November 14, 2012 - We received a number of calls from parents who inquired what age a child could be left alone according to Canadian law. Most surprisingly, I was not able to find a definitive answer. While leaving a child unsupervised is against the law, there is no law that dictates a specific age at which a child can be left unsupervised.
This question inspired me to research The Criminal Code of Canada, The Child and Family Services Act, and The Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies but still I received rather ambiguous responses.
Dave Fleming, Assistant Director of Intake at the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, explains, “The law is purposefully vague when it comes to choosing a specific age, because there are many variables to take into consideration. One eleven-year old may feel comfortable being left alone, and knows what to do in case of an emergency, while another eleven-year-old may feel nervous and unsure of himself." – excerpt from 'How Do You Know When Your Children Can Be Left Unsupervised?'
"Leaving children alone for the first time can be overwhelming for both parents and children. Knowing when children are emotionally ready for this responsibility, and putting safety strategies in place, is all part of the important planning."
Toronto Children's Aid Society Excerpt from -
'How Do You Know When Your Children Can Be Left Unsupervised?'
Parents who leave their children unattended or unsupervised base their decision on the maturity level of their children, and must ensure they will be safe. Should an occurrence take place they are referred to Children’s Aid Society (CAS), and if police determine that the children should not have been left alone, they can be criminally charged with abandonment.
The Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies states that The Child and Family Services Act, (legislation which provides the mandate and framework), does not identify an age when a child can be left alone, or an age at which a child can supervise or babysit other children. The Act recognizes that age alone is not a sufficient safeguard for the supervision of children.
The Child and Family Services Act states that a person who has charge of a child less than 16 years of age cannot leave the child without making provision for his/her care or supervision that is reasonable under the circumstances. Anyone who contravenes this provision is guilty of a provincial offence and if convicted is liable to a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment of up to a year.
In addition, the Criminal Code of Canada includes the offence of abandoning a child. Anyone who unlawfully abandons or exposes a child who is under 10 years of age, so that his/her life is or is likely to be endangered, or his/her health is or is likely to be permanently injured is guilty of an offence that carries a penalty of imprisonment of not more than two years.
If you're unsure as to whether it's okay to leave your child home alone, it is recommended that you consult with your local Children's Aid Society.
Robert Rockey from the Intake Dept. at Children's Aid Society of Toronto provided us with information for this article. For his knowledge, expediency, and kindness we are very grateful.