Wednesday, November 22, 2000

Raquel Exner
Calgary Herald

Child hooker law fortified

Police allowed to detain young prostitutes for seven weeks

Changes to Alberta's anti-child-hooker law unveiled Tuesday by the provincial government will allow authorities to apprehend and detain young prostitutes for up to seven weeks at a time.

Under proposed amendments to Alberta's Protection of Children Involved in Prostitution Act, police officers will be allowed to initially detain suspected child prostitutes for up to five days, instead of the current 72 hours.

Authorities will also be able to apply for a maximum of two additional confinement periods of up to 21 days each, to give social workers more time to help the child.

The changes allow teenage hookers to ask for a court review of their initial confinement, but it will not be mandatory as a family court judge had urged when she struck down the existing law as unconstitutional this summer.

However, mandatory court reviews will be held if additional requests are made to confine child prostitutes for two separate periods of up to 21 days at a time.

These periods of additional confinement beyond the initial five-day detention will be allowable if the amendments to the law are passed.

Justice Minister Dave Hancock said he feels the proposed amendments address the family court judge's concerns. He said mandatory court reviews would be going overboard.

"(The judge) indicated that she thought all kids should have a mandatory review immediately after apprehension. In our view, that takes it way too far towards a parallel with criminal legislation. This is not criminal legislation, this is child welfare legislation," Hancock said.

"We're providing for the opportunity for a child to go to court to have their confinement reviewed if they so desire. And that in our view meets the test that there must be an opportunity for someone to challenge the grounds of their confinement."

Family court Judge Karen Jordan found the law unconstitutional in July, saying it lacked "procedural safeguards," allowing authorities to apprehend someone without obtaining a search warrant and deprived detainees of the right to answer allegations or to judicial appeal.

The judge rejected a government request to stay her ruling, saying it could call a special sitting to amend the law before this fall's legislative session.

The province challenged Jordan's ruling by seeking a judicial review in Court of Queen's Bench.

While the province waits for the outcome of the review, it has allowed the legislation to continue to be enforced with some modifications that ensure children know about their right to a lawyer and right to challenge their detention in court.

The review by Justice John Rooke is not complete.

The Protection of Children Involved in Prostitution Act came into force in February 1999. The law defines children younger than 18 involved in prostitution as victims of sexual abuse and originally allowed authorities, usually police or child welfare workers, to apprehend and hold suspected teenage prostitutes for 72 hours.

But the amendments extend the initial confinement period to up to five days from the previous 72 hours, and allow authorities to apply for a maximum of two additional confinement periods of up to 21 days each so social workers can help the child break the cycle of abuse and start to recover.

Stephen Jenuth, president of the Alberta Civil Liberties Association, said the amendments don't go far enough if there is no mandatory court review for the initial confinement. He said without that, child prostitutes could be pressured into not asking for the review.

"You as a young person are under the control of people who don't want you to apply, perhaps. And you're going to do what they say."

Heather Forsyth, Tory MLA for Calgary Fish Creek, who sponsored the bill, said Alberta must do "whatever is required to free (children) from abuse and exploitation and help them to a new beginning."

After Jordan's family court ruling in the summer, 12 young people were apprehended under PCHIP, while 11 had to be apprehended under the province's Child Welfare Act because the courts didn't believe they should be using the anti-child-prostitution legislation.

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Created: November 22, 2000
Last modified: January 17, 2001
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