For most people, “home” is a place of safety and comfort, but life at home can sometimes be tough. It is important to know your rights and responsibilities at home. This chapter covers being grounded, moving out, child protection services and residential care (group or foster homes, etc.).
Yes. In all kinds of relationships there is likely to be some form of disagreement. Parents and guardians can legally yell at you. However, if someone constantly yells at or insults another person, this may be verbal abuse. While it is not a criminal offence, child protection workers can look into suspected cases of verbal abuse.
Yes. Your parent(s)/guardian(s) are allowed to make rules, as well as come up with consequences for breaking those rules, so long as you are living in their home. The rules and consequences have to be reasonable and without the potential to cause physical or emotional harm. For example, it is harmful to be denied food for breaking a rule. It is also harmful if they do not allow you to express anger, fear, sadness or other emotions around them.
According to criminal law, parents can hit or spank their children to discipline them. Any person who is standing in the place of a parent like a teacher or guardian can use force to correct a student or child. This means that people such as legal guardians, babysitters, nannies and stepparents are allowed to hit or spank children they are caring for as long as they do not use force that is unreasonable. Although parents are legally allowed to physically discipline you, there are some rules:
- hit their child because they were angry/frustrated
- hit their child in a way that is degrading to the child
- hit/spank a child who is under 2 or over 12 years of age
- use any object to hit or spank their child
- hit their child hard enough to cause injury
- hit a child with disAbilities
You have the right not to be hit by your parent(s)/guardian(s)
If your father, mother, step-father or step-mother hits you, you can talk to another adult you trust. This can be an older family member (a cousin, an aunt or uncle, etc.), an Elder, a counsellor, a teacher, a coach, a program/group leader or a spiritual or religious leader. If you are worried about your safety or the safety of someone else, you can call the police or a children’s protective service such as the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) to ask for help.
Parents and guardians are expected to care and provide for their child/children until they reach the age of majority. In Canada, this can range from age 16 to 18, depending on which province/territory you live in. Once you reach this age, your parent(s)/guardian(s) legally have the right to ask you to leave home.
Age of majority by province
Newfoundland and Labrador19
Prince Edward Island18
When you reach the age of majority, you are able to leave home. Leaving home may seem like an attractive option, but it comes with consequences that you should consider before making the decision to move. For example, if you freely leave home, your parents may no longer be responsible for supporting you financially. If your parents have split-up and one of your parents pays child support, they may not have to keep paying this money. In some cases, you may be able to receive social assistance (welfare) if you move out on your own. In some parts of the country, people do not qualify for social assistance until they reach the age of majority. However, you could receive social assistance at a younger age if the welfare agency believes there is a good reason for you not to be living at home.
The Children’s Aid Society is part of something called Child Protection Services. The role of the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) is to protect children under the age of 16 from harm. A CAS worker may contact your family when there is a report about family problems that affect the care given to you or to other children in your home. For example, the CAS will look into any reports that you are being physically, sexually or emotionally abused. The age at which you can report suspected abuse or neglect depends on which province/territory you live in. If you are under aged for reporting, speak to a trusted adult to give you advice or to report on your behalf. Child Protection Services can have different names depending on the province you live in (for example: Child and Family Services Manitoba).
- Your parent(s) and the CAS can agree to have the CAS provide temporary care services for you. If you are over 16 years of age, this cannot happen.
- If you are 12 years of age or older, you must agree in writing to any plans under this agreement.
- If you come into care without the consent of your parent(s) or guardian(s), the CAS must start a court application to have a judge make a decision about your care.
- If you are under 16 years of age, and you think you need to be in care but CAS does not agree, you can ask another person to bring a court application forward to ask the judge to order that you be taken into care (this is called a third party application).
- If and when you go to court, these sessions will be private. The judge may provide you with a lawyer if they feel it would be helpful to protect your interests. If you are 12 and over they may also say you have the right to talk to and give instructions to your lawyer.
- If you are Indigenous, your band or Native community must be notified about the court proceedings. CAS must consult with them to see if there is a way to resolve things without going to court. Any decisions must consider the importance of preserving your cultural identity.
Age for reporting child abuse by province
Newfoundland and Labrador16
Prince Edward Island18
Residential care is also known as a group or foster home or another place where you live and receive support. In residential care, foster parents or staff members look after you. Your parent(s)/guardian(s) can put you into residential care if you are under the age of 16, and the people in charge agree to take care of you. This is called voluntary placement. Your consent is needed. You can also be placed into residential care by CAS.
You have a specific set of rights in residential care. They are
- to have a plan of care created for you
- to take part in making important decisions about your care, which includes medical care, education, religion and ending/transferring placement
- to speak with and visit members of your family (except when there is a court order that says this is not allowed)
- to speak to and receive visits from your lawyer, the adult representing you, the ombudsman and/or the Office of the Child and Family Services advocate. To see a list of Child and Family advocates in your province, please visit our resource page
- not to be punished physically or emotionally
- to be provided with proper education, food, clothing and medical and dental care
- to participate in sports and recreation programs
- to have privacy and access to your personal property (within reasonable limits)
- to send and receive mail/email and not have it be read by others (unless they have reason to suspect the contents are harmful to you or others)
- to make complaints and to be explained how to make a complaint
If you are unhappy with your placement, you have the right to have your placement reviewed. A group of people will listen to your case and make recommendations. They will decide if your placement is suitable. If you are under 12 years of age, you will have to request a review. You can also have an adult you trust ask for a review. You also have the right to a second review if you are not satisfied with the result of the first one.
If you are under the age of majority in your province/territory (see age of majority on the Important Ages Chart) and the local Children’s Aid Society believes you are in need of protection, they will take you into care. As an example, if you have been kicked out or if you are being abused, you could be taken into care. If you want to leave home before you are legally allowed, CAS might let you stay with another adult you trust. The CAS workers will want to know that you will be safe.
If you make the decision to leave home or are removed from your home by a CAS worker, you have the right to take all of your personal property with you. It does not matter if you bought the items or if they were a gift—they are your property. This is true at any age. Important documents such as your health card, birth certificates and passport are also your property.
Once you reach the right age you have the legal right to rent your own apartment. If you are between 16 and 18 years of age, and are living away from your parents, you cannot be refused an apartment. A lease signed by a 16- or 17-year-old is legally binding. Here are some other rights that could help if you are looking for somewhere to stay:
- Landlords cannot refuse you an apartment just because you cannot provide a reference from a Canadian landlord and/or credit check. Not having these documents is not the same as having bad references or bad credit.
- A landlord cannot refuse you an apartment just because they don’t think you make enough money. The landlord is only allowed to make sure you have enough money to cover monthly rent. It is not their concern to know how you will cover monthly costs like groceries.