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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 Ontarioand 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.