In Canada and the United States, a photographer generally can shoot whatever they want without asking for permission from anyone. That’s the basis of street photography and my life-long career (on and off) as an news photographer for over 40 years. So long as you are using the images you take for artistic or editorial purposes (and not for commercial purposes where you get paid for your work which will appear in a publication or online) you’re safe and you don’t need permissions or model releases or anything.
In Canada, so long as you are on public property (like the street) you can shoot anything you can see (including kids, pedestrians, the poor, people being arrested, dead folks…well you get the idea).About the only people who are protected are individuals being arrested under the Canadian mental health act (although that can be tough to determine on the street. BTW you can shoot images of juveniles getting arrested you just can’t publish them if they could identify the youngster.). About the only way someone can successfully sue you is if you publish a photo that holds the individual up to extraordinary ridicule or derision. This is really hard to do even if you’re trying so I wouldn’t worry about it.
Here in Toronto, Sam Javanrouh runs a website called the Daily Dose of Imagery. Sam is one heck of a photographer and he describes his street-shooting experiences on the streets of Toronto in this blog post. If you’re interested in street photography then hang around. We’ll be heading out into the mean streets of Toronto as soon as the weather warms up and you can join us. More details to follow.