An Ontario minister is asking the City of Toronto to lift its ban on street hockey and basketball.

Minister of Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau wrote an open letter to city council stating that he believes the benefits outweigh the risks.

“I agree that our kids need to be safe, but there has to be a better way than denying them of their right to play,” he wrote.

In addition to the health benefits, Coteau argues informal sports can help kids improve communication and social skills, build relationships, learn teamwork and more.

Coteau’s letter comes as the City of Toronto is considering the feasibility of once again allowing portable basketball nets and hockey nets on public rights of way adjacent to private property.

The city’s transportation department has said it supports the status quo, arguing that basketball and hockey nets are a safety hazard for players and motorists, and also interfere with road maintenance.

The city was asked to reconsider the bylaw by Coun. Christin Carmichael Greb. The councillor argues there are not enough places in her ward for children to play outdoors, so they should be allowed to shoot pucks and balls outside their homes without worrying about a fine.

The City of Toronto has issued 50 notices so far this year related to the bylaw. Although there is a set fine of $200, the city could not immediately say how many fines have been levied.

Greb says she plans to move that Toronto adopt the model of Kingston, Ont., where street hockey is allowed on “local streets” during daylight hours, so long as players are prepared to free the city of any liability.

Mayor John Tory said Monday that he supports ending the prohibition. “I think the best rules can be applied by parents, who will use common sense,” he said. “And even kids have common sense.”

But municipal lawyer John Mascarin says that could put the city at risk of facing lawsuits.

The City of Toronto transportation department agrees. It points out that most municipalities in Ontario also have bylaws banning games in the street.

With a report from CTV’s Peter Akman