Instructor(s): Cheryl Milne

For graduate students, the course number is LAW7071H.

Note: This course will be offered every other year.

Children have a special legal status in society. Considered to be in need of protections, they also experience significant limits on their own agency and autonomy. This course will explore the legal status of children in Canada from their historical treatment as property of their parents or the state, to a more expansive child rights approach that is inconsistently applied today. Topics covered will include children within the family, with a particular emphasis on child protection, children and the Charter, indigenous children, and decision-making by children, along with key concepts such as the best interests of the child, the competency and developmental capacity of children and youth, and what is meant by child rights. Course readings will include major cases, legislation and critical analysis of the treatment of children and adolescents in our legal system. International and multidisciplinary perspectives will provide broader insights into child and youth advocacy and the approach to children's rights stemming from the global recognition of child rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The seminar will include interactions with guests from professional disciplines who collaborate in the field of child advocacy including social workers and child rights advocates. Students will learn how our society defines, upholds, advances and protects the rights of children, and what the role of the lawyer is when representing children in different legal contexts.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand basic concepts of the law related to children and youth.
  • Comprehend and appreciate the historical, socio-economic and cultural context in which child and family laws, policies and practices have been developed and implemented.
  • Understand and be able to apply a child rights perspective to legal advocacy, policy or analysis.
  • Develop a basic understanding of child and adolescent development and its impact on law, policy and practice.
  • Situate the law as it applies to Canadian children within the broader international perspectives of international treaties and diverse cultures.
  • Understand the unique role and ethical responsibilities of lawyers who represent child clients.
Term work (40%): participation, which includes attendance and meaningful input into discussion (10%); two written assignments, approximately 1000 words each, critically reflecting on the readings or guest lectures (30%) Final Project or Practicum (60%): 5000 word end-of-term paper or practicum. Up to six students will be able to fulfil their final project requirement by working on a practicum, which will consist of working with a practitioner in a legal clinic, government office, or public interest group representing children and youth. Evaluation of the practicum will be based on the work product (which will entail legal research and memo writing), an annotated docket sheet, as well as a reflective essay on the practicum experience.
Academic year
2022 - 2023

At a Glance

Second Term



16 JD


T: 4:10 - 6:00 pm