Friday, September 21, 2012

Are youth protected from age-based discrimination?


Jordan, Mary, and John are 16 year-old high school students who are feeling hungry and exhausted after a long day in class! Naturally, a short walk down the road to the local gas station to get some refreshments is agreed upon, and they get going. 

 Upon arrival to the station's store, however, they see a clearly marked sign reading “ONLY 2 STUDENTS IN AT A TIME”. This sign is something the teenagers took offense to; they later expressed their concern with the store clerk in the hopes of some clarification, though they received more offensive comments. The clerk said that teenagers like them are more likely to shoplift, solely because of their age.

The store clerk has had his share of damage over the past years; various items have begun disappearing from his store since the school kids started visiting. As a small business owner, this cannot be tolerated as the ‘disappearances’ are costing him a fortune! It is for this reason; he is taking on a very harsh approach in terms of the operation of his store and his beliefs.

Are there existing laws that protect those under the age of 18 from such age-based discrimination from individuals like the station store clerk?


Should young people be protected by the law from age-based discrimination?  Why or why not?

Stay tuned for a new blog post in early October to learn about the law in this area and what, if anything, these youth can do.... 

This post was written by Shawn Malik, a JFCY volunteer on the PLE Team. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Child Protection and the Law in Ontario

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Rochelle is 14 years old. She lives with her mother, father, and her younger sister, Georgia. Rochelle’s father lost his job a year ago and has been struggling to get back on his feet. They are currently receiving social assistance, but the family only receives about $1200 a month. After paying their $900 rent each month, there is not much money left for food. Sometimes Rochelle and her sister go to school without a lunch. One day, Rochelle’s teacher noticed a bruise on her arm. When she asked her about it, Rochelle said she fell off her bike. Her teacher also noticed that Rochelle and her sister often did not eat at lunch. Her teacher was worried about Rochelle and her sister, so she called the Children’s Aid Society (CAS).

Legal Information

The Children’s Aid Society is responsible for protecting children under the age of 16 from harm. It also works with families to help take better care of their children.

The law in Ontario requires that members of the public, including professionals who work with children (i.e. teachers) must report any suspicions that a child is or may be in need of protection to the CAS. The law defines the phrase "child in need of protection" and sets out what must be reported to a children's aid society, which includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, and risk of harm. In this case, Rochelle’s teacher had a duty to report her suspicions of abuse (bruise on Rochelle’s arm) and neglect (lack of food).

Once contacted, the CAS will do an initial screening of the report. The CAS worker will take some steps to decide whether CAS needs to become involved. If the CAS worker decides that the children are well cared for, then it may decide not to become involved. After the first step, screening, the CAS may decide to do a child protection investigation. If this happens, the CAS worker will visit the family’s home and talk to the family. They may also talk to other people, such as teachers or neighbours. At the end of the investigation, they CAS worker may decide that the children are not in need of protection, and no further action will be taken. If, however, the CAS decides that the children are in need of protection, they will take steps to make sure the children are safe. This can include working with the family to try to address the issues and problems the family is facing. If the CAS feels there is no other way to keep the children safe, it can remove, or apprehend, the children.

After the children are initially removed from their home, the CAS must go to court within five days to have what is called a child protection proceeding. A judge will then decide what happens next and make a temporary order as to where the children should live while the case is being worked out. If the judge says the children must be removed from their home, they can be placed with another family member or friend if it is safe and appropriate to do so. If this is not possible, the children will be placed in residential care, which could be a group home or a foster home. What happens next will depend on many different factors. Child protection proceedings can be complicated and involve many different steps. For more information on child protection proceedings in court, check out this booklet.

If you are a child and have been removed from your home, you have rights, which include the following:

a. You have the right to a plan of care. This plan describes:
• What you need,
• What you and the staff are trying to do, and
• How you and the staff are trying to meet your needs. You have the right to take part in making and changes to it.
b. You have the right to take part in making important decisions about your care. These decisions include medical treatment, education, religion, ending or transferring your placement.
c. You have the right to speak with and visit members of your family on a regular basis except when there is a court order which says otherwise.
d. You have the right to speak to and receive visits from your lawyer, an adult person representing you, the Ombudsman, or the Office of the Child and Family Service Advocate.
e. You have the right not to be punished physically.
f. You have the right to proper food and clothing.
g. You have the right to proper medical and dental care.
h. You have the right to proper education.
i. You have the right to participate in sports and recreation programs.
j. Within reasonable limits you a have the right to privacy and to your personal property.
k. You have the right to receive and send mail. Your mail cannot be kept from you and usually should not be read by anyone else. If the person looking after you believes that the mail you are sending or receiving is harmful to you or others, they may open it. Your mail to or from your lawyer may not be read.
l. You have the right to be told of the complaint procedure and to make complaints. You have the right to make complaints to an independent person who is not looking after you.

No matter how you end up in residential care you keep these rights. You must be told of these rights by a social worker, child care worker, or other person. If you have any questions about your residential care you should ask your worker, phone a lawyer or the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth at 416-325-5669 in Toronto or 1-800-263-2841.

There are special Children’s Aid Societies that you should be aware of. If you are First Nation, Aboriginal, Metis, or Inuit you have the right to access services from Native Child and Family Services. If you are Catholic, you have the right to access services from the Catholic Children’s Aid Society and if you are Jewish, from the Jewish Family and Child.  Please note that not all communities have these special Children’s Aid Societies.

To find more information or to contact your local Children’s Aid Society, please visit:
Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies:
Native Child and Family Services of Toronto:
Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto:
Jewish Family and Child:  

If your family is involved with a Children’s Aid Society in Ontario and you are under 18, you can call Justice for Children and Youth form more information and legal advice at (416) 920 – 1633.

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

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How to change your name in Ontario


Sarah Smith, age 17 began exploring different religions when she was 14.  For the past two years she has been observing Islam and now self-identifies as a practicing Muslim.  Her parents were confused at first but have seen that she is serious about her decision to convert from Christianity to Islam and now support her choice. 

Sarah would like to change her name so that it better reflects her religious identity.  What are her options?

The Law on Changing Your Name in Ontario

In Ontario, you can apply to formally and legally change your first and/or second name and/or last name.  These rights are outlined in legislation called the Change of Name Act.
Applicants who are 16 or 17-years-old may also apply to have their names changed, but they first need the written consent of the person(s) who have lawful custody of them.  However, if they are unable to get consent from their parents then they can seek an Order from a judge, allowing them to apply for a name change without their parents' consent.  The court will consider the best interests of the young person when making the decision on whether to dispense with the requirement for parental consent. 
Sarah should first ask her parents if they will consent. If they refuse, then she can call JFCY to speak to a lawyer about how to seek an Order from a judge.

The fee for a formal name change is $137.

To change your name in Ontario, you must: 
  • Be 16 years of age or older, and
  • Have lived in Ontario for at least one year before submitting a change of name application. 
Applications must be accompanied by a police records check. 

If your application is refused, you can apply to court to seek an order granting the application. 

If your application is granted, you will be issued a change of name certificate with your new legal name(s) and you’ll receive a new birth certificate if you were born in Ontario. 

If you were not born in Ontario, you will need to apply to the province or territory in Canada or other country where you were born for a new birth certificate. 

For more information or if you want to get started and download the application form right away, visit:

Note: The information on this page was  from the webpage above, as well as the Change of Name Act.

To read the legislation, click here.

Post was written by JFCY volunteer and Board Member Arif Hussain, who recently completed an Honours B.A. at UofT.  Scenario and review by JFCY.

Images are from:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Can a missed curfew impact custody rights?

If I miss my curfew, what happens?


Mike is a 14 year-old child living with his mom and dad in Toronto, Ontario. His parents had always given a rough timeline on when he should come home during the weekdays. However, after Mike entered high school, he had more extracurricular activities after school. His parents became more lenient on the time he is allowed to return home. Sometimes it can be as late as 11pm at night.

Recently Mike met new friends with whom he’s spending more and more time at night. One Saturday, Mike didn’t come home until 2:30am in the morning! As his parents start to get anxious as Mike stays later outside, they are worried about his wellbeing.  Recently there was news about the increasing crime rate surrounding the neighbourhood and they finally set some ground rules on when Mike should come home.

Mike’s parents set a new curfew for weekends at 12am and if he needs to stay out later than that, he must call home to explain the reasoning behind his lateness and whether an adult can escort him back safely. They also gave him a warning that in parts of Canada, there were curfew laws. They mentioned to him that although currently where they live, they are unsure whether such laws exist, however it’s still dangerous to come home late in the night.

Aware of his new curfew, Mike didn’t think much of it until the upcoming party at the Scarborough Bluffs next Friday. It was on the other side of town and would be difficult to get home by midnight, unless he left the party really early. On one hand he is sure that if he stayed past curfew, his family will have a fit! Not to mention, his parents had scared him that in parts of Canada, it was illegal to be out late at night.  On the other hand this party was one party he cannot miss.

What does Mike need to know about the law?


Mike’s parents have good reason to be concerned about their fourteen son coming home so late. There is a law that tells them they can’t let their kids stay out in public late at night! The Child and Family Services Act says that parents of children under sixteen cannot permit their children to be without an authorized adult in public places between midnight and six am.  If parents or a designated adult are with the child in the public place, then it is ok, they can be out late.  But it is actually illegal for kids under age 16, like Mike, to be “loitering” in a public place or at a “place of entertainment” without a parent or designated adult between midnight and 6am.

The child will not be arrested and charged for breaching the curfew, but there are possible consequences for his family.  The Child and Family Services Act gives police the power to apprehend a child without a warrant if they find the child without a parent/adult in a public place between 12am and 6am.  Often, the police simply bring the child back to their parents’ home. However, depending on the circumstances and the level of concern for the child's well-being, they do have the power to bring Mike into the care of a Children’s Aid Society, who can then commence child protection proceedings in court. This could affect the parents’ custody rights over Mike. In other words, it can be very serious.

To read more about this law, check out sections 79(5), 79(6) and 79(7) of the Child and Family Services Act.

If you are a young person living in Ontario and have legal questions about your specific situation, please call JFCY at 416.920.1633 or 1.866.999.5329.

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

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fake ID and the Law: Video

Ever wondered about the potential legal consequences for getting caught with fake or borrowed ID?

Check out this video produced by the PLE Team.  Click here to watch the video!

Learn about the law around fake IDs in Ontario.  Watch these three teens as they learn about the possible consequences for getting caught with fake or borrowed ID.

A big thanks goes out to the YouTube Subcommittee of the JFCY PLE Team (Arif, Bilal, Christine, Lucas, Terence, Tracy, Brendan, and Andrea) for writing, planning, acting, filming and editing this video!


Click here to watch the video!