Growing up, according to the law

George Mathewson

If you want to get married, how old do you have to be? Can a 16-year-old legally have sex with anyone? When can you quit school?

Exactly when children can do what in Ontario is determined by dozens of pieces of legislation. Following is a summary of our age-based laws.

4 – You can start school

6 – You must attend school

7 – Your consent is required for adoption

Under 12 – If you exhibit serious criminal-type behaviour, your parents must provide treatment or consent to treatment, or you can be taken into care by the Children’s Aid Society

12  – You can see a counselor or therapist without your parent’s knowledge or consent

Your consent is required to have your name changed

You can be charged for provincial offences, such as skipping school or trespassing, and criminal offences, such as assault or possessing weapons and drugs

12 and 13 – You can consent to sexual activity, but only with a person who is less than two years older. That person can’t be in a position of authority or trust

14 and 15 – You can consent to sex with a person less than five years older. That person can’t be in a position of authority or trust

You can be sentenced as an adult for a serious criminal offence

Under 16 – You aren’t allowed in a public place between midnight and 6 a.m., except with a parent or someone 18-plus with your parent’s permission

16 and 17 – You can consent to sex with a person older than you by any number of years, but that person can’t be in a position of authority or trust, such as a teacher, coach or doctor

16  – You can leave home (although you may lose your right to financial support), apply for a beginner driver’s licence and get married with parental consent

You can apply for social assistance in special circumstance, such as being kicked out of the house or leaving home because of abuse.

You are considered an adult under the Provincial Offences Act, so your parents won’t be notified if you are charged

You can apply for a passport

You can access personal information collected by your school or the police

17 – You can quit school if you turn 17 between the first day of school and Dec. 31.

18  – You are now considered an adult under the Criminal Code and most provincial statutes. You can vote, sue or be sued, earn full minimum wage and change your name.

You can also enter into contracts, make a will, get married, see a restricted movie, buy a lottery ticket and apply for social assistance.

19 – You can buy alcohol, buy tobacco, apply for a GST/HST credit, and gamble at a casino or racetrack.

– Sources: Justice for Children and Youth, Settlement.org