Legal Briefs

When Approached by the Police

The only time most people have to identify themselves to the police is if they are driving. The police have the right to see a valid driver’s licence, proof of ownership, and insurance. If an individual is walking, the police may approach and ask questions, however, there is no obligation to answer or to identify oneself. If the police choose to arrest and charge, it is still wisest to remain silent. The police will provide documentation that includes court date, and the individual will have full opportunity to answer the charge when in court.

Criminal Charges

If you are charged with a criminal offence, you will likely be released, based on your promise to appear in court on a specific date and time. That date is not your trial, it’s just called a first appearance. The crown has an obligation to disclose its case to you in written form, which you’ll likely receive on that first appearance, and we will then try to negotiate an appropriate resolution of the charge for you. In many cases, we may be able to negotiate withdrawal, on terms, so that you don’t end up with a criminal record.

Provincial Offences

The federal government has the power to create criminal offences, and anyone convicted of a criminal charge may then have a criminal record. However, the provincial governments have the power to create other offences. These offences are not criminal, however, they may still lead to adverse consequences. One common provincial offence is speeding. In fact, there is an entire Highway Traffic Act that lists various offences related to driving. Other provincial offences include trespass, public intoxication, making excessive noise, and parking infractions.  These offences should still be taken seriously, and can be resolved appropriately through the court system.

Marriage And Common-law

Marriage is a legal status that can only be acquired through specific procedures established by government. However, marriage that takes place in one jurisdiction should be valid throughout the world. A couple may become separated just by establishing separate residences, however, divorce is likewise something that can only be achieved by following procedures established by a particular jurisdiction. Common-law, on the other hand, is not a status conferred by any one authority. Accordingly, different authorities establish different conditions that constitute common-law status for their purposes, for example different lengths of cohabitation before it constitutes a common-law relationship.

Child Custody, Access And Support

The custody of a child pertains to who makes the important decisions in the child’s life–about things like health, education, extra-curricular activities and religion. Custody is different from residence, which is where the child lives. Custody may be sole (where one parent makes all the decisions), joint (where the parents make them together) or shared (where each parent makes the decisions when the child is with them). A parent that the child doesn’t live with may be granted access to the child, and must pay child support, in specific amounts set by the government.


If you rent a self-contained unit– with its own entrance, washroom and kitchen–it will be governed by the Residential Tenancies Act, and the Landlord and Tenant Board. The Ontario government has also now prescribed a standard form of lease, which landlords are supposed to use for all such tenancies. If you share the washroom or kitchen with your landlord, the Act and the Board’s jurisdiction won’t apply–and that’s okay–just be aware of that your tenancy will be governed by regular contract law. Either way, make sure there’s a written lease that says everything you’ve agreed to.

Employment Rights

In Ontario, employment rights are governed by the Employment Standards Act, which is administered by the Ministry of Labour. Those rights relate to issues such as wages, hours of work, vacation, and termination of employment and leaves of absence. If an employee’s rights are not respected by an employer, the employee may file a complaint with the Ministry, and the Ministry will investigate. The Ontario Human Rights Code guards individuals from harassment or discrimination in areas including employment, and likewise has a complaint mechanism. There are corresponding legislation and administrative offices for employees who work in federally regulated industries.


If someone is owed money by another individual, the civil court system may issue a judgment ordering the other person to pay. However, the court cannot guarantee that payment will be made. If the amount owed is $35,000 or less, a claim can be filed with Small Claims Court. The required forms are on the Court’s website, in fillable form, and the filing fee is presently $102, but may be waived for low income individuals. There are higher levels of court for greater amounts owed, however any claim must be filed within two years of when the debt arose.

Operating A Business

In Ontario, a business may be operated by a corporation, or by individuals who have not incorporated. The main benefit of incorporating is that a corporation is a separate legal entity, so the individuals who own it are not generally liable for its debts. Another benefit is that the public often perceives a corporation to be more sophisticated and permanent than an unincorporated business. However, an individual also has the option of registering a sole proprietorship, and operating a business in that form, or two or more individuals may register a partnership, in either case without incorporating.

Intellectual Property

In Canada, intellectual property is regulated by the federal government, through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. There are four main categories of intellectual property, being patent, and trademark, copyright and industrial design. Patent is the most complex, and is applied for to protect an invention that is genuinely new and useful. A trademark may be issued to protect a name, a logo, or a combination of both. Copyright protects a literary or artistic work, and industrial design relates to the unique appearance of a product. There is a specific application procedure and fee for each type of intellectual property.


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