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Youth Agency and the Culture of Law

This resource, produced in partnership with the University of Toronto Faculties of Law and Social Work, Law in Action Within Schools (LAWS), and the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO), allows students to explore ideas about youth and agency in Canada’s legal culture, and their implications for reflecting on decisions to marry and emancipation. Through five written modules and a graphic novel, students will deepen their understanding of legal issues related to forced marriage, leaving home, age of majority, the minimum age of marriage, and guardianship. Legal concepts are introduced through stories, scenarios, legal cases, and discussion questions that have students examine these broad topics in Ontario and Canadian contexts.


1. Age of Majority provides a brief historical overview of the concept of “majority” from Roman times to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, and then looks at cases on the right to vote and to accept or reject medical treatment.

2. Guardianship had its roots in Roman society and was applied to minors, women, and mentally incapable adults. Women have gained their independence in the last century in Canadian law. The principle of “best interests of the child” is important for children, youth and incapable adults. The Supreme Court of Canada set out the limits on guardians in the Eve case.

3. Minimum Age of Marriage shows how highly regulated marriage is in law and invites the questions, why is there a minimum age and why are there exceptions? Three Canadian cases allow students to explore the rationale behind different provincial laws and exceptions on the minimum age for marriage and to consider the values that underpin the law.

4. Forced Marriage explores some of the legal issues raised in It’s My Choice: Who, If,
When to Marry
, a graphic novel produced by SALCO. The graphic novel presents three fictional cases, “Maya and Sam”, “Karine and Sheila”, and “Ash,” based on a number of true stories. These stories present brief, gripping, and touching situations related to issues of marriage and forced marriage that invite students to examine the cultural dynamics of marriage and their human rights under the Charter, international law, and family law in Ontario.

5. Emancipation or Leaving Home explores the circumstances when children can withdraw from the care of their parents, and who is responsible for supporting the child: the parents, the province, or the child her/himself. It looks at the concepts of voluntary withdrawal, constructive withdrawal, and need of protection. Two cases and a scenario invite students to investigate the complexity of youth rights and responsibilities under the law.

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