Child Abuse Law

The authority responsible for child abuse law in Canada rests with the federal government. Laws can be different in every country.

In the USA, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ):

Except in limited circumstances, federal laws typically do not apply to child sexual abuse matters that takes place wholly inside a single state. These matters are therefore generally handled by state or local authorities and prosecuted under state laws. However, if the sexual abuse of a child occurred on federal lands, the offense may be prosecuted under federal law. Federal lands include areas such as military bases, Indian territories, and other government– owned lands or properties (See 18 U.S.C. §7).

In December, 1991, Canada signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. As a ratified member, Canada is internationally accountable with regard to its universal legislation on the rights of children and youth. These include the right for children and youth to live in a safe, protective and nurturing environment.

There are 2 countries that have signed the Convention but not ratified it: United States and Somalia.

Somalia has stated it intends to ratify the Convention soon.

Child Abuse Law: Duty to Report

Duty to report is the most important of all child abuse laws.

Did You KnowIn Canada, if someone knows of or suspects that a child is being abused, that person has a legal obligation to report the known or suspected abuse. Failure to report can result in charges being laid, as well as a fine of up to $10,000.

When I inform students of the existence of this duty to report law, typically they bawk and cite how unfair that is.

Until we discuss actual child abuse cases, and what happens to children in abusive homes when no one intervenes.

The abuse continues, often gets worse, and can result in death.

Duty to report is in place among child abuse law in order to ensure that children do not suffer life-long abuse, and in order to ensure that abused children are protected. All of us must take responsibility when we suspect abuse is taking place, not only from a legal standpoint, but from moral and ethical obligations as well.

Before you say "it's none of my business", consider this:

The children of today will go on to be our teachers, politicians, and law-makers of tomorrow. These children will eventually hold our futures in their hands. We owe them--and ourselves--the best, appropriately disciplined childhood possible.

In the U.S.A., most states have a duty to report law that falls only on mandatory reporters such as teachers, health care professionals, daycare providers, and social workers.

It should be noted that there are some states in the United States that have broad statutes requiring any person to report. I am aware of several organizations and private citizens in the U.S. trying to change federal child protection laws to make reporting child abuse EVERYONE'S duty.


Child Abuse Law: Statute of Limitations

There are laws that dictate the amount of time that can go by after a crime is committed for a person to be charged with that crime. It is not possible to talk about these laws and not include statute of limitations.

When it comes to child abuse, there is no statute of limitations in Canada. Whether the child abuse occurred 5 minutes ago, 5 weeks ago, 5 or 50 years ago, an offender can still be charged. Nowhere is the latter more evident than with our Aboriginal people: more than 7,000 lawsuits have been filed against the Canadian Federal Government claiming sexual, physical and cultural abuse suffered at Residential Schools.

Though it is not the intent of this page to go into detail on laws that govern child abuse, it is worth identifying the various legislation that cover child abuse in Canada:

»  Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
»  Canadian Human Rights Legislation
»  Canadian Criminal Code
»  Canadian Civil Law
»  Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IPRA), 2001
»  Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations and Rules, 2002
»  Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB)
»  Provincial and Territorial Child Welfare Legislation

In other countries, the laws may be different in various states or provinces. Check with a local attorney for the statute of limitations in child abuse law for your area.

Child Abuse Law: Age of Majority

In Canada, a child is defined in terms of age. The age of majority is 18 or 19, depending on the province (see table below). The youngest a child can be is 0, that is to say a newborn.

Though a fetus can be abused either by the mother or some other person, it is not the intent of this site to debate whether or not a fetus is a person.

Although the term 'child' is often used synonymously with young children and youth, a child is defined as under the age of 12 years, whereas a youth or adolescent is defined as being between 12 - 19 (or 18, depending on the province). Child abuse law refers to anyone under the provincial legal age as a 'minor child'.

Canada - Age of Majority by Province

British Columbia
New Brunswick
Northwest Territories
Nova Scotia
Prince Edward Island
Yukon Territories


NOTE: Information pages on this site were based on material from the Canadian Red CrossCanadian Red Cross RespectED Training Program. Written permission was obtained to use their copyrighted material on this site.

Back to Child Abuse Effects Homepage from Child Abuse Law

Updated Feb 20, 2017

E-book: Victim To Victory

From Victim to Victory
a memoir

How I got over the devastating effects of child abuse and moved on with my life


E-book: Victim To Victory

From Victim to Victory
a memoir

How I got over the devastating effects of child abuse and moved on with my life


Most Recent

  1. Converging Stolen Lives

    Jan 30, 18 01:13 PM

    There was a time and space I didn’t think about you, or your abuse. Where when I looked back at my life, I only saw normal things, a normal childhood.

    Read More

  2. A letter to one of the 13 Turpin children

    Jan 29, 18 11:33 AM

    A heartfelt letter by a former classmate that speaks to bullying and regrets. You'll find it on my Facebook group. I hope you'll join and get in on the discussion.

    Read More

  3. Dissociated From Abuse

    Jan 29, 18 11:00 AM

    I was sexually abused by my father from age 6 to 13, which stopped when I started talking about it during the day. The teenage brother of my best friend

    Read More