The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on legal issues within the Province of Alberta. The purpose of this topic is to inform you of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.
In Alberta, the age of majority is 18 years. This means that your parents or guardian have some responsibilities for your actions until you reach that age. This topic will try to answer questions about the laws relating to causing property damage.
Even though you are a minor, you may be held responsible for any wrong doing you intentionally or negligently commit. This means that a person you harm or cause damage to may sue you in Civil Court. If that person wins, the Civil Court will order you to pay their damages, for example, money in compensation for their loss. Generally, your parent or guardian is not responsible for your actions. However, there are some exceptions. If you cause injury to others, your parents may be held responsible for your actions if they neglected to supervise you appropriately. For example, if you are a minor and your parents let you use a pellet gun unsupervised, and you shot and injured a playmate, your parents may be held responsible. The Court may find it was negligent of your parents to trust you with a dangerous weapon. However, your parents might not be held responsible if they had locked away the gun in a safe storage and had forbidden you to use it in their absence. If you disobeyed their orders and broke into the locked storage place to take the gun without proper permission, you alone may be held responsible.
There are some laws which hold parents responsible for damage caused by their children but generally, you are held accountable for your own actions. If you damage someone’s property, you can be sued for damages in Civil Court to pay for the property, or both. If the person whose property is damaged wins in Civil Court they may collect by seizing any assets or wages you earn after you turn 18 years old.
In addition to civil proceedings, if your actions constitute an offence under the Criminal Code or other legislation, you may be prosecuted in Youth Court for a criminal offence. If you are found guilty of an offence, you will have a Youth Court criminal record and will receive a youth sentence. The youth criminal record will be accessible during the length of that sentence, plus during an access period following the last date of sentence. This means that you may end up being over the age of 18 years and still have an open youth record if the access period has not expired.
For further information on this area of law, please listen to the following Dial‑A‑Law topics:
285 Parent’s Obligations to their Children
286 Your Liability for your Children
289 Giving Medical Consent
442 Youth Employment
411 Dealing with the Police
290 Children and their Property
Dial-A-Law is a Calgary Legal Guidance public service project funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.