when there is open alcohol in the car, Alicia could be charged under s. 32 of the Liquor Licence Act.

2) Because Alicia is under age 19 and has had her G2 license for less than six months, she was not supposed to drive any passengers between midnight and 5am (unless the passenger has their Glass G license), thus violating the Highway Traffic Act.

3) The passengers in Alicia's car have consumed alcohol while under the age of 19 and thus can be charged under the Liquor Licence Act.

For a full explanation of these laws, stayed tuned for Part 3 of this blog series.

This post was written by JFCY PLE Team volunteer Leslie-Anne Walker.  Legal info by JFCY.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Law and Youth Novice Drivers in Ontario: Part 1

This is Part One of a three-part series on the law around novice driving and graduated licensing in Ontario.  This comic was created by JFCY PLE Team volunteer Tony Young, a grade 12 student at Bayview Secondary School.

Since Josh is a novice driver and under the age of 21, he can face legal penalties as a result of violating the rules of Ontario's Graduating Licensing System, as well as other laws.   Here is a quick summary of some the charges that Josh could be facing.  For a full explanation of the law, please stay tuned later this week to Part 3 of this blog series.

1) Because Josh drove while having alcohol in his system, thus violating the Highway Traffic Act law that says novice drivers under age 21 cannot have ANY alcohol in their system while operating a motor vehicle.

2) Depending on the level of blood alcohol in his system and his level of impairment, Josh may have committed the Criminal Code Offences of 'driving with a blood alcohol concentration of more than 0.08' and 'driving while impaired by alcohol'.

3) Because Josh is under age 19 and has had his G2 license for less than six months, he was not supposed to drive any passengers between midnight and 5am (unless the passenger has their Glass G license), thus violating the Highway Traffic Act.

4) Josh ran a red light and could be charged with an offence under the Highway Traffic Act and/or Criminal Code.

5) Josh consumed alcohol while under the age of 19 and thus could be charged under the Liquor License Act.

To see a related scenario, click Part 2. For a full explanation of these laws, see Part 3 of this blog series.

The above comic was created by JFCY PLE Team volunteer Tony Young.  Legal info by JFCY. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Behind the Scenes with the PLE Team

The YouTube subcommittee of the PLE Team was busy this week filming a video on school expulsions.  The video examines some of the consequences of getting caught selling and buying drugs on school property.

Here is a look behind the scenes at our youth volunteers:

Thanks to everyone involved:

Arif (writer and director)
Bianca (law student writer)
Andrea (JFCY staff lawyer supervisor)
Terence (actor, camera, editing)
Lucas (actor, camera)
Johnny (actor)
Genevieve (actor)
Mindy (actor)
Cydney (actor)
Marie (pizza!)

Stay tuned in early January for the release of this video.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pregnant at 15: Some legal issues relating to treatment


Jay is 18 years old, a recent graduate from high school. He has been developing feelings for Janice, who is 3 years younger than him. Finally he had the courage to ask her out on a date. Their personalities are very compatible and they got along very well, leading them to develop into a committed, romantic relationship.

Jay and Janice usually go out on movie dates and take long walks in the park. As the days went on, they got closer with each other emotionally and physically, holding hands and hugging. Both of them started to become very fond of each other. They began to kiss passionately and fiddled with each other under clothing. They felt sexually aroused, and got more comfortable with touching and continued whenever they had the chance to.

One day, Jay went over to Janice’s house when her parents were not home. They decided to watch a movie and got carried away when they started kissing passionately, and doing the usual things they did. Jay suggested that they try to have sex. Janice thought about it and asked if he had protection.  Jay convinced Janice that it would be okay if they didn’t have any because every friend he knows who has sex has no problems without a condom. Janice was then persuaded and they went up to her room and had sexual intercourse.

A month or so later, Janice felt unwell and was nauseated. Janice suddenly remembered that her period did not come during the first week of the month, which was odd. Jay and Janice started to worry and bought a pregnancy test in the drug store. The test was positive. Janice was pregnant.
Janice, only age 15, decided that she should tell her parents. Her parents were furious and upset. Her parents wondered if abortion for young teenagers may be risky and dangerous, but insist that she abort anyways because they didn’t want to take care of her baby.

Janice wants to give birth to her baby.  At the same time, she is angry at Jay about the condom issue.

Teenage sexual activity and pregnancy: What the Law Says:

Q1: Was the sexual activity between Janice (age 15) and her boyfriend Jay (age 18) legal?

A: Yes.  Janice was old enough to legally consent to sex with Jay.

When are you old enough to legally consent to sexual activity?

If you are…

·                     12 or 13, you can consent to sex, but only with someone less than two years older than you.

·                     14 or 15, you can consent to sex, but only with someone who isless than 5 years older than you. But, you CAN'T consent to sex with someone who is more than two years younger than you (or you could be charged).

·                     16 and older, you can consent to sex with anyone older than you. 

·                     In all of these cases, however, if you are under 18, you cannot legally consent to sex with someone who is in a position of trust or authority over you (like your teacher, swim coach, Pastor). That person could be charged with a criminal offence.

Q2: Can Janice go against her parents’ wishes and deliver the baby (instead of having an abortion)?

A: Yes. As long as Janice has the capacity to consent to medical treatment and understand her medical situation, she can make her own decisions around her pregnancy and the birth.

When are you old enough to make your own medical decisions?

In Ontario, your age does not determine your ability to make decisions about medical treatment. Instead, you can make your own decisions about your health care as long as you are considered capable by your doctor or health-care provider.  Being capable means that you can understand the information that you are given about treatment as well as the consequences of your decision (such as the risks and results of the treatment).  

Your doctor might consider you capable with respect to some treatments and decisions, but incapable with respect to others, depending on how complicated or risky those treatments are.  For example, the different treatments Janice can expect to hear about at the doctor’s office might range from a second pregnancy test to an ultrasound (a test to look at the fetus and see if it is developing healthily) to an abortion (a procedure to end the pregnancy).  All of these are treatments with different risks, so the doctor might decide that Janice is capable of making some of those decisions and not others. 

In Ontario, you are presumed to be capable of making medical decisions unless the doctor has a reason to believe that you are not capable.  Age can play a role in this decision, since the older you are, the more able you generally are to make independent decisions and understand the consequences of those decisions.  It’s always a good idea to ask the doctor before you discuss something with them, in order to make sure that the doctor will respect your rights and not tell your parents what you have said.

Since Janice is fifteen, the doctor will probably decide that Janice is capable of making most or all of her medical decisions.  Any decisions that Janice makes cannot be disclosed to her parents, unless Janice gives her express consent.  This means that the doctor must ask Janice before telling her parents about her health care information, decisions, and treatment, and Janice must tell the doctor that it is okay to tell.  Ideally, Janice would sign a “consent” form that states exactly what information the doctor may share, and who the doctor can share it with.

It is unlikely, but possible that her doctor may decide that Janice is incapable with respect to a certain treatment or medical decision.  For example, if Janice has a severe learning disability or a mental health condition that prevents her from being able to understand her medical issues and the treatment options, then the doctor may decide she is incapable.  In such a case, the doctor will then be able to disclose Janice’s medical information to someone called a “substitute decision-maker.”  Since Janice is under 16 and lives with her parents, this person would be one of her parents.  In this case, Janice will be able to discuss her situation with her parents, but they will be responsible for making her health-care decisions for issues where the doctor has decided Janice is incapable.

For more information about teen pregnancy, support, and health care options if you think you might be pregnant:

The June Callwood Centre is a multi-service centre for pregnant and parenting teens in Toronto.  Their website contains links to other resources (if you are planning to have a baby or make a decision about a pregnancy), as well as information about the resources they provide.

Rosalie Hall provides services for young women who are going to have a baby or who are new parents, including education, counseling and outreach, child care, among other programs.

Planned Parenthood Toronto provides health care and health services to youth, including on sexual and reproductive health issues, and they will provide information and pregnancy-related medical treatment, including pregnancy tests, counselling on pregnancy options, and referrals to services to help pregnant women make an informed decision regarding pregnancy.

The Ontario laws that determine who can make medical decisions and how medical information can be released are the Health Care Consent Act and the Personal Health Information Protection Act.

The scenario for this post was written by Ying Yi Lau, a volunteer member of the PLE Team.  The legal info was written by JFCY. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Police Carding

You’re walking home after a long day at school and from the corner of your eye you notice a police cruiser approaching you. You think nothing of it, as you haven’t committed a crime.

Not too long after you hear a whistle, or a “hey you”, from the direction of the cruiser and find the officer inside motioning at you to approach his vehicle. Upon approaching the driver’s side of the car, the officer asks you questions like, “where were you going?” or, “do you have any illegal substances on you”. They continue with justifications for the stop, “you matched the description of a suspect in recent residential thefts”, or “we’re looking for an individual who matches your description”. Finally, they end by asking for your personal identification card, or information like your name, age, and address. 

This policing practice is called “carding”, and is named after the requesting of ID cards that are stored in police records. The Toronto Police are also now calling these types of stops ‘street checks’.  Carding or street checks are an unfortunate reality for many youth, disproportionately so, for young males belonging to ethnic minorities. When an individual is approached by an officer and asked for personal information, the individual can decline to answer as his or her rights are protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, however in reality, failing to answer, or “not cooperating” can lead to greater problems over simply complying with the officer’s demands.  

Also, sometimes the officer has a reason to stop you and the authority to find out who you are.  For example, if there are a number of factors that lead the officer to suspect that you are involved in a particular criminal activity, or if you are being issued a ticket for an offence like trespassing or riding your bike without a bell, the officer has the authority to find out who you are.  If you don’t identify yourself, the officer could take you to the police station to find out who you are.  It is important to find out if you must stay in the presence of the police by asking, ‘am I free to go?’  If you are not free to go, you should also ask ‘why are you stopping me?’  It is up to you if you want to share more information with the police officers but most lawyers will give you the advice that beyond identifying yourself, you have a right to remain silent and say nothing else, regardless of whether your are doing anything wrong or not.  

Why do officers collect personal information from the public?

Also known as the “208” card, the index-size-card is used to gather information about community members. It is often justified as a method to reduce crime in high-risk communities across the city. Police are asked to document their daily practice, and are to be as detailed as possible, which includes taking detailed notes of incidents as they happen, and documenting their interactions with the members of the public. This information is collected on contact cards, and is gathered in the large quantities in communities where the incidents of crime are likely to occur. Also, filling out these contact cards is regarded as good police work; the cards have been used to obtain search warrants, identify witnesses, and even sometimes aiding in trials. The information of these contacts cards are than entered in to large databases that the police use to search for connections, persons of interest, and bystanders of previous crimes. These contact cards will also later be used for reference to future crimes.

Another justification for this practice is that if the job is done right, and all the ‘bad guys’ are removed from the neighbourhood, you will be less vulnerable to victimization. This also means officers will be needed in the neighbourhood, meaning individuals will no longer be carded.

The police have been under heavy scrutiny in Toronto, as well as other large cities such as New York and London, after recent research showing that the police had a tendency to stop racial minorities much more frequently. In Toronto, this practice lead to the Toronto Police Service Board asking the Chief of Police Bill Blair to collect statistics on the rates of different groups being stopped, and to address discriminatory practices. The Board will also soon require police to give out ‘receipts’ or copies of the card stating the purpose of the stop to each individual carded.  

On November 14th, 2012, Justice for Children and Youth made a written submission and presentation to the Toronto Police Service Board about Toronto Police Service discrimination and carding practices.  See the written submission here and link to video here.

This post was written by JFCY volunteer Shawn Malik, a member of the PLE Team.  JFCY's Street Youth Legal Services lawyer, Johanna Macdonald, added some info and expertise.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Volunteer Spotlight: Arif Hussain

 This JFCY Volunteer Profile is about volunteer Arif Hussain.  It was written by fellow JFCY volunteer Georjo Tabucan.

You know passion when you see it, and in the few months that I’ve been volunteering with JFCY, I’ve been using my detective skills in my quest to write about the perfect volunteer in this top secret volunteer profile. I can honestly say that my years of training in gathering information have paid off! Now allow me to share with you some really interesting information about Arif Hussain, a young man with a lot of passion (But remember, this is top secret!).

A recent English and Philosophy graduate from the University of Toronto, Arif Hussain is an active volunteer with JFCY - one of the founding members of the Public Legal Education Team whose inception began in 2010, as well as a member on the Board of Directors. I recently had the chance to speak to him regarding his experience so far with JFCY and how much the law means to him: 

Q:        Why did you decide to volunteer with JFCY?
A:        It is now my third year volunteering with JFCY. I had always been interested in law growing up but nothing specifically. Youth law stood out as something very important to me when I was taking high school law courses, perhaps because I was a youth at the time.   Anyways, in my second year [of university] I was advised by an academic coach that down the line professional and graduate schools will be looking at more than just  GPA or test scores. In searching for volunteer activities, I happened to come across a JFCY           posting on the UofT career website. The rest is history.

Q:        How long have you been with JFCY and what is your role within the organization?
A:        I started off as a volunteer with the Public Legal Education Team. It was very small at the time. I still remember my first meeting, there were 6 of us including the person in charge of the committee and staff lawyer with JFCY, Andrea Luey. For my work with the clinic, I was also elected as a member of the board of directors last November 2011. On the board we make decisions regarding the clinic in all its aspects. Outside of my degree, volunteering with this clinic has been the best education I have received thus far.  

Q:        What are your future goals, both personally and with JFCY?
A:        At the moment I am applying to law school. Becoming a lawyer had been my life long goal, since I was 8 to be exact but who's counting, right? I am very nervous about my law school applications and as result, I have applied everywhere. Ideally, I want to stay in the city and still regularly volunteer with JFCY but if that's not possible we have students out of the city who can send in blog posts or still help out in other ways, and I could do that as well. Regardless of what happens, I see myself continuing to work with JFCY.

Q:        How important is the law to you?
A:        Important doesn't even begin to cover it. I was interested in practicing law in Canada based on what I was seeing around me long before I could speak the English language when I first arrived here. I was 8 at the time. Everything I have done since then has been a preparation towards this end goal, including my involvement with JFCY to the undergraduate programs I chose. It is an obsession in many ways.

Q:        Why is it essential for children and youth to be aware of their rights?
            It's like this - we should always be at least aware of the rules governing any system that  we are a part of. Whether or not you are a pro at it, arguably most teens today have a  Facebook account. But before anyone learns to post or like anything, we quickly learn how Facebook as a system operates through various and very accessible means. When one learns a new language, one must first learn the rules of speech, grammar etc. I'm not suggesting that every youth go out and become a legal expert or get a law degree. But I    think everyone who is able, has a responsibility to themselves to be aware of the law. It's good to know a few things about the system we live in.

Arif is currently taking the year off to further explore the field of law in its practical setting, working at the ADR Institute of Canada, and wishes to work in social justice upon becoming a lawyer (you know, modern day superheroes who want to bring about change. That’s inspiring!). Aside from volunteering, working, and pursuing his legal interests, Arif likes to spend his free time working out at the gym, and keeping himself abreast with new technology and gadgets.

By now you probably realize that I’m not really a detective...or am I? (Just kidding) But in all seriousness, Arif is probably one of the most passionate people I have ever met and I wish him all the best in his applications to law school. He’s a cool and bright individual, if I do say so myself!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Can I Leave Home?

Scenario: Isabella's Story

I am a 16-year-old girl named Isabella. I currently live with my parents and my 3 siblings. I used to have a really strong relationship with my parents, however recently my parents and I have not been getting along.  They constantly argue and disagree with my academic choices, my friends and lifestyle choices. They keep invading my privacy and enforcing rules that I cannot live by. I feel like I’m old enough to make my own decisions and I feel very limited by my parents rules. I have a boyfriend that I love very much but, my parents do not approve of him. My boyfriend and I work and attend school and we feel as though we are able to support ourselves financially. For that reason, I really want to be move out from my parents's home. 

How can I do this? Am I eligible for Emancipation?
We do not have laws on “Emancipation” in Ontario. In some U.S. states, there are emancipation laws which let someone 16 years and older apply to a court, to be free from the custody and control of their parents or guardians. However, there are no such laws in Ontario.

When can I decide where I want to live?
In Ontario, at 16 years of age or older, you can generally decide where you want to live and you do not need a legal guardian. You can live with someone else against the wish of your legal guardian.
If you do choose to move in with your boyfriend, is it not against any laws of Ontario and you do not need permission from your parents.

Do my parents have to support me?
Your parents do not have to support you if you are 16 years or older and have left home of your own free will.
However, If you are 16 years or older and you were forced to leave home, your parents may still have to support you. For example, you are entitled to support if you left home because you were kicked out without a very good reason, or if you were abused, or if your living situation at home is unsafe, unbearable or impossible.

What can I take when I leave home?
You have a right to take all of your personal property with you whether you bought it yourself or it was given to you as a gift. This includes all of your identification such as health cards, birth certificates, and passport. These documents are very important and you and should take them with you. If your parents are refusing to let you take your own property you can contact the police or a lawyer for help. Sometimes a family member or friend can help pick up your property for you.

There is A LOT to think about when deciding, whether to leave home, such as how you will support yourself financially, where you will live, and where you will go to school.

For more information on Leaving Home, consult our pamphlet on Leaving Home, as well as our YouTube video on Leaving home


Kids Help Phone -
416-973-4444 / 1-800-668-6868 (outside Toronto).

Children’s Aid Society - 416-987-7725 in Toronto
To locate your local CAS, visit the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Society’s website at

Information about community, government, social and health issues
Dial “211” from inside the Toronto area, or visit
Outside GTA, check the local Blue Book or visit


Justice for Children and Youth:
415 Yonge Street, Suite 1203
GTA (416) 920 - 1633

The scenario for this post was written by Deqa Abdi, a JFCY volunteer on the PLE Team.  The legal info was written by Lauren Grossman, a first-year law student at U of T who is volunteering at JFCY through her law school’s Pro Bono Students Canada program. All info was reviewed by a JFCY staff lawyer. The comic was by Adrianna Pahuta.