Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Talking to the police

It’s around midnight. You are walking home from your friend’s house and you see some police officers coming down the street towards you.  They walk up to you and start talking to you. You feel pretty nervous and fear that you are going to get in trouble.

This post will discuss the rights you have in similar police scenarios. It is important to remember that the police have to act within the law when they are doing their jobs. This means that there are limits on when they can search you and when you are required to answer questions.

Can the police ask me my name, address and age or for a piece of identification when I am walking down the street?

A police officer can ask you these things, but you have the right to refuse to answer. Unless they have reason to believe you are involved in a particular crime, the police have no right to forcibly stop you.
BUT: If a police officer does ask you questions, it is sometimes smart to answer them politely.  Then ask the police officer why he or she wants to talk with you. If the police believe you have committed an offence, they will sometimes let you off with a warning, but if you do not give your name, address, and age, they might feel that they must detain or arrest you to get this information. You should ask the police officer if you are under arrest!

Can the police ask me other questions?
Yes, but you do not have to answer them. Youth under the age of 18 have the right to a parent or trusted adult to be present during interrogation.

When can I be searched?
If the police have reason to believe you are involved in a particular crime, the police can detain you for a search.  BUT unless they say you are under arrest, all they can do is a protective, pat-down search.
The police can search you if you are arrested.

When can the police use force against me?
The police can use as much force as is required to enforce the law, to stop someone who is being arrested from escaping (if there is no less violent way to stop them), and to prevent a serious crime.  They CANNOT use force to make you answer questions or give a statement.

What do I do if I think the police have treated me badly?
There are a few things you can do if this happens to you.

You can:
·                     Talk to a lawyer immediately;
·                     Go to your doctor if you have any cuts and bruises and get copies of related medical records;
·                     Take pictures of any visible injuries;
·                     Notice whether there are any witnesses and try to obtain their name and telephone number so they can be called, if needed;
·                     Obtain and document the police officer's name and badge number. If you cannot get this information, take note of the police car number/ license plate, and the time of day;
·                     Once you are arrested,  get someone you know and trust to be with you as soon as possible;
·                     As soon as you are released by the police, write out a description of what happened, and then sign and date your report;

Then talk to a lawyer about what options you have to make a complaint.

For more information check out JFYC' s pamphlets on your rights:

If you are a youth in Ontario and have legal questions about this issue, please contact a lawyer at JFCY at 416-920-1633, or toll-free at 1-866-999-5329.  

Thanks to Krista Nerland, a PLE Team Member for writing this post. Krista is a law student at U of T. The post was edited by JFCY Volunteer, Sarah Mehta Alexander LLM Candidate. Legal information was reviewed by JFCY.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Teen pregnancy: The Law on Child Support

Jordan had always thought that the relationship he had with his girlfriend of 2 years, Claire, would last beyond their days in high school. Jordan, a Grade 11 student who just recently turned seventeen, met sixteen year old Claire during a party they both attended through a mutual friend. As their relationship got more serious, they also became sexually active, and felt that they had been regularly practising safe sex when they were with each other.

Since Jordan always remembered having protected sex with Claire, it came as quite a surprise to him when she told him that she was pregnant. He first received the news six months ago, when Claire sat him down at her home to tell him that she was expecting. The couple had decided to keep the baby, hoping to raise the child together despite the possible hardships of becoming a teen parent.

A couple of months ago Jordan and Claire broke off their relationship, as the strain of becoming parents  took a toll on each of them. Claire is still committed to raising her child, but Jordan is unsure of what his role as a father will involve. Jordan lost his part time job working at a retail store, and is worried about having to pay child support. Claire does not currently hold a part time job, and both teens are wondering if raising a child will get in the way of graduating high school on time. He is unsure about what the obligations of paying child support will mean for him, and he is worried about how he can afford it.

As the days to his child's birth comes closer, Jordan has started to become more and more worried about having to financially and emotionally support his child, and he has questioned whether the baby is actually his own. There was a period of several months where the couple had broken up, and he wonders if Claire had had other sexual partners who could possibly be the father of the child. If so, Jordan wonders if and how he can establish paternity once the child is born. He is unsure what the legal obligations are if he is given paternity forms to sign, and if paternity is not established in his favour, he wonders if he will still have to pay child support.

What are Jordan's legal rights when it comes to becoming a father?

Legal information

All parents have a legal obligation to financially support their children until at least the age of 18. That obligation begins once the baby is born. When a parent does not live with their children, they still have a legal obligation to provide financial support.

If Jordon is unsure if the child is biologically his, he talk to Claire about having the baby get a paternity test. If she does not agree Jordon is entitled to ask the courts to order one. ( To read more on this process and help available, click here)

Child support is the money that is paid by parents for the financial support of their children. This is outlined in the Family Law Act. The objective of this law is, “to establish a fair standard of support for children that ensures that they benefit from the financial means of their parents.” (To read more on this law, click here

Jordan and Claire have the option to set up their own child support agreement outside of the court system. If Jordan and Claire set up your own support agreement, they have some flexibility about the amount that will be paid, so long as they both come to an agreement and it is a fair amount. This method of arranging a support amount is common among parents. If the parties decide on the child support arrangement on their own, it must be registered with the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) to ensure enforcement of the child support payments. Once a family is registered with FRO, the process is as follows: 1) the parent paying the support makes the payments to FRO, and then 2) FRO sends the money to the parent who is owed the money. Moreover, the FRO can take action if the parent does not pay.

If the parents cannot agree on an amount of child support payment, they can take a look at the Child Support Guidelines outlined in the Family Law Act. These guidelines, based on the payor's income, outline what Jordan should expect to be paying in terms of support . The support amount is based on the average costs of raising the child considering the income level of the parent.

When a dispute about child support goes to court, in order to determine the amount of support that is owed, the court may look at the following: a copy of both parties personal income taxes filed with Canada Revenue Agency, a copy of assessment from Canada Revenue Agency, most recent statement of earnings, and if either party is on employment insurance or social assistance- a total income from the applicable source. The type of custody arrangement is also a factor, as the guidelines assume that the child spends the majority of his or her time with the parent who is receiving the child support. Needless to say, if faced with this scenario it is best to obtain legal advice to decide the best course of action.

For more information check out these Family Law Legal Resources :

If you are under age 18 in Ontario and have legal questions about child support, please contact a lawyer at JFCY at 416-920-1633, or toll-free at 1-866-999-5329.  

Scenario was written by Inez Leutenegger, a PLE  Team Member volunteer and paralegal student. Legal information written by Sarah Mehta Alexander, a JFCY volunteer who is a Master of Laws student. Legal information was reviewed by JFCY.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Focus Group for Survivors of Sexual or Gender-based Violence

JFCY is not involved in this Focus Group, but is helping the Youth Alliance Project (YAP) to spread the word.  Below is a copy of their posting. 


What:  a focus group about sexual assault, reporting to the police and healing from violence which will be led by youth facilitators and will use participatory research activities.

One of our main goals throughout the focus group is to gain first hand knowledge/experience from survivors who have experience with reporting crimes of sexual or gender-based violence to the police which includes (stalking, street harassment, intimate partner violence, sexual abuse, rape and workplace sexual harassment). This is vital to the process of informing policy and creating resources geared towards addressing the needs of the survivors which is why we are looking to hear specifically from individuals who have been through the reporting process/justice system.

**note that confidentiality will be respected at all times as no one’s names will be used in the zine, furthermore if anyone doesn't want us to use something they say in the focus group they have the right to tell us and we will fully respect their decision**

Who: young women/women who are survivors and live within the GTA, ages 16-29

Where: 246 Sackville Street (main intersection- Parliament Street & Dundas Street East)

When: May/29th/2012 from 6:00pm-8:00pm

Why: to help us make a resource booklet for geared towards young people who have experienced sexual assault to understand the process of reporting to the police and what other options they have to address the violence and take care of themselves

           (We will sign off on volunteer hours for focus group participants and bring snacks)
              Participants will receive $40 for their participation and TTC tokens are provided

The Youth Alliance Project (YAP)began in 2008 and is a youth-driven collective focused on issues of sexual and gender based violence experienced by Toronto youth. We work to strengthen the capacities of youth to advocate for improvements to our city’s existing approaches to addressing this form of violence, build our own capacity to support young people including ourselves and create resources that reflect youth-driven strategies.

****Each participant MUST register before attending the focus group and keep in mind that space is limited, so for more information or to sign up please contact*****

Consultations Coordinator: Ice Musceo at or by phone at 416-392-3135, thank you.

JFCY is not involved in this Focus Group, but is helping the Youth Alliance Project (YAP) to spread the word.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

Some useful re-reading...

Since the PLE Team and its supervising lawyer have been taking a few weeks of vacation, we suggest that you check out some of our most popular blog posts from the past:

Acting your age: Borrowed and fake I.D.

Wizarding Law 101

Leaving Home: When can i decide where to live?

If you are still craving more JFCY info while we are away, also check out our FACEBOOK page.

And check back for more new blog posts at the end of the month!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Safe Cycling

By PLE Team volunteer Deqa Abdi, with assistance from law student Sarah Alexander

My name is John, I am 16 years old and I love to ride my bicycle. During the spring time the kids at my school ride their bikes.  I own a bike but my parents will not allow me to ride my bike without wearing my helmet. They say that my helmet is there to protect me from head injuries in case I fall. Yet, I do not like wearing it because it makes me feel like a baby and the kids at school will probably make fun of me. Besides, I usually ride on the sidewalk so I feel safe enough.

Usually, when I’m on my way to school I take my helmet with me but I immediately put it in my backpack so the kids at school do not see it. 

One day I was riding my bike home from school and I accidentally ran into a car pulling out of a drive way. The driver of the car was extremely furious and he yelled at me, even though his car was not damaged.

Due to this accident, I suffered some scrapes and a big bump on my head. The police were called and so were my parents. The police asked me why I wasn’t wearing a helmet and I told them that I didn’t like wearing it. They told me that because I am under the age of 18 it is required for me to be wearing one at all times while riding my bike. Also, if I was wearing my helmet I would have probably not suffered any head injuries.

The police also told me that the bike I was riding was intended to be ridden on the road since it was too large for me to be riding it on the sidewalk. In other words, he told me that many people use the sidewalks for walking and that it could be very dangerous if I were to lose control and bump into someone. He warned me and said that next time he would give me a ticket. He  advised me to either walk when I’m on the sidewalk or choose to ride my bike on the road.

Legal information

The Ontario law called the Highway Traffic Act categorizes cyclists as vehicles. That means that cyclists must follow the rules of the road in much the same way as cars do.

Many cities and towns have bylaws that prohibit cycling on the sidewalk.  For example, in the City of Toronto, if riding your bike on the sidewalk, the size of the wheel determines whether this is legal according to bylaw. Young children learning how to ride bikes are permitted to ride on the sidewalk; however, if the tire exceeds 61 cm, riding on the sidewalk becomes illegal. 
The consequences of failing to abide by the law include the possibility of being issued ticket and being made to pay a fine.  This is because if a bicycle on the sidewalk was to collide with a pedestrian the injuries could be severe. Therefore, it is very important for all people to follow these laws to avoid future problems and ensure safely among all.
Cyclists under 18 are required by law to wear an approved bicycle helmet when riding a bike on a roadway  in Ontario. This comes from the Highway Traffic Act  (see s. 104(2.1) and its Regulations.

The motivation behind requiring cyclists to wear a helmet is to reduce your risk of brain and head injury in the event of a crash or collision. Wearing a helmet is important and the consequences can range from fines in the most minor scenarios to sustaining serious injuries. In terms of police fines, parents can be charged if they knowingly allow their children who are under 16 to ride without a bicycle helmet. Moreover, cyclists who are 16 or 17 can be fined directly.

If you happen to get into an accident with a car and you are not wearing a helmet, the Highway Traffic Act states that the onus of proof that loss or damage did not arise through negligence or improper conduct of the driver is on the driver. This means that if you are hit by a motor vehicle, it will be up to the driver to show they were not negligent. However, if you have not been wearing a helmet this may work against you in the eyes of the law, for example a court could say that you contributed to your own injuries by not wearing a helmet. But if you have been injured in an accident with a vehicle, you may be entitled to statutory benefits regardless of who was at fault. (This gets more complicated. If you have questions about your own situation, you should talk to a lawyer.)

Bottom line: Head injuries are no joke. It is best to stay safe and wear a helmet while riding your bicycle- safety is fashionable.

Deqa Abdi is a JFCY volunteer and Member of the PLE Team.  She is a York University student.