Law: On Dogs, Laws and By-Laws

When Charlotte Isadora Ginger-Snap stops abruptly in the middle of their early morning run, Denise Gordon instantly pulls out a plastic bag. Although she describes her two year old German shepherd as an unusual pet with remarkable bladder control, she knows that when “number two” happens, she has to pick up after her dog right away. “Responsible pet owners always carry plastic bags for poop and scoop,” she says.

Removing dog’s excrement from City’s property is one of the many by-laws existing in our city. Besides paying a fine, pet owners who don’t comply with this municipal code can be ordered to appear in court.

Learning about laws and by-laws may sound overwhelming at the beginning but it’s important to get familiar with them. After all they are in place to serve and protect us, the Canadians residents. So let’s review a few of them….

Kids, riding and safety

  • Riding bicycles is fun! But fun and safety go handin-hand in our province. The Ontario provincial Helmet Law establishes that cyclists under the age of 18 must wear an approved helmet while riding a bike on a sidewalk or on a roadway. While riding a bicycle, scooter, or skateboard on the road, everyone must wear a helmet, even if you are older than 18. Kids whose bicycle tires are 61 cm, and 24 inches or less are allowed to ride on the sidewalk. This measure makes it easy for them to learn to ride safely. To find tips about commuting by bicycle you can visit www.toronto.ca/bug/video.htm.
  • Another thing to take into consideration is that kids younger than 12 years old cannot stay at home alone, nor can they take care of kids who are younger than them. Good communication between parents and children, teaching kids about safety measures is essential to make them independent. To help families prepare kids to safely be at home alone once they’ve reached the legal age, Partners in Prevention developed a program available online at: www.toronto.ca/health/pdf/aloneworkbook.pdf.
  • Children’s car seats must be used in Ontario while you are traveling by car whether you are traveling long distance or just going shopping, To be sure the car seat you buy or borrowed is approved by the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, look at the label. They should also be appropriate for your child’s age and weight. Holding a child on an adult’s lap is considered dangerous and is against the law.

Pedestrians and Drivers

  • In Ontario pedestrians and drivers are responsible for each other’s safety. When Mildred Gordillo arrived in Toronto from Cuba 13 months ago, she had to get used to crossing the street at the streetlight or crosswalk. Although it was different in Cuba, it didn’t take her long to get used to it and she enjoys the order she finds in Toronto’s streets. “I like that drivers are polite with each other and respect pedestrians,” she says.
  • If you are 16, you can drive in Ontario. Of course you need to hold a valid drivers licence, and have car registration and insurance. What you cannot do is drink and drive! Ontario has one of the toughest laws in North America. It is a criminal offence to drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.8 percent or more. Drivers whose breath test results exceed the legal limit, or who refuse to take the test, will have their driver’s licence suspended immediately for 90 days. If you are a new driver holding a Graduate Driver’s
    Licence or “G2” you are not allowed to drive after consuming any quantity of alcohol.

Smoking and Health

  • Healthy living awareness campaigns are very common in Canada. Although tobacco is considered a drug, you are allowed to smoke cigarettes at certain places like your private home, car and/or designed smoking rooms in hotels. To protect workers and the general public, the Smoke-Free Ontario Act restricts smoking in enclosed places where people work, or places accessible to the public such as offices and factories, restaurants, schools, public transportation and shopping malls. Most Canadians don’t smoke and are concerned about second-hand smoke. So it’s important to be respectful of that.

Nudity

  • Canada is considered a liberal country although in isolated occasions you can find some contradictions… based on the Canadian criminal law, anyone who is found nude in a public place is guilty of an offence. But you can see a few people walking nude in downtown Toronto during the annual Pride Parade. Some participants would justify this practice as part of the celebration, others may find it offensive.
  • You may be surprised to learn that women can go topless in any Provincial Park in Ontario. In Toronto, women can walk topless in metro parks, in pools and at other facilities run by the city. Nude sunbathing and swimming are allowed in some beaches in
    Ontario. The southern part of Hanlan’s Point at the Toronto Island, for example, was officially designed as a clothing optional beach in 1999. That means you can choose to wear clothes or not.

Social standards

  • Social standards are not less respected in our country than laws. “First come first serve” for example, is a common daily practice. It doesn’t matter if you are waiting for the bus, depositing a cheque in the bank, paying for your groceries at the supermarket, or being seated at your favorite hockey game.
  • Being on time for work, school or even when visiting your doctor it is also very important. In business meetings for example, people won’t usually wait for you for more than 15 minutes and they won’t be happy if you are late! Being frequently late for work means taking the risk of being fired. For school it can mean to getting suspended!

Laws, by-laws and local social standards are part of our everyday lives. Some of them require daily compliance, like pooping and scooping if you are a pet owner.

thers may not apply to you based on your marital status or personal customs. In all cases, being familiar with local laws and practices will help you adapt to the new country, contribute to your community, and know your rights and obligations. The Ontario Government (www.gov.on.ca) and Toronto official’s website (www.toronto.ca) are great resources to help you acculturate to your new life in Canada.

CNM