It is a quid pro quo; rights and freedoms (and protection) in return for compliance with, or living up to, responsibilities. It seems to make perfect sense – you can't have one without the other.

The embodiment of the state is the people who form the government. In Canada today, for the most part, that is people who range in age from 40 years to 70 years. When they were children, the age of majority in Canada was 21 years. That meant that, at law, anyone under the age of 21 years was “an infant at law” – a child. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Canadian provincial governments “lowered” the age of majority to (in most cases) 18 years. Since that time, those under the age of 18 years are considered, at law, to be children.

And children do not have quite the same rights and freedoms as adults but then, neither do they have quite the same responsibilities. So the balance is maintained – fewer rights and freedoms, but fewer responsibilities.

Not only does it make sense logically, but it also makes sense scientifically. There is ample scientific evidence to support the proposition that children are simply not sufficiently intellectually developed to participate in society as adults. And of even greater significance, there is a growing body of neurological evidence that adolescent brains function very differently from adult brains.

Who would agree to the provincial governments lowering the age of majority from 18 years to 14 years? Doing so would mean that those 14 years of age could lawfully:

  • Enter into and enforce contracts;
  • Initiate lawsuits on their on behalf;
  • Marry and have children;
  • Own property and lawfully enter into pool halls;
  • Enter licensed premises and consume alcohol;
  • Purchase and smoke tobacco products;
  • Quit school; and
  • Vote in municipal, provincial, and federal elections;

to name but a few of the many rights that adults possess; for as we have already pointed out, for adults, along with their rights and freedoms go responsibilities.

The social contract demands that adults exercise their rights and freedoms in a responsible manner and if they don't the state, with all its power and authority, will step in to enforce compliance.

So clearly if the state, as embodied by the people who form the government, lowered the age of majority to 14 years, anyone 14 years of age and older would be entitled to all of the rights and freedoms, and all of the responsibilities, of anyone of the age of 18 years, or the age of 21 years, or whatever age is set out in law to be the age at which one becomes an “adult”.

It follows logically, and the quid pro quo is maintained.

Of course, our governments are not so foolish as to even contemplate lowering the age of majority to 14 years. They know full well that children are physiologically, psychologically, and emotionally incapable of functioning as adults. In fact, in apparent recognition of this, the federal government has proposed legislation [Bill C-22] to increase “the age of consent” [CCC s. 150.1 ff.] from 14 years to 16 years. The stated purpose of this Bill is, in particular, to “protect our children from adult predators” – on the face of it, a most worthy intention.

And this same federal government (with the support of several provincial governments, including the Alberta government) is also proposing amending the Youth Criminal Justice Act in two (2) very important ways. Now one might reasonably expect, in light of the clear desire to” protect our children”, that such proposed amendments would be directed at doing just that when it comes to children who are in serious trouble with the law.

An example of such an amendment might be to direct that seriously troubled children are placed in a caring and supportive environment where they receive the psychological and emotional attention they need to change their patterns of behaviour from the negative to the positive, and then further providing explicit provisions that the funding necessary to achieve this will be provided by the government on an on-going basis.

A reasonable expectation, particularly when considering that as recently as January 11, 2007, the federal government announced that $16.1 Million was being directed to assisting “youth at risk”.