Monday, January 28, 2013

Racial Profiling & Your Rights

Mark is a sixteen year old African Canadian male who lives in a community considered to be a priority neighborhood.  On Friday night, Mark was walking home alone from his shift as an assistant cook when he was suddenly stopped by two police officers. The officers questioned Mark about an earlier armed robbery that took place three houses down from his. After giving the police all the information they had asked for including information that he just finished work fifteen minutes ago, Mark was advised of his legal rights and arrested for armed robbery. At the time of the arrest, Mark insisted that he had been at work and they could call his boss if they needed to make sure he was telling the truth. When Mark was on route to the police station he asked how the police could assume he was involved in the alleged crime based on the information he gave, the police responded by saying “the crime took place about a half hour ago, you’re dressed like the other accused persons are and who else walks near a crime scene at 12:00 in the morning?” Mark chose not to comment further and was taken into custody where he called his mother upon arrival. Mark believes that the police officers racially profiled him.

What is Racial Profiling?
The Ontario Human Rights Commission defines racial profiling to include any action undertaken for reasons of safety, security or public protection that relies on stereotypes rather than on reasonable suspicion, to single out an individual for greater scrutiny or different treatment. Racial profiling is based on stereotypical assumptions because of one’s race, colour, ethnicity, etc. The Commission has noted that profiling can occur because of a combination of the above factors and that age and/or gender can influence the experience of profiling.


The police can stop you and ask you questions at any time, but unless they are arresting you, detaining you to investigate you for a crime or writing you a ticket, they must let you go if you do not want to talk with them.
You can ask questions like, "Am I free to go?", "Why are you questioning me?" It is important to speak to an officer calmly and to assess the situation. If you are fearful for your safety, it is better to comply with the requests of an officer while saying that you do not consent. You can file a complaint at a later date (see below for more information).

Searches by the Police:
The police can only search you if they have a search warrant, you are being detained and investigated, you are being arrested for allegedly committing an offence or if you give permission to the police. If you are being searched and you think it is unlawful, make sure you communicate that you do not consent to the search but DO NOT physically resist. Make sure to communicate that you want to speak to a lawyer and ask to make the telephone call right then if you have access to a cellphone.

If you believe that a police officer has violated your rights or acted improperly, you should collect as much information about the incident as possible and speak to a lawyer for advice. The lawyer can give you advice on your options and help you make a complaint, make an application to the Human Rights Tribunal, sue the police for damages (money) or report the incident as a crime. You should immediately get and keep as much information about the incident as possible. Try to get the officer’s badge number and division number and write down the date, time and location of the incident.

Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD)
A new police complaint process started in 2009. If you would like to complain about an incident involving an Ontario police officer that occurred after October 2009, you can make a complaint directly to the police service where you experience the incident or directly to the OIPRD. Discriminatory conduct such as racial profiling is conduct outlined in the Police Service Act Code of Conduct and considered police misconduct. This sort of misconduct can attract disciplinary action for the police who conducted it and the OIPRD may investigate your claim further. For more information click here.

This blog scenario was written by Johnny Stavrou. The legal content of this blog post was written by Lauren Grossman, a first year law student at the University of Toronto who is volunteering at JFCY through her law schools Pro Bono Students Canada program. All legal content was reviewed by a JFCY staff lawyer.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Children's Rights & Divorce

Claire’s parents seem to be fighting a lot lately, and aren’t sleeping in the same room anymore. She thinks that her parents might be getting a divorce. 

Claire being 16 understands that this is for the better and in the long run will improve her family dynamics, but her younger sister Eli seems to be having a very hard time with what’s happening. Claire knows that if her parents do get a divorce, that she doesn’t want to have to pick who she stays with, she loves them both equally and wants to spend equal time with them. Eli on the other hand really clings to her mom and being only 6 years old doesn’t want to be separated from her.
What can Claire and Eli do about their situation, do they get a choice in who they stay with? Will both parents get custody? Who can Claire and Eli talk to if they have issues?

Under the Divorce Act, one or both parents may have custody of the children. See section 16 of the Divorce Act for the provisions of custody orders. Child custody issues are always determined with one primary goal in mind: to do what is in the best interest of the child.

In many divorce cases the children will not have to testify in court, nor will the judge want to speak privately with your children. Instead, the Court normally appoints a social worker or the Court may request to have the children be appointed a lawyer from the Office of the Children’s Lawyer to represent the children’s interests and to present the children’s interests to the judge. This does not happen in all cases, but when it does happen the children’s lawyer will present independent information to the court about the children’s views and preferences relating to the custody issues. Claire and her sister can speak to a social worker or the lawyer appointed to them about their concerns.

Types of Custody

There are four different types of child custody in Canada.

(1) Sole custody: one parent alone has custody of the child which means that the child lives with one parent most of the time. That parent (also referred to as the custodial parent) has the main responsibility for taking care of the child and making decisions about the child. However, the other parent has access to the child and the right to certain important information about the child such as medical information.

(2) Joint custody: both parents share custody of the child. Both parents will continue to share in making all the major decisions concerning the children (about discipline, school, major outings, holidays, etc.). If there is joint custody, many different living arrangements are possible. The children may live with each parent about the same amount of time or live mostly with one parent.

(3) Shared custody: both parents have joint custody of the child and each spends at least 40% of the time with their child. Also, both parents usually share the responsibility for making major decisions affecting the child.

(4) Split custody: When one parent has custody over some of the children while the other parent has custody over the others. Some of the children live with one parent most of the time, while the other children live with the other parent most of the time. This is a rare type of custody. Courts are quite hesitant to award custody in this manner as they don’t want to split up brothers and sister

For more information on the Office of the Children’s lawyer, check out their website:

Some more online legal information on family law:

This blog scenario was written by Genevieve Pelow, a volunteer on JFCYs PLE team, who is grade 10. The legal content of this blog was written by Lauren Grossman, a first-year law student at the University of Toronto who is volunteering at JFCY through her law school’s Pro Bono Students Canada program. All info was reviewed by a JFCY staff lawyer.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

New video: Drugs at School - Expulsions and other legal issues

Check out our new YouTube video on legal issues that can arise when students are caught with drugs at school.  This can lead to charges under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, as well as a possible suspension and/or expulsion from school.

For more on the making of this video, check out this past blog post about our PLE Team volunteers.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Legal Saga of Toronto’s Mayor: Rob Ford’s Conflict of Interest Case Explained

Rob Ford, Toronto’s controversial mayor, is currently involved in a legal battle that could result in him losing his job.

The legal saga began roughly three years ago in February of 2010, when Mr. Ford sent out donation requests for his football foundation to official city lobbyists using official city letterhead. Toronto’s integrity commissioner found that Mr. Ford’s actions violated city council’s code of conduct rules regarding the use of city staff and city resources. The violation occurred because Mr. Ford was using official city resources for a personal matter, which is generally not allowed. Mr. Ford was ordered to pay back the $3,150 donated to his football foundation.
Roughly two years later in February of 2012, Toronto’s city council had a change of heart and voted to overturn the order requiring Mr. Ford to pay back the money. Mr. Ford participated in this vote, without declaring he had a conflict of interest in the vote. A conflict of interest occurs when personal factors impact a decision (in this case, Mr. Ford’s vote). When someone has a conflict of interest, they are not able to fairly and objectively make a decision.

Shortly after the vote, a Toronto resident filed a conflict of interest lawsuit against Mr. Ford, claiming the mayor violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. In November of 2012, Judge Charles Hackland ruled that Mr. Ford was guilty and should be removed from office as a result.

Mr. Ford immediately launched an appeal and is allowed to stay in office until the Ontario Court of Appeal (ONCA) has decided the appeal. If the ONCA agrees with the lower court’s decision, it looks as though Mr. Ford will be able to run in the next municipal election. The ONCA is supposed to release its decision early in 2013.

Stay tuned for an update on the fate of Toronto’s mayor!

 This blogpost was written by Brendan Stevens, a 2nd year law student at the University of Toronto. Brendan is a volunteer on the JFCY's PLE team. All legal content was reviewed by a JFCY lawyer. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What is the Youth Criminal Justice Act?

For those of you in search of an understanding of what exactly the YCJA is, or what it even stands for, you’ve come to the right place!

Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) is the governing code in Canada for youth that came into effect in 2003. It covers the prosecution of your case if you are 12-17 years old at the time a criminal offence was committed. If you are charged after you turn 18, the YCJA is no longer applicable and you will be charged under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Youth Justice Court: In Canada, if you are between the ages of 12-17 at the time the crime was committed, your case will be tried at the Youth Justice Court.

Why does Canada have it? The YCJA focuses on:
  •  Helping to put young people who have committed crimes back into society,
  • Giving fair sentences consistent with the needs of young  people and their lower level of maturity,
  • Giving extra protection to young people, treating them fairly and respecting their right to privacy, and
  • Enforcing the law quickly to strengthen the link between the behaviour and its consequences. 
What if I am under 12 years old?
If you commit a crime and you are not 12 years old yet, the YCJA will not apply to you and you are not considered to be criminally responsible. Under Canadian law, persons under the age of 12 years cannot be said to form a criminal intent sufficient for criminal responsibility or a criminal record, if found guilty. The Criminal Code of Canada, section 13, states "No person shall be convicted of an offence in respect of an act or omission on his or her part while that person was under the age of twelve years." However, you may still face consequences, although not penal, for this behavior based on other laws, for example the Child and Family Services Act.
If I commit a crime, can I get a lawyer? If you are between the ages of 12-17 and have been charged with a crime, you do have a right to a lawyer.  Section 25 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act reads:
25.(1) A young person has the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay, and to exercise that right personally, at any stage of proceedings against the young person and before and during any consideration of whether, instead of starting or continuing judicial proceedings against the young person under this Act, to use an extrajudicial sanction to deal with the young person.
(2) Every young person who is arrested or detained shall, on being arrested or detained, be advised without delay by the arresting officer or the officer in charge, as the case may be, of the eight to retain and instruct counsel, and be given an opportunity to obtain counsel.
This means that youths who are arrested or detained for any reason must be told of their right and be given the opportunity to obtain a lawyer before any lawful procedures are conducted.
Will my parents find out if I commit a crime? 
Under section 26(1) of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the officer in charge of the arrest or detention of a youth must give notice to a parent either orally or in writing as soon as they possibly can.

Will my classmates find out if I commit a crime? 
Section 110 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act outlines privacy in relation to the identity of young offenders, access to their criminal records, and disclosure of their personal or trial information. Trial information can be published in media or print but identifying information (ie your name) about young offenders cannot be. 

To take a look at the Youth Criminal Justice Act, click here

For more information on YCJA and your rights as a youth, check out our legal information pamphlets: 

Know Your Rights: 

If you are a youth charged with a crime, you can call JFCY at 416.920.1633 or 1.866.999.5329 to speak with a lawyer.

This blog post was written by Lauren Grossman, a first-year law student at U of T who is volunteering at JFCY through her law school’s Pro Bono Students Canada program. All info was reviewed by a JFCY staff lawyer.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

PLE Volunteer Spotlight: Georjo Tabucan

Profile written by fellow JFCY volunteer Arif Hussain.

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down and interview Mr. Georjo Tabucan about his volunteering experiences with the Public Legal Education Team here at JFCY thus far. Georjo comes from a diverse academic and professional background with a very keen interest in the field of law. Like some of our other volunteers, he also dreams of practicing law in the future and helping our community at large. Having interviewed Georjo I find that this article will be an excellent read for anyone interested in the field of law from any direction but especially for youth interested in volunteering or getting information regarding the practice of law from an earlier stage in life. So please enjoy everyone, happy read and happy new year!

Tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are and what you are doing at the moment?
I am currently in my 1st year at Ryerson University pursuing a B.Comm. in Law & Business. I previously majored in Legal Studies at the University of Waterloo for my first two years of undergrad but I felt that living at home and of course studying right in the heart of downtown Toronto would provide me with more flexibility and more opportunities to explore the area of law through volunteering. I am also able meet with and learn from a plethora of lawyers in Toronto, which was more difficult during my tenure at UW. At the moment, I am simply trying to discover which areas of the law I am most interested in, and how I plan to inspire and motivate others, which is one of my main goals in life. 

How did you hear about JFCY and get involved?

During the summer, I held a position with the Government of Ontario, Ministry of the Attorney General, and after my contract ended, I knew I wanted to continue my involvement with a legal organization at the start of the school year because the law is something I'm passionate about. So, in searching for a volunteer position, I came across JFCY on one of the Ryerson websites and I knew right then and there that it was the perfect organization that I wanted to volunteer with. My experience with JFCY so far has been amazing. 

What are your future plans in terms career choice and is the law a part of it?

I know I want to become a lawyer when I finish my undergraduate degree and complete my JD. Every morning, on my way to class, I observe all these successful lawyers in their suits on Bay Street walking to their respective law firms and I picture myself being just as successful as they are. When I'm not swamped with schoolwork, I like reading legislation and case law for fun...I guess it's sort of an obsession that I have. I am just so fascinated with the law and my motivation to learn about the law will never stop. 

You have been with JFCY for sometime now. Thus far, how do you find the work that the volunteers do here and do you think that PLE Team makes a difference?
The type of work that the volunteers contribute makes the PLE Team an essential committee of JFCY. We create meaningful videos and blog posts that each and every young person has access to. Not every child and youth is aware of their rights and it is crucial to spread the word and to start introducing them to what the law is and how they should conform to the rules and regulations implemented by our society in any way possible. Young people are our society's future, so teaching them about the law even at a young age is paramount if our Canadian population is to continue to live in harmony for generations to come. Digital media is without a doubt a powerful tool in instilling values to these young people and the volunteers on the PLE team are definitely making a difference in the lives of children and youth. 

How do you think the clinic overall benefits society at large?

Our society is comprised of a minor population of youth coming from low-income families who cannot afford legal representation during times of conflict. Organizations such as JFCY that offer free legal aid benefits our society, especially those low-income families, because without legal aid, there would be no justice and equity for our children and youth, which would therefore infringe children's fundamental rights. Every citizen of our nation ideally should have a right to legal counsel, and JFCY plays a huge role in our society by providing legal aid to our youth. 

What are your future plans with JFCY?

I would like to get more involved with JFCY because I honestly feel that children have a lot to learn that schools and parents may not teach them which the committee may be able to. Since the law is a complex subject and since not all children grow up with lawyers as parents or teachers holding degrees in law, there needs to be a way for children to at least know about what the purpose of the law is and why certain actions are accepted or prohibited. Personally, anything I can do to help further develop the committee's reputation and contribute to its continued success while making a difference in the community is what I am most looking forward to as a volunteer with JFCY. 

What would you like to say to any youth/adult (perhaps reading this) thinking of joining PLE Team?

To anyone interested in joining the PLE Team, I highly recommend that you apply because you'll be working with some amazing people, you'll be learning hands on about many areas of law, knowing that you're doing something to help shape the lives of children goes beyond a feeling of accomplishment. Volunteering with JFCY is truly unique and rewarding experience! 

This JFCY Volunteer Profile was written by fellow PLE volunteer Arif Hussain. To read more about Arif, check out a spotlight on him here:

Thursday, January 3, 2013


It is common knowledge that Canada is one of the most multicultural countries around the world. Proof of this multiculturalism can be seen by walking in any street of downtown Toronto at any time and noticing all of the people with different physical features who were born in another country or were born here in Canada, but their parents are from other countries.

This blog post shares some basic information about dual or multiple Citizenship and how it can have some important implications in our lives. It was written by JFCY PLE Team volunteer Lina Maria Sanchez.


Ivan is 16 years old and was born in Ukraine when his parents, Vera and Dan, were there for some long vacations. His parents came back to Canada when he was one year of age. Last year, when the family decided to revisit Ivan`s birth country, they were shocked to learn that he was still considered to be a Ukrainian citizen and as a result, he was subject to military service. They also learned that Ukraine did not recognize dual citizenship.
Photo source:

What does dual citizenship mean?

If you have dual citizenship, it means that you are recognized as a citizen in more than one country.[1] Dual citizenship is the result of each independent nation being able to decide who to recognize as a citizen.[2] Dual citizenship means that being recognized as a citizen in one country does not prevent you from being recognized as a citizen in another country as well.
Canada has allowed dual citizenship since February 14, 1977.

Photo source:

When will a person be recognized as a dual citizen?  

Individual countries have their own laws to establish the criteria for a person to become a citizen. These laws will usually include information on how to apply for citizenship and may even list certain situations where a person will automatically be treated as a citizen of the country without bringing a formal application. For example, if you were born in a particular country, it may mean that you are automatically treated as a citizen of that country depending on the laws of that country.[3]

In addition to birth in a country, here are some possible ways one may acquire citizenship:
-          an application is made by an individual for foreign citizenship
-          the individual has resided in a foreign country for an extended period of time
-          the individual has family in a foreign country
-          the individual is married to a citizen of the foreign country [4]

In Ivan`s situation, he may be a Ukrainian citizen because he was born In Ukraine Territory. Ivan may also be a Canadian citizen because his parents are Canadian citizens.

It is important to note that each country’s laws can either allow citizens to have dual citizenship or can take away the citizenship of anyone who obtains citizenship from another country.[5]

What kind of advantages does Ivan have because of his two nationalities?
  • unrestricted travel with his parents (because he is under 18 years of age) between both of the countries
  • more employment opportunities in the future given his ability to work in both countries
  • access to a variety of social benefits and programs, such as education and health care, in both countries
  • unrestricted residency with his parents (because he is under 18 years of age) in both countries
  • a greater personal connection with both countries[6]
 What kind of disadvantages does Ivan have because of his two nationalities?

·        He may be subjected to the laws of either country in the same way as any other citizen even if he is not living there full-time.
  • if he gets married in the future, his marriage may not be legally recognized in the other country (although, Canada does recognize foreign marriages as legally valid)
  • in addition, if he gets divorced or obtains any child custody orders in the future, these court documents may not be recognized in the other country
  • he may be forced to repay any educational costs to one of the countries where he may have attended school in that country or that country helped him pay for school elsewhere
  • his citizenship in one country may not be recognized in the other country
  • when he is older, he may be forced to pay taxes in both countries
  • he may be required to register for military service in one or both of the countries[7]
For example, Ivan may be legally required to register for military service in Ukraine when he turns 18 years of age. This obligation may be enforced even if he is just visiting Ukraine and permanently resides in Canada. If he doesn’t comply with this requirement, he could face imprisonment or be forced to register for military service when he tries to leave Ukraine or when he comes back at some point in the future.[8] To avoid this kind of negative result, Ivan may decide he wants to permanently stay in Canada and can renounce his Ukrainian citizenship before the age he would be required to register for military service.

The following websites provide some useful information about dual citizenship:

Government of Canada, Travelling Abroad:
Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Dual citizenship:

This blog post was written by Lina Maria Sanchez, a lawyer in her native Columbia. Lina Maria is a volunteer member of the PLE Team.  Editing and citations were done by Emily Slinger, a law student intern at JFCY.