US & Canada

'Children under 10 too young to take bus to school alone'

Adrian Crook's children, ages 5-11, taking the bus Image copyright Adrian Crook / 5 Kids 1 Condo
Image caption Adrian Crook's children, ages 5-11, taking the bus

A Canadian father is mounting a legal challenge after child safety officials told him his children aged 7-11 could no longer take the bus alone.

Adrian Crook said he taught his children to take the Vancouver city bus to school over a few months.

In a post on his blog "5 Kids 1 Condo", he wrote that he wanted to "raise capable, independent humans".

But the Ministry of Children and Family Development said it is illegal for children under 10 to be unsupervised.

Mr Crook, who writes about parenting and urban living, said he wanted to teach his children that it is possible to rely on public transport instead of a car.

He said that two years ago, he taught them how to take the 45-minute bus ride, which picks them up in front of their building and drops them off in front of their school.

The whole learning process took months, and he travelled with them while he taught them how to be safe and recognise the stops.

"Nobody's so much as shed a tear, let alone been hurt in the entire two-year learning experience," he wrote.

His youngest child, who is five, does not take the bus.

But after receiving an anonymous complaint, child safety officials for the province of British Columbia began an investigation, which involved visiting his home, interviewing him and all his children separately, he wrote.

In Canada, only three provinces have minimum ages for children being left alone - Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec, with the minimum ages ranging from 12-16.

In a letter dated 2 August that Mr Crook provided to the Globe and Mail, the ministry's lawyer advised that "it is likely that a court would find that protection concerns do arise" if a child under 10 were left unsupervised on public transport.

Children under 12 are also incapable of supervising younger children, he learned.

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Media caption510 arrests in England and Wales for leaving children home alone as John Maguire reports

"It's a 'Cover Your Ass' culture, where even if a trivial issue is reported the ministry cannot condone it, lest they be responsible for future issues," he wrote on his blog.

Caseworkers told him they were not concerned about neglect, and that he had gone "above and beyond" to ensure his children were responsible and safe while riding public transport, he said.

Mr Crook is now fundraising to mount a legal challenge, and has raised more than C$10,000 ($8,200, £6,300) on GoFundMe.

Until then, he said he will not let his children be unsupervised for any reason. Since the ministry has conducted an investigation, a further infraction could strip him of joint-custody of his children, which he shares with his ex-wife, he said.

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