Child Abuse is Wrong: What Can I Do?

Words used in this booklet

Please note: These definitions may help you understand legal terms. They are not legal definitions. For a legal definition of these terms, you may wish to consult a lawyer.


Assault is a crime. It happens when a person uses force or threatens to use force on another person without their consent. It doesn't matter if the person makes the threat directly or indirectly. A person does not give true consent if someone uses force to get their consent, or if they consent out of fear or deception.

Bail hearing

A bail hearing takes place in court after a person has been arrested and charged. The judge decides whether that person should be released or held in jail until the court hears the case. The judge might release the person with conditions that the person must follow. For example, the judge may order that the person cannot contact the victim. Bail is also called judicial interim release.

Child abandonment

Child abandonment is a crime in Canada. It happens when a person deliberately abandons or exposes a child under the age of 10 in a way that could endanger the child's life or could permanently injure the child's health.

Child protection services

Every province and territory has child protection services that look into cases of child abuse and neglect that are reported to them. Child protection services are often called child welfare or children's aid.

If child protection services decide that a child needs protection, they can:

  • provide counselling and support for the family, or
  • remove the child from the home for a short time or a longer period.
Criminal Code

The Criminal Code outlines most criminal offences in Canada. Criminal offences are also called crimes. The Criminal Code applies across Canada.

Failing to provide the necessaries of life

It is a crime for a parent, foster parent, guardian or head of a family to fail to provide the things a child under 16 needs to live. This may include not giving a child the food, shelter, or medical aid they need to survive.

Help line

A help line is a free telephone service you can call for information and advice. You don't have to tell anyone your name or phone number when you call. Someone will answer the phone and will listen to you. They will try to answer your questions. They can also refer you to places that can help you. Different kinds of help lines are listed in the phone book and are sometimes advertised on buses, clinics and other places. For more information, see "Who Can Help?" in this booklet.

Legal aid office

These offices provide legal representation and public legal education and information services to low-income individuals and groups.

Parenting or custody order

A parenting or custody order is a court document that assigns parental responsibilities. In some cases, only one parent will have the responsibility to make major decisions about their children. This arrangement is sometimes referred to as sole custody. In these cases, your children usually live with you, but will likely visit the other parent. If parents share decision-making authority, an arrangement sometimes called joint custody, they are expected to make major decisions together. A parenting order may also set out how the child's time is shared between the parents. Parenting and custody orders are made based on the best interests of the child.

Peace bond

If you are afraid for your safety, you may be able to get a peace bond. This is an order made by a court under the authority of the Criminal Code that sets conditions on the person who behaved abusively. For example, a judge can forbid that person from contacting you. They can also be forbidden from forcing you to marry. If the person disobeys the order, the police can arrest them. If you want to know more about peace bonds you can ask a lawyer.

Sexual assault

Sexual assault is any form of sexual contact or touching with another person without their consent. Sexual assault can range from fondling to forced sexual intercourse. A person cannot give true consent if the consent is forced, or if it is given out of fear or deception. Silence is not consent. A person who is asleep or unconscious cannot give consent. The age of consent for sexual activity is 16, but there are some exceptions if the person is close in age to the child.

Victim services

Victim Services and programs can provide support and resources to victims of crime. They can respond to any safety concerns you may have after a crime. They can also give you information about the court system.
Each province and territory offers its own programs and services to victims of crime.

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