| Mar 15, 2007


Legalese - March 15, 2007

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Legalese - March 15, 2007 Age Based Legislative Changes bySusan Irwin, Lawyer/Executive Director December 2006 witnessed a number of changes to provincial legislation that will have significant implications for both young and old in Ontario. Heralded with much fanfare were changes to the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Employment Standards Act that eliminated mandatory retirement for persons aged 65. As of December 12, 2006, citizens of Ontario were given the right and the freedom to decide for themselves whether or not to continue working past the age of 65. Prior to these amendments it was lawful in Ontario for an employer to force an employee to retire when they turned 65.

At the other end of the age spectrum, amendments to Ontario’s Education Act now require young people to attend school until the age of 18 or until graduation. Previously, school attendance was only compulsory to age sixteen.

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The increase in the school-leaving age to 18 is only one part of the Liberal government’s touted Student Success Strategy. According to a recent government news release, further innovative initiatives that have been passed through amendments to the Education Act (but not yet proclaimed in force), will make the education system more responsive to student needs and help students feel more “engaged”. For example, in addition to attending regular high school, students will have the opportunity to participate in programs of “equivalent learning” that are to be developed and offered by school boards in partnership with community groups, the business community, training centres and post secondary institutions. Students will also have the opportunity to acquire two compulsory high school credits through hands on work experience (co-op) and to earn dual credits (i.e. earn credits and put them towards both their high school diploma and their post-secondary diploma, degree or apprenticeship certification).

While these success programming measures are intended to encourage voluntary high school attendance until age 18 or graduation, the government is also targeting measures to ensure compliance. An amendment to the Highway Traffic Act will authorize the making of regulations requiring that 16 to 17 year olds provide evidence that they are at school or excused from school attendance under the Education Act before applying for a G-1 driver’s licence or progressing to a G-2 or full G licence. As in a number of American states, the courts will also be able to suspend a young person’s driving privileges for habitual absenteeism. Increased fines ($1,000 up from $200) and terms of probation may also be ordered by the Court.

A person can be excused from school attendance under the Education Act for a number of reasons including:

receiving satisfactory instruction at home, sickness or other unavoidable cause, expulsion or exclusion from school, or having obtained a secondary school education diploma or completed a course that gives equivalent standing.

In the absence of a recognized excuse for not attending school, students and their parents can be held accountable. A parent or guardian will not be responsible if their child is at least 16 years old and has withdrawn from their control.

Please note however, the assurances of the Ontario government that its proposed driver’s licence sanctions (referred to above), as well as the increased fines for non-attendance or habitual absenteeism from school, levied against the student and/or parent, will not be implemented by the government until it is satisfied that its success programming is sufficiently in place. How that will be determined is not yet clear, but as I and others will be able to continue to work after age 65 I’m sure someone will have the time to figure it out and get it right.

In the meantime, if you have a question about compulsory school attendance or the end of mandatory retirement, please feel free to contact Rural Legal Services, your MPP, or the Ontario government for more information.

Legalese is a column of general information and opinion on legal topics by the lawyers of Rural Legal Services, Box 359, Sharbot Lake, ON, K0H2P0, 613-279-3252, or 1-888-777-8916. This column is not intended to provide legal advice. You should contact a lawyer to determine your legal rights and obligations.

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