My name is John and I’m 14 years old. I live with my mother and my little brother. My mother usually allows us to chill with friends only when we have completed our homework, except she works at night so I often meet up with my friends when she is at work. She has no idea that I leave the house so late at night though. Often times, my friends and I hang out, ride our bikes and skateboard around the plaza’s parking lot right by my house. On several occasions security guards approach us and escort us off the property. They constantly escort us out of there and remind us that we were loitering, warning us not to return. We didn’t take their orders seriously and one night at around one in the morning when my friends and I were hanging out in the parking lot of the plaza the security guards caught us. This time, the security guard brought us home and spoke to our mothers. I got in a lot of trouble but I didn’t even know I was doing anything wrong? How come the security guard took me home? Why is my mother so mad?

Section 79 (5) of the Child and Family Services Act, states that parents of children under sixteen cannot permit their children to be out 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 okay and they can be out late.  But it is actually illegal for kids under age 16, like John, to be “loitering” in a public place or at a “place of entertainment” without a parent or designated adult between midnight and 6am. John was returned home to his parents because section 79(6), authorizes the security guard to return the child to a safe place.

John will not be arrested nor charged for loitering on public property at one in the morning, but there are possible consequences for his mother.  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, as was the situation in which the security guard returned John to his home. However, depending on the circumstances and the level of concern for the child’s well-being, the police do have the power to bring John into the care of a Children’s Aid Society, who can then commence child protection proceedings in court. This could affect John’s mother’s custody rights. The lack of attention that she was paying to John’s actions could result in her being held liable. In other words, it can be very serious and this is likely why John’s mother was very upset.

The Relevant Legislation

Child and Family Services Act
Allowing child to loiter, etc.
Section 79 (5) No parent of a child less than sixteen years of age shall permit the child to,
(a) loiter in a public place between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m.; or
(b) be in a place of public entertainment between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., unless the parent accompanies the child or authorizes a specified individual eighteen years of age or older to accompany the child.
Police may take child home or to place of safety
Section 79 (6) Where a child who is actually or apparently less than sixteen years of age is in a place to which the public has access between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. and is not accompanied by a person described in clause (5) (b), a peace officer may apprehend the child without a warrant and proceed as if the child had been apprehended under subsection 42 (1).

 

This blog scenario was written by Deqa Abdi, a volunteer on the JFCY’s PLE Team. The legal content was written by Lauren Grossman, a first year law student at the University of Toronto who is volunteering at JFCY as the PLE team leader through her law school’s Pro Bono Students Canada program. All legal content was reviewed by a JFCY lawyer. JFCY’s legal content is based on the laws in Ontario relevant to youth under the age of 18.