Canadian Officials Crack Down on Single Father for Letting His Kids Ride the Bus

The Canadian government thinks this is something they need to stop. Photo:
The Canadian government thinks this is something they need to stop. Photo: Five Kids 1 Condo

Here’s an excellent example of overzealous government agencies getting in the way of what should be normal, healthy activity for children.

Adrian Crook, a single father who lives in Vancouver, spent two years teaching his five kids — ages 7 through 11 — to ride a public bus to school together. They learned the ropes, haven’t encountered serious problems, and endeared themselves to other passengers, Crook writes at his combination dad-and-urbanism blog Five Kids 1 Condo.

But because he violated North American parental norms and taught his kids to get around independently, he now has to defend his actions to the authorities at Canada’s Ministry of Children and Family Development, a national version of child protective services.

An anonymous tipster ratted on Crook to the ministry for letting his kids ride the bus. The agency conducted a weeks-long investigation, then rendered a decision, he writes:

The Ministry called me into their office where I met with my caseworker and her supervisor. It started off in a favourable way, with the supervisor insisting that I’d gone “above and beyond” what any parent should have to do to train their kids to be responsible and conscious transit riders. They said they understood that this was not a case of me being negligent. If it had been, they would have rendered a decision much faster.

Ultimately, however, the Ministry had checked with their lawyers “across the country” and the Attorney General, and determined that children under 10 years old could not be unsupervised in or outside the home, for any amount of time. That included not just the bus, but even trips across the street to our corner store, a route I can survey in its entirety from my living room window.

Furthermore, the Ministry advised that until my oldest was 12 (next summer), he could not be deemed responsible for the other children.

The caseworkers further maintained that four kids taking a public bus together was more dangerous than staying home alone, an assertion debunked by statistics. In the U.S., an average of 10 school bus passengers are killed annually, versus an average of 2,300 children killed annually in the home by accidents such as choking, suffocation, drowning, submersion, falls, fires, burns and poisoning.

Beyond that, the #1 killer of kids ages 5-14 is actually car accidents, something most parents do every day without a second thought. And the odds of your child being kidnapped by a stranger on the bus? Incredibly long. A 2003 study in Canada found just one case nationwide of a stranger abducting a child, in the entire two years prior.

Crook was told that if he doesn’t comply with the order to never leave his children under 10 unsupervised, he could lose his partial custody. No more independent public bus trips to school — now Crook chaperones them 45 minutes each way:

Being a divorced, single dad who has his kids 50% of the time, I have little recourse to challenge the Ministry’s decision. Disobeying it even in the slightest (i.e. allowing a trip to the corner store by my 9.75 year old), could result in the Ministry stripping me of equal custody of my children, a remarkably draconian outcome I would never risk. The Ministry has effectively mandated I either spend hours each day driving or busing with my kids, or hire a nanny to do that for me – an outcome they’d be hard pressed to recommend if I were a full-time single parent without the financial resources to accommodate this request.

Many parents in North American cities are, of course, worse off and have a more difficult time managing transportation for their kids. The prospect of having their children taken away as a result of needing to get around without a car is all too real.

Crook says he’s planning a court challenge to establish the right of Canadian children to ride the bus. He’s been crowdfunding for the legal defense and has raised more than $22,000 in eight days. So the story isn’t over and might result in an important precedent.

More recommended reading today: The Bike League is asking supporters to take action against a spending bill in the House of Representatives that would undermine local funding for bikeways. And Greater Greater Washington has an update on Virginia DOT’s plan to slap a bike trail right next to a noisy, exhaust-filled highway.

  • Vooch

    we need to recognize every time we citizens demand a new law, a new plan, a new policy adiministered by government – this perversion is inevitably the result.

    Never forget that Eric Garner was killed because he was selling loosies that were not taxed enough.

  • Joe R.

    I had friends who rode the subway alone at 7 or 8. To me this seems like a normal part of being a kid in a big city. What the F is wrong with people nowadays? The same people will be complaining when these kids who were never allowed to be independent are still living in their parent’s basement playing video games at age 40. Are mommy or daddy going to drive them to job interviews or work, too?

  • Jeremy

    Why would the 40 year old be living in the basement? What happened to the bedroom?

  • Joe R.

    Just playing into the usual stereotype of adult children living in their parent’s basement. Don’t really know if it’s true or not.

  • Jeremy

    Eric Garner was killed because a police officer put him in an illegal chokehold. That is what the medical examiner concluded.

  • rohmen

    So…. Literally no one in Vancouver who has kids under the age of 10 can let their kids walk to school? Even if it’s across the street or a few blocks away?? That’s ridiculous.

  • Southeasterner

    I’m having trouble believing we are hearing all the facts in this one and getting complete quotes from the fathers communications. I travel to Vancouver frequently and have seen plenty of kids riding alone and in groups on transit.

    I’m guessing that his perfect angels did something that led to a complaint from a driver and/or fellow passengers that questioned their behavior in public..and maybe led to even more questions from child services on their home environment.

  • SDGreg

    This is utterly stupid. Why force them to travel by means that are more dangerous versus a city bus which is much safer in every way? I wonder if the people making this ruling ever use public transportation.

  • Jason

    There would have been no reason for Garner’s interaction with the police to occur in the first place if not for trying to crack down on selling loosies.

  • Albert Ross

    Oh Canada

  • Vooch

    thank you jason, correct. Most of us support laws taxing cigarettes. We should recognize that Eric Garner was killed because he paid ( presumably ) NJ taxes instead of NYC taxes on the loose cigarettes he was selling.

  • William Lawson

    Well, this is what happens when you vote for big government.

  • Alex Brideau III

    Yes, I believe it’s pretty common for law enforcement to use the more mundane law violations to initiate a stop/detainment/investigation. Sometimes this can result in an unjustified death or injury; of course other times it can result in getting a wanted criminal off the streets. I’d say this practice can sometimes hurt, but also sometimes help. In any case, I don’t see the status quo changing anytime soon.

  • Michael

    Who elected these people? Right, no one.

  • david vartanoff

    Absolutely lame. At age 11 I was on an overnight train from DC to Chicago. That summer, I traveled all over Chicago by public transit.

  • AMH

    This is incredible; a typical attitude in the U.S. but I would have given Canada more credit. As someone who grew up in an isolated subdivision with fairly protective parents, my only escape was on my bike. I relished that bit of freedom. I hope that the suit is successful. The sooner kids can be active and gradually become independent, the better.

  • Brian Sheehan

    “An anonymous tipster ratted on Crook to the ministry for letting his kids ride the bus. The agency conducted a weeks-long investigation, then rendered a decision, he writes:”

    I can’t help but wonder if the “anonymous tipster” is a possibly vindictive ex-wife looking for an excuse to punish her ex-husband, in a manner that the overprotective culture of Anglo-North American middle class parenting can legally enable.

  • disqdude

    How absurd. I started riding the bus by myself around the age of 8. Just short trips across town in the suburb I grew up in. That was also around the time I started walking to school by myself (roughly 1/2-mile each way). Now when I talk to co-workers, they chaperone their children to every activity imaginable–even in high school. I fear that we are raising a generation of helpless children that will live in their parents’ basements well into adulthood. RIP, modern civilization.

  • HayBro

    Wrong direction, Canada!

  • rohmen

    Eric Garner was killed because a police officer used an illegal choke hold to subdue him. Police come into contact with people every day, and as part of that contact then go on to detain people. The point is they shouldn’t kill someone when detaining them (unless that person presents a lethal threat to officers, which is a whole ‘nother issue to discuss), regardless of the crime that will be charged.

    It doesn’t matter if it was for selling loosies (which you think wasn’t a legitimate crime obviously), or if it had been for suspected shoplifting (which I’d imagine even a libertarian would have to admit is a legitimate property crime), the guy didn’t deserve to be choked to death by an officer period. Focusing on the alleged crime committed, rather than on the wrongful act itself, may advance your agenda, but it does little to make sure police misconduct actually changes.

  • Vooch

    any time you have draconian laws you need armed enforcers who do what armed enforcers have done for thousands of years.

  • bettybarcode

    My completely unresearched hunch is that these new hyper-parenting imperatives are a response to the mass exodus of women out of the home into the workforce. An anxious culture responds by ratcheting up the childrearing expectations so high that anything short of 24/7 surveillance & chaperonage is criminalized. Voila! One parent, usually the mother, now has to exit the workforce in order to have hope of meeting these impossible cultural standards.

  • Richard Bullington

    Me, too. Only I went from Tulsa to Minneapolis including a change of train in Kansas City. I had made the trip a couple of times with my folks, so I knew what to expect. My dad worked for the railroad so we got “passes”.

  • Brilliant

  • Eddie

    I was 9 accompanying my 4 year old brother on the bus going to a Saturday matinee, Ft, Worth, TX, 1949. We both survived. I’m 79, he’s 74.

  • Eddie

    In 1965 I sent a baby daughter, age 4 along with her brother, age 5 from Dallas to Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii. On American Airlines, alone! Try that today, lol.

  • Eddie

    Safer yes indeed. I retired as a transit bus driver and we were highly trained in making sure young riders were well taken care of. For example to have a lone juvenile sit close to us (the “hot” seat) for added security. And if a juvenile was lost to immediately contact control and they would send a road supervisor and he/she would personally take the child home. Also we would never, ever drop off a juvenile in an unsafe stop such as a non lighted stop, or a stop not safe because of traffic, etc. And if a child was on board at the end of a line (not the terminal) we could not let them get off. Again, a call to control for a road sup.

  • Miles Bader

    These official need to be thrown in prison ASAP. Nothing will change as long as they get away with this insane crap.

  • AMH

    Our helicopter land

  • Erica_JS

    “What happened to the bedroom?”
    Airbnb, of course.

  • tommy t

    This is disgusting. I am donating to his legal defense.

  • basenjibrian

    So if a burglar breaks into your home while you are gone, that is a-ok with you?
    What if your home is occupied and the robber armed? Is the armed enforcer a bad thing then? (or are you one of those Ammosexual Libertarians who would shoot down a lost college kid knocking on the door to ask for directions)…

  • Vooch

    equating crimes of violence with non-crimes
    is just silly

  • basenjibrian

    A burglary is not violent per se. What is he slips into the house via an open window?

    The broader point is we have always had “armed enforcers” in modern cities. I am no defender of the po-po, but snide dismissals of the need for policing (because your comment was very generalized) is also silly. The bigger issue is our police are militarized and trained to be violent and “afraid”. And, we have a population with a significant percentage of violent predators that feed into that training. Throw in race and class and cultural issues, and THAT is the real problem.

  • Vooch

    key word ‘breaks’

  • Vooch

    dude

    we agree on 80%

    I am just saying that too many laws equates to too much enforcement.

  • Mrs. Cherry

    People please open your eyes to this guy…he is no Robin Hood! The safeguards are in place to PROTECT children. Why would you fight against protecting children??? He’s just created a media storm to gain more viewers to his show.

  • Mrs. Cherry

    Don’t buy into the hype! This guy can’t be bothered to take his kids to school on the bus, because he is too busy on EVERY hook-up online dating. Him and the mother can decide how they parent, but he’s exploiting his kids, and making money off of it.

  • basenjibrian

    I know…..I know. I work in a regulatory environment, so believe me I know. 🙂
    But, I think the problem is police militarization more than excess regulations per se.
    But yes, I was….trolling…just a bit.

  • Patrick94GSR .

    busy hooking up on online dating?? How in the hell would you know that?

  • Patrick94GSR .

    Forcing the father to drive them in a car is not protecting them. The bus is statistically far safer.

  • Patrick94GSR .

    This is so stupid. In the 1980’s and 90’s my younger brother and I rode our bicycles down the street and around the corner to my grandparents’ house, every summer day, while both my parents worked. We rode over there in the morning, played outside much of the time, played with the neighbor kids, rode our bikes all over the neighborhood, and then rode back home when my parents got home from work. I know we did it before I was 12 years old. I loved those times, so much more simple and carefree than today.

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