Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New Volunteer Opportunities at JFCY

JFCY Fall Volunteer Opportunities:

JFCY is seeking several volunteers to work on-site, with a chance to interact with staff lawyers, admin staff and clients.

Both positions require a minimum time commitment of one four-hour shift per week, at a designated time during business hours (9am-5pm) that is convenient for the volunteer.

Law Student/legal interns:
We are looking for law students who can commit to at least one 4 hour shift per week (during business hours, on a pre-scheduled consistent date, ie Wednesday afternoons).  The student will have a designated lawyer supervisor and obtain training. The students will assist our intake lawyer with giving legal information to clients (with a particular focus on civil recovery demand letters), doing immediate intake-related legal research and doing more longer-term research and other legal support tasks to assist the casework of the lawyer supervisor. We are looking for law students who are comfortable talking to clients on the phone, have good research skills and are able to commit to a specific half-day (or more!) per week this semester (and next, if you are able to).

Intake support/admin support (non-law students):
We are looking for responsible people who are comfortable talking to clients on the phone and are available for at least one 4 hour shift per week (but preferably more) on a consistent day of the week (ie Thursday mornings).  The volunteer’s main tasks will be: a) doing the initial client interview for new intakes (ie talking to new clients who are calling in for the first time, asking them various questions, writing out the information, putting it into our computer system and then forwarding all the info to our intake lawyer), and b) assisting our Admin staff with various data entry into our case management system.  The volunteer will be provided with extensive training and be supervised by our Admin staff.

Both positions require a minimum time commitment of one four-hour shift per week, at a designated time during business hours (9am-5pm) that is convenient for the volunteer.

If you are interested, please apply with a completed Volunteer Application Form and resume to Andrea Luey at lueya@lao.on.ca by September 10, 2012.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Taylor wants to leave home...


Taylor M. is from Grimsby, a small town in Southern Ontario. He is 17 years old, and will be graduating from high school in three months. After graduation, he plans on going to college to become a certified electrician.

Last winter, Taylor's parents got a divorce. They now live in separate homes. Since the divorce, Taylor has been living in both of his parents' homes. He spends half of his week in his mom's house, and the other half in his dad's apartment.

Over the past several months, Taylor has grown tired of living in two separate homes. It is interfering with his studies and social life. Although he would feel more comfortable living in only one of their places, he doesn't want either parent to feel like he or she is less important than the other. 

Taylor has thought about moving away from home. He has an older friend who he could stay with for the next year or two. Taylor feels like this might be his best option, seeing that he is finding it very difficult to live with each of his parents.

When can Taylor decide where 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. 

However, if Taylor’s parents have a court order that deals with custody, his parents can get into trouble with the family court if they help Taylor to ignore the order by not seeing or living with one of the parents. In order to avoid this it would be good if both of Taylor’s parents could agree to let him live with his friend.

Can Taylor apply to be “Emancipated” from his parents?

We do not have laws on “Emancipation” in Ontario. In some States in the U.S.A., 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 and to be responsible for their own support. This process does not exist in Ontario.

Do Taylor’s parents have to financially support him?

If Taylor was forced to leave home, his parents may still have to support him. For example, he would be entitled to support if he left home because he was kicked out without a very good reason, or if he was were abused, or if his living situation at home is unsafe, unbearable or impossible.

From the info we have from Taylor it does not appear that those situations apply.  He merely prefers to live away from his parents, which would likely mean that his parents do not have a legal obligation to provide financial support. 
However, it certainly does not hurt for Taylor to talk to his parents about whether or not they may assist him financially if he leaves home.  If they wont support him, then Taylor will need to plan for a way to support himself and this may affect his decision to leave home in the first place. 

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

 You can also refer to past blog posts on this subject:


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 www.oacas.org

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


Justice for Children and Youth:
415 Yonge Street, Suite 1203
GTA (416) 920 - 1633
Legal Aid Ontario – www.lao.on.ca
416-598-0200 / 1-800-668-8258 (for young people under age 18 only)

Lawyer Referral Service – 416-947-3330 / 1-800-268-8326
Referrals to lawyers; 30 min free advice.

This scenario was written by JFCY PLE Team Volunteer Stefan Venier, who is now a law student at the University of Windsor.  Legal info by JFCY. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Human Rights: Sexism


Joyce is starting high school this year and she couldn’t be more excited!  As the reigning 100 meter regional track champion she is looking forward to the challenges that training on a high school team will bring.

Three weeks after the start of classes Joyce sees a posting on the Phys. Ed. bulletin board for track tryouts.  She quickly signs up for the 100 meter tryout which will take place after school that day.

When she arrives after school she stretches and warms up with the other candidates, but is a little surprised that there aren’t any other girls trying out for the team.

When the coach arrives at the field, he begins yelling instructions to divide everyone into groups of runners.  Joyce listens and joins the other 100 meter candidates. 

When the coach approaches their group, he notices Joyce and says with a smile, “Honey, young ladies can watch and cheer from the bleachers.  You’ll have to let your boyfriend try out on his own.”  The other boys let out a little giggle at this.

“Oh no coach.  I’m trying out for the 100 meters team too.”

“Sorry, but this is a boys team,” the coach says, more seriously.

Joyce laughs at her own mistake.  “Oh sorry coach.  I didn’t know there was a separate tryout for the girls team.  In middle school everyone tried out together, and they would take the best runners for each of the teams.  Do you know when the girls tryouts are?”

“There is no girls team at this school.  Track is really a boys sport” the coach replied.

Stunned, Joyce has no response.  She is shocked that anyone would think that a sport could be for only girls or boys; she has always been taught that anything boys can do, girls can do too. 

How can Joyce respond?

Human Rights Law in Ontario

In Ontario, we are all protected from discrimination as a result of a provincial law called the HumanRights Code.

However, not all discrimination is protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code. For example, the Human Rights Code does not legally protect discrimination that happens between two private individuals (such as ex-partners or friends). The Human Rights Code deals with discrimination in the following social areas: employment; housing; contracts; services, goods and facilities; and unions or occupational/professional associations.

School, including elementary, secondary and post-secondary is considered a “service”.  The result is that Joyce is legally protected from discrimination that occurs at school.  According to the Human Rights Code, her teachers, guidance counselors and school sports coaches are not allowed to discriminate against her.

What is discrimination?

Treating someone unfairly may be discrimination if the unfair treatment is because of one of the following characteristics or grounds: race; colour, ancestry, place of origin, citizenship, ethnic origin, creed (religion), receipt of social assistance (housing only), sexual orientation, marital status , family , status, record of offenses (employment only, must have been pardoned), age, disability, and sex (includes gender identity and being pregnant).

Discriminatory treatment includes denying someone a benefit, excluding someone from an opportunity and/or imposing a different obligation on someone, or harassing someone because of a characteristic listed above.

In order to make out a claim for discrimination under the Human Rights Code you need to show evidence of a link between the bad conduct and a protected ground.  And the discrimination had to have occurred in one of the protected social areas.

In Joyce’s situation, she experienced discrimination on the ground of sex and the discrimination occurred in the social area of services (ie school).  The link between the bad conduct and the protected ground is clear.  Joyce is female and she was told by the coach that she could not try out for the school track team because she is female. The coach imposed discriminatory treatment on Joyce by denying her the opportunity to try out for the team. He treated her differently only because she is female.

What can Joyce do?

Joyce can file an Application (commonly called a “human rights complaint”) to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.  A Tribunal is like a court, but it is specialized in a certain area of the law (in this case, human rights law) and is a bit less formal than court. 

Sometimes it is best to try and work it out with the person or organization causing the discrimination before filing at the Tribunal, as situations can sometimes resolve without having to take the serious legal step of starting a case.  For example, Joyce can talk to her Principal about this unfair rule and see if she or he is willing to talk the coach into letting girls try out for the team.

It is always best to speak to a lawyer if you feel you are experiencing discrimination.

If you are under age 18 and live in Ontario, you can call Justice for Children and Youth at 416.920.1633 (or toll-free at 1.866.999.5329) to talk to a lawyer for free.

If you are any age and live in Ontario, you can contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre: http://www.hrlsc.on.ca/en/Default.aspx

To read the Ontario Human Rights Code click here.

This scenario was written by PLE Team volunteer Marsha Rampersaud.  Legal info was written by JFCY.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The ABCs of Dropping Out of School

Image from:  http://www.chilliwack.com/main/page.cfm?id=2110


As this summer reaches a close and the last baseball bats are swung, the final soccer tournaments are played, and homework-free weekends come to an end, we can almost hear the morning bell calling us in for another year of school. I’m sure we’ve all experienced that familiar dread of pop quizzes, boring classes, and endless homework. But even as the back-to-school signs and chillier weather tell us to start sharpening our pencils, maybe not all of us are anticipating a return to the classroom.

Perhaps, instead, you’re thinking about joining the workforce or taking some time off. However, while the stresses of school can definitely be overwhelming, it is important to consider the potential consequences of dropping out before you decide to leave school for good, including how it will impact your chances of getting a job in the future.

Deciding to leave school is definitely a complex decision that may be influenced by variety of factors. Before you decide to the leave the classroom for good, make sure to consider the potential legal consequences of your decision.

The Law: When can you drop out of school?

The Education Act is the Ontario law that covers education issues, including attendance.  It requires everyone over the age of six to attend school until they graduate or reach age 18.  This doesn’t just mean registering in school – it means actually going, every single day that school is in session!

What if you are sick? Or you have a religious holiday? Or your parents have decided to home school you?  Are you breaking the law?  The answer is no.  You can be excused from attendance at school for any of those reasons, and you are also excused from attendance at school if you are suspended or expelled.

Every school has a school attendance counsellor who is responsible for following up when students miss school.  The counsellor will contact the parent or guardian of a student who is not in school.

If you are under age 16, you can actually be charged with an offence under the Provincial Offences Act and made to attend court for skipping or "being habitually absent" from school! 

Your parents can be charged too.  The Education Act makes it a parent or guardian’s responsibility to make sure that students go to school if the law requires it.  If a parent neglects or refuses to fulfill this responsibility, they can be fined up to $200.

These laws have actually been changed to make the magic age 18, however, they have not yet been "proclaimed" by the government and thus the old rule of age 16 still stands. (In other words, the new law has been written but the government has not yet made the changes valid.)

So, the bottom line: If you are under age 16 and you “drop out”, both you and your parent(s) can be charged.  If you are 16 or 17 and drop out, then you are technically breaking the law but at this point nether you nor your parents will be charged with an offence.

To learn more about mandatory school attendance, see sections 25, 26, 30, and 31 of the Education Act.

This scenario was written by PLE Team volunteer Rachel Kattapuram.  Legal info by Leora Jackson and JFCY.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Wills and Power of Attorney for Personal Care

Legal information for youth dealing with these important issues:


Maggie is 17 years old. She was recently diagnosed with an illness. Although her doctor told her that the general prognosis is good, he said that in the future, her illness may affect her ability to make decisions for herself.

Maggie has been dating Sean, who is also 17, for two years and they recently started talking about getting married.

Maggie has been collecting autographed baseball cards since she was a kid and she has amassed a collection valued at over $5000. She knows that her brother is jealous of her card collection, and she wants to make sure that her collection will go to Sean if she were to die. Maggie decides to make a will that indicates she is going to marry Sean and that Sean is to receive the card collection upon her death.

With their parents’ permission, Maggie and Sean get married. Although her parents gave their permission for Maggie and Sean to get married, as required for 16 and 17 year olds in Ontario, Maggie does not really get along with her parents. She is concerned that her illness will get worse and she does not want her parents making decisions about her healthcare if she is unable to do so. She is very close with her Aunt Regina, and trusts her very much. She wants to make sure that Regina, and not her parents, can make the decisions about her personal care.

Making a Will

A will is a written document that sets out a person’s wishes about how his or her estate (including property, money, and personal belongings) will be distributed after he or she dies. In Ontario, the law requires that normally you have to be 18 in order to make a valid will. The Succession Law Reform Act does provide a few exceptions that permit a minor to make a valid will. These circumstances are the following:

1.      If you are or have been married
2.      If you are contemplating marriage and the will states that it is made in contemplation of marriage to a specific person. If you do not get married to the specific person named in the will, it is not valid.
3.      If you are a member of a component of the Canadian Forces
4.      If you are a sailor and at sea or in the course of a voyage

Although these are not typical circumstances for young people, they are not out of the question. In Ontario, under the Marriage Act, you can get married when you are 16 years old if you have parental consent, as was the case with Maggie and Sean. In the above scenario, since Maggie and Sean were thinking about marriage when Maggie wrote her will, and Sean was specifically stated as the person she was going to marry in her will, the will is valid, because Sean and Maggie eventually got married.

Power of Attorney for Personal Care (POAPC)

Maggie wants to make sure that her Aunt has the ability to make decisions about her healthcare in the event that she becomes unable to do so herself. Maggie can make something called a Power of Attorney for Personal Care. A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the right to act on your behalf.
There are three types of Power of Attorney in Ontario: a Power of Attorney for Personal Care (POAPC), a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property, and a non-continuing Power of Attorney for Property. In this blog, we will only be discussing the POAPC. For information on the other two types of Power of Attorney, you can check out the website of the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee.

In Ontario, the Substitute Decisions Act outlines the law around a Power of Attorney for Personal Care (POAPC). In order to make a POAPC, you must be at least 16 years old and mentally capable, meaning you understand whether the proposed attorney has a genuine concern for your well-being and that this person may need to make decisions on your behalf. An attorney in this context does not mean a lawyer. The attorney is the person or persons you choose to act on your behalf and he or she does not have to be a lawyer. The person you choose to be your POAPC must also be at least 16 years old and mentally capable.

If you become unable to care for yourself, A POAPC will be able to make almost any decision that is of a personal nature, including decisions about medical treatment, hygiene, housing, food, clothing, and safety. Your POAPC can be anyone, including a relative or close friend. You should be careful in choosing someone you trust, as this person may end up making very serious decisions that will affect your life.

If at any time you change your mind about your POAPC, you can revoke it, and this must be done in writing. You are able to revoke your POAPC as long as you have the required mental capacity. The mental capacity required to revoke a POAPC is the same as the mental capacity required to make one.

If you do not make a POAPC and become incapable of making personal decisions for yourself, a family member would usually have the right to make these decisions. If there is no family member or representative who is capable or willing to act, the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee, which is a government office, will be required to make decisions on your behalf.

For more information, check out the Substitute Decisions Act, the law that deals with Powers of Attorney.

Do you have legal questions about your own will or power of attorney...or consider making one? If you are under age 18 and live in Ontario, please call JFCY at 416.920.1866 (or toll-free: 1.866.999.5329) to speak to a lawyer about your specific situation.

This post was written by PLE Team volunteer Christine Doucet.  Christine recently graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School.  Post was reviewed by JFCY.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Batman and Justice in the Dark Knight Rises

This is JFCY volunteer Bilal’s take on the “justice system” in Batman.


The final instalment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, hit theatres this past month, concluding the franchise in a spectacular fashion. The film begins eight years since Batman vanished into the night, as a fugitive of the law. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good.

Before I give away any spoilers, it is safe to say that Batman has everything to do with the law! Is Batman “good” because he fights bad guys to uphold the law and justice? Or is he “bad” because he operates “outside” of the law and wreaks revenge on criminals, according not to the law but to his own rules? Batman can be referred to as a “vigilante,” which is someone who “takes the law into their own hands.” Usually these people are not endorsed by the authorities in the area in which they operate. In Batman’s case, Gotham City authorities, such as Mayor Anthony Garcia, ignore Batman’s activities when it suits them. “Official” enforcement bodies such as the police have their powers given to them by the law. Vigilantes, on the other hand, usually engage in actions which are “against” the law.

Batman and vigilantes generally justify their actions by arguing that “official” enforcement bodies have largely failed to ensure justice. In The Dark Knight Rises, the central villain, Bane, a masked terrorist, has a ruthless plan to destroy Gotham City. The police force is simply too weak to take on Bane - and thus, Batman attempts to intervene. However, when Gotham City is safe because “official” authorities are able to maintain justice, Batman is no longer needed. This is the case at the end of the second film, The Dark Knight, as most criminal activity was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act. At the end of The Dark Knight, Batman says, “…where the law works, we have no need of a Batman.”

How do we know if the law “works?” The Batman trilogy features a number of memorable villains who wreak havoc on the lives of Gotham City’s citizens. People are killed, banks are robbed, and children are kidnapped. When society’s legal institutions fail to provide safety, enforcement bodies do not catch criminals and courts do not ensure they are locked away for a long time. The Batman trilogy illustrates that “justice” encompasses our right to safety, as well as ensuring punishment to those who do harm.  In my opinion, one of the signs that the law is “working” is if justice is served or not; when it is not, Batman steps in. But is this “legal?” The law allows us to take things into our hands to protect ourselves (within reason) when the law fails, but would not necessarily permit one to go out of their way to protect others.

To bring it back to our original question, is Batman “good” or “bad?” Batman may uphold law and justice, but he operates outside of Gotham’s legal institutions. In the movies, this question in unambiguous – obviously Batman is good! This is because the villains are so bad, that if Batman brings them to some semblance of justice, even from “outside” of the law, this is justified. However, Batman’s form of justice is different from our notion of it. Our society upholds due process, “innocent until proven guilty,” the need for evidence in court, an adjudicator (judge) or adjudicative body (jury). We have a system with checks and balances to deliver our justice. Batman does not necessarily follow the same due process when killing the Joker for instance. However, the citizens of Gotham City believe justice was served after the death of the Joker, simply because the Joker is so obviously guilty. In real life, it is not always clear that someone is evil or that they acted wrongly. If this was clear, we would not necessarily need courts and other legal institutions to catch and try criminals.   

Check out the latest film The Dark Knight Rises and see for yourself if justice is served and who this Batman really is! Although a character like Batman makes for a very entertaining film, Canadian citizens must act within the boundaries of the legal system to advocate for justice. It is through exercising our legal and democratic rights that we must seek change.

 This opinion post was written by PLE Team volunteer Bilal Manji.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Teen Marriage: How Young is Too Young to be Legally Married?


Hannah, 16, and her boyfriend Shawn, 17, have decided to get married! They have been dating since Grade 9 and can’t wait to start their lives together. Shawn’s family is completely supportive of their future union and all their friends think they will be together forever. There is only one problem: Hannah’s father, Joe. Hannah’s family is very traditional and they believe Hannah and Shawn must wait until they are both at least 18 years of age in order to make such an important decision. 

Joe is especially stubborn. He has made it very clear he will not allow his 16 year old daughter to get married. Because she is a minor, he is forbidding her to tie the knot until she is at least 18. Hannah and Shawn don’t want to wait 2 years for Hannah to turn 18; they want to do it right away. Does Hannah need her parent’s consent to get married because she is under the age of 18?

Legal Information

Unfortunately for Hannah, her father is right in this case: in Ontario, you must get your parents’ consent to get married if you are between the ages of 16 and 18. Unless her father changes his mind, Hannah is going to have to wait until she is 18 years old to get married. This rule comes from s. 5 of the Ontario Marriage Act.

There are two exceptions to this general rule. People aged 16 and 17 whose parents are unreasonably refusing consent, or whose whereabouts are not known, can get married with a court order (see s. 6 of the Marriage Act) or permission from the Minister of Consumer and Business Services (see s. 10 of the Marriage Act).

However, these exceptions are not very commonly applied. In Hannah’s case, a court or the Minister would need to decide if her father was unreasonably refusing his consent, or whether he had valid concerns in wanting Hannah to wait until the age of majority to get married. 

Who Can Get Married in Ontario?

In addition to the age requirements discussed above, you and your partner must meet the following requirements:

  • Marriage is voluntary. Both partners must enter the marriage because they want to. No one can force you to get married.

  • You and your partner cannot be close relatives by blood or by adoption.

  • You or your partner cannot already be married to someone else. If you are divorced, proof of your divorce must be presented to receive your new marriage license.

Since 2003, you may marry someone of the same sex (a man can marry another man, and a woman can marry another woman). Many countries are following Canada’s example and legalizing same-sex marriages as well. 

If you are under age 18 and living in Ontario, you can call Justice for Children and Youth (416.920.1633) to talk to a lawyer about your legal rights and getting married.

The scenario and comic were created by PLE Team volunteer Cemone Morlese.  Legal info was written by JFCY summer law student Brendan Stevens and reviewed by JFCY.