Sixteen-year olds can marry in Nova Scotia but require a court’s approval in Québec. Twelve-year olds can work in Alberta with a note from Mother, but in Manitoba must obtain permission of the Minister of Labour. “In Yukon, the law requires youth to stay at home until they are legally adults” – at 19 – “and those who leave before that are considered runaways,” explains The Law Is (Not) For Kids. Authors Ned Lecic and Marvin Zuker review the hodgepodge of provincial regulation of minors in this intriguing book.
“We think Canadian youth should be asking for more legal rights,” authors explain. “At the same time, we will say very little in this book about exactly what rights we think you should have. That is a very complex question, and we encourage you to think for yourself about what rights adults should give you, and to find good reasons why you should be given those rights.”
Lecic is a skillful writer. Zuker is a former Ontario judge. The Law Is (Not) For Kids is written for minors but remains a compelling review of rules and reasoning since Confederation.
Take spanking, a legal right of parents upheld by the Supreme Court in 2004. The law dates from the 1892 Criminal Code written by then-Attorney General John Thompson, a Catholic father of nine who by all accounts was a loving husband and parent.
“Ordinarily, hitting someone makes you guilty of ‘assault’, which is a crime,” authors write. “Yet even though assault is against the law, section 43 of the Criminal Code still allows the use of ‘force’ as a way of disciplining a child.”
Authors argue for repeal and advocate other wholesale changes to laws along the lines of Norway’s Children Act that forbids “use of violence and frightening or annoying or other inconsiderate conduct towards the child”. Readers may disagree – and millions of Canadian parents would – but the authors are so passionate in their arguments The Law Is (Not) For Kids makes for a snappy read.
Can my parents kick me out of the house? Can I make any decisions on my own before I’m 18? If my parents divorce, can I decide which one I’m going to live with? The Law Is (Not) For Kids occasionally blur lines between rights and mere grievances, but examines all these questions in a frank and informative way.
“We wrote this book because we believe that children and teenagers are people like everyone else and that adults should not be able to make decisions for them based only on what adults want or simply as a way of asserting their power,” write authors: “We also believe that, as far as possible, youth should be able to make their own decisions, depending on how mature they are. The law should not consider them incapable of making choices independently simply because they are under some magic age.”
By Holly Doan
The Law Is (Not) For Kids, by Ned Lecic and Marvin Zuker; Athabasca University Press; 304 pages; ISBN 9781-7719-9237; $22.99