Thursday, February 23, 2012

Leaving Care at 16 or older

Jenny's scenario

When Jenny was 13 years old, she was removed from her parents' home, where she was experiencing physical abuse. Her teacher had noticed that she had been coming to school bruised and depressed. Her teacher had a legal duty to report the issue to the Children’s Aid Society (CAS), and after investigating, CAS apprehended Jenny.  An "apprehension" happens when CAS believes that a child is being harmed or is at risk of harm and so the child is removed from his or her home.   

Jenny has been in the care of Children’s Aid ever since because it was decided in court that it was not safe for her to return to her parents. At the end of the court case, the Judge decided that Jenny would be a Crown ward.  Being a Crown ward means that Jenny’s parents are no longer legally responsible for Jenny and that she is not allowed to live with them.  Instead, the “Crown” (this means the government) is legally responsible for Jenny, and CAS is responsible for her care.  If someone becomes a Crown ward, there is the potential for that person to be adopted.

Jenny is now 16 years old and she is wondering when she will be able to leave CAS and move out on her own.  She loves her foster family very much; however, she feels as though she is old enough to live on her own and become an independent young adult. 

Jenny has two different options for moving out.  

First, she can apply to terminate the court order that makes her a Crown ward.  With this option, Jenny would no longer have a relationship with CAS at all.  She’d be completely independent.  This is challenging because since Jenny is under 18, she will need to be in school full-time.  There are many life skills required for independent living, like cooking, cleaning, budgeting, and finding a place to live.  If Jenny wanted to move out on her own, she would have do consider whether she was ready to do these things on her own.  

Second, Jenny’s other option is to ask CAS to change her placement from her foster home to "independent living", allowing her to receive a living allowance to live on hew own, but still continue to have a relationship with CAS and get support from them.  She would have to talk to her CAS worker about whether this is a possibility available for her.

When Jenny is 18, her legal relationship with CAS mayend and she will have the opportunity to be completely independent.  However, since Jenny is a Crown ward and has continuously been in care since she was 13, she will probably be able to enter into an Extended Care and Maintenance agreement with CAS.  Under this agreement, Jenny will be able to continue to receive care until she is 21 as she transitions into independent living.  For example, Jenny will receive emotional support from her CAS worker, and she will also receive financial support from CAS to help her live independently and continue her education.  If she does not want to or is unable to stay with her foster family, Jenny may be able to use this support to move out and find her own place to live.  

Jenny has thought about her options a lot and has decided that she is probably going to wait a couple more years until she is ready to take that huge step and actually move out  of her foster parents' home. Jenny, her foster parents, and her CAS worker have already discussed possible new living arrangements, education, as well as money for her to live on when she does eventually move out.  When the times comes for Jenny to move out, her foster parents are going to help her throughout her transition. Jenny has never lived by herself before and she knows that it may be stressful and hard at times, but she feels as though it will definitely be a great new experience for her.

Leaving child protection services, or receiving services from child protection agencies again once you’ve left voluntarily, can be a very complicated and challenging issue.  Factors like how old you are now, how old you were when you entered care, and how long you were in care for or whether you were out of care at certain points all matter in determining what services you may be eligible for once you are 16 or older.  It is a good idea to contact a lawyer if you have specific questions about your situation and your rights.

Transitioning out of care is a very challenging time for many Crown wards or other youth in the care of CAS.  Recently, the provincial Advocate for Children and Youth partnered with young people in and from care to hold hearings designed to address issues facing Crown wards in Ontario.  JFCY participated in these hearings, along with many other organizations working with youth (in addition to many youth who are/were in care).

For more general information about involvement with child protection services and leaving home, see these JFCY pamphlets:

Thanks to JFCY volunteer and PLE Team Member Deqa Abdi for writing the scenario set out in this blog post.  Legal information is by JFCY.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What's a paralegal?

Hi! My name is Sloan Smith and I’m training at college to be a licensed paralegal. 

A lot of people I meet don’t know what a paralegal is.  Let me take a minute to explain because it’s really quite cool what I’ll be doing once I graduate.

I will offer independent legal services to the public.  As of 2007, paralegals are required to be licensed by the Law Society of Upper Canada, just like lawyers are!  But there are certain areas of law I won’t be able to work in – like real estate, serious criminal and family law.  For those areas, a lawyer is necessary.
Anyways, there are many areas of law I can practice in, like
  • Small Claims Court (sometimes similar to the kinds of cases you see in Judge Judy’s show on TV!)
  • The Ontario Court of Justice under the Provincial Offences Act (for speeding ticket or parking ticket offences)
  • Criminal offences (called summary conviction offences) where the maximum penalty does not exceed 6 months jail
When I graduate this spring, maybe I’ll get a job in a law firm.
Or maybe I’ll work in a courtroom.
Or a government office.
Or a legal clinic.
Or eventually, maybe I’ll open up my own practice called SLOAN Paralegal Inc.!

So I know you’re asking yourself, “When should someone hire a paralegal?” 

The answer: 1) When the legal issue you have is relatively simple and 2) when the cost of hiring a lawyer is too expensive.

When I earn my diploma and pass my licensing exam, I’ll be ready to help people through legal representation.  I know it’s going to be a great and challenging career and who knows, maybe you or someone you know may need a paralegal’s services one day.

Okay, well I have to hit the books so see you around! 
Sloan Smith

To learn more about paralegal practice and licensing, check out the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) FAQs on Paralegals.  LSUC is the body that regulates lawyers and paralegals in Ontario.

Scarlett (Sloan) Smith is a member of JFCY's PLE Team, and a student in an accredited Ontario paralegal training program.

Friday, February 17, 2012

School Fights: What can the consequences be?

Josh, 15, and Dave, 16, have never gotten along. No one knows exactly when their animosity towards one another began, but in Grade 11, everything got out of control. It started a couple months ago when Josh started dating Dave’s ex-girlfriend, Sam. Dave and his friends at school would taunt and tease Josh in the hallways and in the locker rooms where teachers weren’t around. Then, Dave spread rumours around the school that Josh had been cheating on Sam in order to get them to break up. Josh had had enough at that point, but he did not want to go to any teachers because he thought it would would just lead to more taunting and teasing by Dave and his friends. So, he decided to fight Dave. He figured if he won that fight, Dave and the other students would leave him alone. Dave agreed to fight and it was decided that the next day, Friday, at 4pm in the school parking lot, they would settle their dispute physically.

Fights on campus can lead to serious consequences at school.
By the time of the fight, the entire school had heard about it and a huge crowd had gathered to watch. Josh and Dave were at the centre of the crowd. In a split second, Dave punched Josh right in the face, leaving Josh on the pavement, bleeding. Moments after, the crowd began to flee. Teachers at the school saw the group of students outside and came out to see what was going on. The sight of teachers scared all the spectators away. Josh’s nose was bleeding, but the bleeding stopped quickly and he wasn’t hurt too badly. Both boys live with their parents, who were called to pick them up.

Dave and Josh’s fight happened on school property.  What kind of consequences could the boys face at school?

Some of the most serious consequences that a student can face for behaviour at school are suspensions and expulsions.  If a student is suspended, that means he or she can’t come to school for the time period of the suspension, which can be up to 20 days.  A suspension is also recorded in a student’s Ontario Student Record, so that even if someone transfers schools, the new school may know what happened.  Expulsions prevent students from attending school for at least four weeks, and it may mean that they cannot go to their own schools again afterwards.  In both suspensions and expulsions, students can’t participate in school-related activities, like sports team practices or clubs.

School Suspensions

Because Dave punched Josh in the face and bullied him before the fight, the principal will consider suspending Dave.  If Josh made threats to Dave before the fight about seriously hurting him, the principal may consider suspending Josh, too.  This is a situation where is a suspension is possible, but not required.  The law requires principals to suspend students in certain situations that happen at school or school-related activities; for example, when you physically hurt another person so that the other person needs medical attention.  Situations for mandatory suspensions are set out in Ontario’s Education Act, and school boards can also set guidelines for when suspensions are required in their board’s Code of Conduct.  Mandatory suspensions also have the potential to lead to an expulsion, so they can be very serious.

Mitigating Circumstances

When deciding whether to suspend Dave, the principal will have to consider “mitigating circumstances.”  These are reasons that the school might not suspend Dave even though he punched Josh and teased him.  Mitigating circumstances include issues like whether Dave was able to control his behaviour, whether he understood what would probably happen because of his behaviour, and whether his being at school would pose a risk to Josh’s or anyone else’s safety.  Other things can be considered too, like whether Dave has a disability or if he has had any problems at school in the past. 


The school must act fairly towards Dave.  They must accommodate any disabilities he has, they must tell him what they are suspending him for, and they must give him a chance to tell his side of the story.  Since Dave is 16 and lives with his parents, they must also contact his parents to tell them about the suspension.  They must inform Dave and his parents of the suspension in writing, explaining why he is suspended and for how long, and telling him which suspended students program he has been assigned to (if he is suspended for more than 5 days).  They must also provide information about the right to appeal his suspension and who to contact with his appeal notice.  Once the suspension is over, Dave can begin to attend school again.

Appealing a Suspension

If Dave is suspended, he might feel that his punishment is unfair.  In this case, his parents can appeal the suspension by notifying the supervisory officer (usually a Superintendent) named in his suspension notice of their intent to appeal.  They must do this within ten school days of the start of the suspension.  A suspension appeal must then be held within 15 days after the supervisory officer receives the written notice.

Appeal Hearing

At the suspension appeal, school board trustees will listen to evidence from both Dave and the principal.  Dave and his parents have rights at the hearing.  These include being represented by a lawyer, calling witnesses, presenting Dave’s side of the story, cross-examining witnesses (this means asking questions of the witnesses called by the principal), and explaining mitigating circumstances.  The trustees will then decide whether to uphold, change, or end the suspension.  If the suspension is ended, Dave can go back to school immediately.  Even if the suspension ended before the appeal was held, this is still an important decision because it will be removed from Dave’s record if the board ends it at the appeal.

Although nobody was hurt badly in Dave and Josh's fight, a more serious fight might have led to an expulsion, or to criminal charges.  For more information, see JFCY’s pamphlets:

 Scenario written by JFCY volunteer and PLE team member Cemone Morlese.  Legal info by JFCY.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

CBC Metro Morning: A poem from 2667 Kipling Ave.

If anyone is interested in issues affecting youth in the City of Toronto, I highly recommend that you read this poem by Grade 12 student Darren Clarke, and listen to his recital of the poem from the Metro Morning broadcast this morning.

Darren, thanks for sharing your gifts and your insights with Toronto!

Photo from the CBC Metro Morning website: 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bullying in the news: consequences and responses

The description of the news article below and the "Afterthought" are the opinions of  Deby Ko, a volunteer member of JFCY's PLE Team and JFCY's bullying sub-committee.  The information about the proposed Ontario legislation is by JFCY.

Bullying in the News - By JFCY volunteer Deby Ko

Current news indicates how severe bullying can be and how bullying can lead to terrifying results.  In Fall 2011, the Toronto Sun reported that Mitchell Wilson committed suicide. Mitchell was 11-years-old and he had muscular dystrophy, a disease which weakens muscles over time.  Mitchell was heavily bullied. 

Mitchell’s challenges began when a 12-year-old mugged him.  When his attacker was arrested, his friends started following Mitchell home and bullying him on why he was bringing the young offender to court.
With the taunts and bullying, Mitchell no longer did the same amount of exercise he had in the past.  soem could argue that this made his illness develop faster, so that he had to use a wheelchair all of the time.  His mental state was also extremely vulnerable. The Sun described the changes in Mitchell’s mental state: “Mitchell stopped sleeping and began suffering anxiety attacks. He told his family he’d rather kill himself than go back to school where he was being bullied.”

Despite being counseled and assigned a protector at school, Mitchell no longer was the same person he used to be. He had ongoing stresses because of his illness and because his court date against his attacker was approaching.  Before his first day of grade 6, Mitchell ended his life.

For more information on the article please visit:

Afterthought - by JFCY volunteer Deby Ko

It’s terrifying how physical attacks followed by verbal attacks can lead to such traumatic results. Despite being counseled by his school and accompanied by a protector, Mitchell could no longer act the way he used to. Sometimes people think that kids need to face bullying on their own, but it is important for kids who have been bullied to talk with someone about the situation.  This can help to relieve some anxiety. People you can turn to may be friends, family, teachers or other people that you trust.  If you don’t want to turn to others, you can try writing your feelings on a blog or diary entry, either to help other people who are going through the same thing as you online or just to relieve some anxiety you may have. Joining extracurricular activities can also help you confront your fears when you have more friends by your side listening to any problems you may have.

If you have bullied someone, you have to know that what you have done can have a lasting effect on someone and that there may be long-lasting consequences for you, too.

School bullying and the law - by JFCY

Every province in Canada has the power to make laws about education in that province.  In Ontario, the Education Act applies to public and separate (Catholic) schools.  This year, the Ontario government introduced a bill to change the Education Act.  A bill is a proposed law that must be debated by government and voted on.  If a majority of the elected representatives to a province’s legislature vote for a bill, then it becomes law.  The bill that the Ontario government is proposing is supposed to help address bullying in school.  The goal of the law would be to help make sure that students feel safe in school, because all students deserve to feel safe and included.  Feeling safe at school is also important to being able to succeed in school.  The introduction to the bill, which is called a preamble, talks specifically about making schools more inclusive for LGBTTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, two-spirited, intersexed, queer and questioning) people, because a lot of bullying in school is based on someone's perceived sexual identity.  Another important part of the bill is that it recognizes that both people who bully and people who are bullied need to be supported in making good choices and developing healthy relationships.

So what will the bill do if passed?

The bill defines bullying.  Legal definitions are important because people depend on them when they are trying to understand what is included in a law.  For example, one part of the bill says that school boards must consider expelling a student who has previously been suspended for bullying.  Whether or not a student’s behaviour is classified as bullying according to the definition in the law could make a difference to what consequences the student faces for his or her actions.

The bill also makes school boards and schools responsible for working to prevent bullying. For example, schools have to include rules to help prevent bullying in their codes of conduct.  School boards will be required to have guidelines and policies on a wide range of topics relating to bullying and other forms of inappropriate behaviour.  Some examples of the guidelines and policies that are required include which consequences should be considered for students who engage in inappropriate behaviour, what strategies can be used to prevent bullying, and what training relating to bullying should be provided to teachers and staff at a school.  

Finally, the bill also proclaims Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week as the third week in November, and it requires school boards to support students who want to lead activities or organizations that “promote gender equity, anti-racism, the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people with disabilities or the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.” 

Bullying Resources

If you have specific legal questions relating to bullying, please contact JFCY at 416.920.1633
If you are a victim of bullying and need support, check out some of these organizations:
If you want to find out more about bullying and how you can help raise awareness and prevent bullying, you can look at some of these websites:
There is a list of books and other resources on blocking and dealing with cyber-bullying as well as other forms of bullying on this website:

Here at JFCY, the cyber-bullying sub-committee wants to know all about your thoughts on this post. Please let us know if this post is helpful and/or informative and what you would like to see in future posts. Post your comments, questions, requests and ideas as they are extremely valuable to us and will help us better understand what to write about in our next post.  Our comments are moderated, so if you do not want your comment published to the blog, just say so when you submit it. Or you could email us at

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Abuse at home - how can I get help?

Maria is twelve years old. Her mother has just married Craig. Maria has a good relationship with her mom, but is becoming aware her mother could be in an unhealthy relationship. Craig swears a lot and calls her mother inappropriate words. Before the marriage, Craig had hit her mom on several occasions and her mom tried to leave. Maria’s mom told her that she has chosen to be with Craig due to her financial situation.

Since the marriage, Craig has moved into the household. Maria is rebellious about this new adjustment as she does not like Craig. Maria’s mom has not told anyone about Craig’s abuse and has told Maria not to tell anyone. At this point, Craig has never physically hit Maria but has been verbally abusive.

However, one night, Maria’s mom is not home because she is working a night shift. Craig, who has cooked dinner for Maria, is telling her to come eat food. Maria expresses that she is not hungry and does not want to eat. Craig becomes agitated at this and orders her to eat her dinner. He yells at her and calls inappropriate words such as “stupid brat” and even threatens her with “if you don’t eat I am going to kill you.”

Maria has now become frightened about the current situation. She decides to hide in the attic of the house. Craig is unable to control his anger.  He eventually finds Maria and hits her.  He leaves bruises on her body. Craig also threatens Maria not to tell her mother or he “will kill her.”

Maria, unsure as to what to do, decides to tell her mother when Craig is not home. However, her mother does not believe she is telling the truth. Maria has reasons to believe that Craig would hit her again when her mother is not home. Over a few months, this abuse persists when Maria’s mother is not home, leaving Maria scared and unsure as to what to do. Her mom continues not to believe her, leaving Maria left to deal with her abuse alone.

Maria considers telling her teacher at school about this abuse, but is unsure as to what can be done.  She does not want to continue living in a place where she feels unsafe.

Legal Information

This blog post covers what happens when a child feels unsafe at home, and the beginning of the process where child protection services become involved with a family.  It does not describe what happens after the first court hearing if a child is removed from home.  For more information about child welfare court from a young person’s perspective, check out this JFCY pamphlet.  For information for parents and guardians on child protection, check out Family Law Education for Women’s page on child protection.

If Maria feels unsafe at home, who can she contact?

Maria has been abused by Craig.  Abuse is harm that can take many different forms, including both words and physical actions.  Many times, abuse takes place between people who are in close relationships, like people in a sexual relationship or a parent and child.  This can make abuse very difficult to discuss and respond to.  However, no person ever deserves abuse, and regardless of whether Maria has argued with or disobeyed Craig, he has no right to hit her.

If Maria tells her teacher or another adult about the abuse, that person has a legal duty to report the situation to the Children’s Aid Society (CAS).  According to Ontario law, every member of the public must contact CAS if they have reasonable grounds to believe that a child is being abused or neglected.  CAS has the authority to investigate situations after they are contacted. This means that CAS will get in touch with the family to find out what is happening.  If necessary, they may act to make sure that the child is safe.  Even if Maria does not tell her teacher, she can contact CAS herself.

The next section discusses what happens if CAS gets involved with Maria’s family.  However, if CAS does not think that Maria needs protection, and Maria disagrees, she can apply to the court to get protection.  This is an option available to young people under 16, and it is called a “third party application.”

What happens when CAS gets involved with a family?

When CAS is contacted about child abuse, it will do an initial screening to decide whether it needs to become involved with a family.  After this screening, it may decide that the child is well cared for and that CAS doesn’t need to be involved.  It may also decide to investigate.  CAS will most likely decide to investigate in Maria’s case, and they will visit her home to talk to her, her mom, and Craig.  CAS may also talk to people lilke Maria’s teachers or the family’s neighbours.  The goal of the investigation is to determine whether Maria is in need of protection.  The fact that Craig has hit Maria is a good reason for CAS to see her as needing protection, and so is the fact that she has seen Craig hitting her mom at home.

If CAS finds that Maria needs protection, it will work with her, her mom, and Craig to solve the problem.  CAS tries not to disrupt families more than necessary , which means that Maria may be able to stay at home with her mom.  However, it will be very important for Maria’s mom to get a lawyer to help her as soon as CAS becomes involved with Maria’s family.  When CAS works with a family to ensure that a child is safe, they will ask the family to sign an agreement called a Plan of Service.  The agreement sets out exactly what is required to make sure that the child is safe.  What is in the plan will depend on what CAS sees as necessary for Maria’s safety.  If Maria’s mom is unwilling to sign the Plan of Service, or she does not follow its conditions, CAS may take Maria from her home.  For example, if CAS does not think Maria will be safe around Craig, and Maria’s mom will not consider living without Craig, this could mean that Maria can no longer live at home.  CAS has the authority to make this decision.

If CAS decides that Maria cannot live at home, they can place her with a family member, in a foster home, or in a group home.  CAS may also call the police to tell them about the abuse.  The police could lay criminal charges against Craig for assaulting Maria.  Assault is a crime that happens when one person touches another person without that person’s permission.  It is possible that Maria’s mom could also face criminal charges if the police feel that she helped Craig with the abuse or failed to properly care for Maria.

What happens if Maria is removed from her home?

If Maria is taken from home without her mom’s consent, there will be a child protection hearing in fewer than five days after removal.  A hearing is when the information in a case is heard by a judge.  The judge decides what will happen next – if Maria will go back home or if she will stay in her temporary living place.  At this hearing, a judge will decide whether Maria will continue to stay where she is placed and what will happen next.  This is NOT the final decision about where Maria will live. There will probably be a very long process until the situation is completely resolved.  Maria’s wishes will always be considered.  The judge may decide that Maria needs a lawyer, who will be appointed by the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, which is part of Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney-General.  This lawyer will represent her in the child protection process, and will talk to Maria about options available to her.  If Maria doesn’t have a lawyer, and feels she needs one, she can talk to the CAS worker who is responsible for her case.

Blog scenario by PLE Team Member and Volunteer Tracy Chen.  Legal information by JFCY.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Staff Profile: Johanna Macdonald

Street Youth Legal Services lawyer Johanna MacDonald in her office at JFCY
Johanna Macdonald is one six lawyers working for the JFCY at the Toronto office. She has always been interested in law and completed her undergraduate degree at Carlton University in Ottawa. On behalf of the JFCY blog I asked her the following questions:

Why the interest in Youth?
While studying Criminology, Johanna read many statistics about the high peak of criminal behaviour for young men. She also learned that the likelihood of someone committing a crime can be predicted as early as age four. She has always thought the best way to reduce crime is to prevent it, and by providing support at an early age. At Carlton, Johanna volunteered with a Rowing programme for at-risk youth. From this she realized the necessity for increased support for older youth, such as teenagers and those in their twenties.

So what do you do as a Street Youth Lawyer?
Johanna represents high-risk and homeless youth between the ages of sixteen and twenty four. She visits shelters to see if there are youth in need of legal advice or to give seminars about employment rights, police interactions, and family law. Johanna loves being a youth lawyer because she deals with many areas of law such as, immigration, housing, and criminal, to name a few.

What Issues are Street Youth faced with today?
Johanna acknowledges that at-risk and homeless youth are heavily stigmatized and often have a negative view of the law. She says this is often because the primary interaction these youth have is with law enforcement. Johanna is working hard to educate youth on the opportunities that the law can provide them, for example in cases involving sole custody of a child or applications for compensation.

Should the law be reformed?
Johanna says the law does provide support to youth, but that there is still much to improve. In her opinion the law often treats at-risk and homeless youth as simply an “emergency problem”.  She thinks youth need better continued support, especially because there is such a high population of homeless youth who have been Crown Wards or have left child welfare. She said that the while the average youth receives financial support from parents or guardians up to age twenty seven, the maximum age a Crown Ward can receive financial support to is age twenty one. She would like to see the law changed so that the eligibility for financial support to Wards of the Crown is extended to age twenty four.

What’s next for Johanna?
On February 29th she is hosting a meeting at Queen West Community Health Centre with police and law enforcers about better ways to effectively interact with Youth.  She hinted that the name may involve ‘Hot Shot’, which is a Police term for a situation that demands all officers drop what they are doing and immediately head to the scene of the crime! Keep reading the blog for updates on the great work Johanna and the rest of the JFCY lawyers are doing for Youth.

PLE Team Member and Volunteer Danielle Skuy interviewed Johanna and wrote this post.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


My name is Labiba and I am a JFCY volunteer on the PLE Team and the Cyberbullying Subcommittee.  My blog post is about the use of phones, internet and other technologies by bullies to mock, intimidate or terrorise their victims.

Bullies have always been around.  Sometimes people are bullies because it makes them feel good to have power over others and win in all situations. Sometimes they just do it because they can, without stopping to think whether it is morally wrong or how harmful it is for the victims. Sometimes they are victims of violence themselves either at home or in school or somewhere else.

With newer and more creative methods of communicating on the internet, bullying has become more sophisticated.  Since a bully can’t see the person on the other side of their messages, videos, or texts, it is easier to ignore the effects that bullying has on victims.  A bully can also hide behind an online identity, so that nobody knows who is doing the bullying.  This can make bullying even more harmful.  People have fewer opportunities to think about the consequences of their actions when they are sitting in front of a screen or staring at a smartphone.

SOCIAL ISSUES - What are the consequences of cyber-bullying for the victim?

We all know the destructive effects of bullying. It can have a permanent or long-term impact on how a bully’s victim feels about himself or herself and how well the victim is able to build relationships with other people. Bullying also has mental health and physical health consequences that can be very serious. While some children are able to leave all these behind when they grow up and live healthy and happy lives, others find dealing with bullying exceptionally difficult and sometimes impossible. There have even been recent reports of bullied teens taking their lives in extreme cases of cyber-bullying.

Cyber-bullying may be more invasive than real life bullying for a number of reasons. It follows the victim everywhere, unlike school yard bullying. Some organizations are trying to prevent and reduce bullying.  For example, there are privacy settings and a new “trusted friend” feature on Facebook which you can use to prevent bullying and tell a friend about bullying attempts.

Once a bully posts a photograph, video or comment online, there is no calling it back. It can reach anyone anywhere and be downloaded onto hard disks almost instantaneously. It can be used years later. It can affect a person’s image even if they move away and years later when they apply to school, look for a job, or meet a potential partner in life.
As the virtual world becomes increasingly important and “real” for us, our virtual image matters as much as our real-life image, but it is unfortunately much less in our control.

Sometimes, telling others that you are being bullied is difficult because you may think they will think you are weak or are over-thinking it. But ignoring the situation when you are bullied can also make it worse. We suggest that you should try and speak out and get help early to stop bullying. We suggest that you share any bullying attempts with a person you trust. If you ask for help early on you may be able to prevent some of the more severe effects of bullying.

Everyone should always take a minute to consider what affect an online activity can have on others and on themselves later down the road.

LEGAL ISSUES - What are the consequences for the bully?

School Suspensions and Expulsions

Ontario’s Education Act requires a principal to consider suspending a student who is involved in bullying while at school, at a school-related activity, or in “other circumstances” where the activity will have an impact on the school climate. There have been decided cases in which cyber-bullying has been accepted to be such “other circumstances”. If suspended for 20 days the Principal can recommend an expulsion and then the case will be heard by a committee of the school board, who will make the final decision whether or not to expel the student.

Criminal Charges

Repeated communications that are carried out over a period of time and cause victims to reasonably fear for their safety, even if they do not result in physical injury, may fall within the definition of criminal harassment. Examples of activities covered by the definition include sending inappropriate or threatening messages or e-greeting cards; creating websites that contain threatening or harassing messages or provocative or pornographic photographs, which are usually altered; tracking victims’ electronic footprints; and sending messages to victims’ friends, family, co-workers and other associates pretending to be them.

Civil Liability

Harassing, intimidating or bullying online, asking someone for their log-in information, creating multiple personal profiles, and providing false information when creating a profile are all activities that breach the terms and conditions of most social networking websites. When you sign up for an account, you agree to follow these terms, and any breach allows the website to ban you from future use of their website. Sometimes cyber-bullying may give rise to civil action to be brought against you and/or your parents.  A civil action is when one person sues another for the damage caused by the second person’s actions, even if those actions weren’t breaking the criminal law.

Whether or not any disciplinary, criminal or civil action is taken to deal with bullying will depend on complaints received by the authorities, the seriousness of the conduct, the severity of the effect on victims, and the willingness of victims’ parents and friends to take a stand against bullying. If you are participating in cyber-bullying, you should know that it is possible to trace you even when you are using a fake ID online. If you are about to do/say something online that you would not do offline, stop and ask yourself if you would like it if the people you respect found out what you did, even if you think it is not something big enough to get you in trouble.

Cyber-bullying Resources

If you have specific legal questions relating to bullying, please contact JFCY at 416.920.1633

If you are a victim of bullying and need support, check out some of these organizations:

Kids Help Phone at 1 800 668 6868 or on
LGBT Youth line at 1.800.268.9688 or on

If you want to find out more about cyber-bullying and how you can help raise awareness and prevent cyber-bullying, you can look at some of these websites:

Web Aware on
Canadian Safe Schools Network on
There is a list of books and other resources on blocking and dealing with cyber-bullying as well as other forms of bullying on this website:

Here at JFCY, the cyber-bullying sub-committee wants to know all about your thoughts on this post. Please let us know if this post is helpful and/or informative and what you would like to see in future posts. Post your comments, questions, requests and ideas as they are extremely valuable to us and will help us better understand what to write about in our next post.  Our comments are moderated, so if you do not want your comment published to the blog, just say so when you submit it. Or you could email us at

Thanks to JFCY PLE Team member AND volunteer Labiba Rukhsana for this post.  Labiba is on JFCY's cyber-bullying subcommittee.