Saturday, June 24, 2000

Mike Cornell

p. A06.

Gov't acts in best interests of kids

IT LOOKS LIKE parents who feel helpless as their children slip into lives of drug abuse or prostitution may finally get the help they so desperately need.

The NDP government plans to introduce legislation aimed at giving parents the power to get help for what it calls "high-risk" kids who are either unwilling or unable to help themselves.

In announcing details of the secure care act, B.C. Premier Ujjal Dosanjh vowed society can't give up on those who need help the most.

"Life on the street can mean a life wasted," Dosanjh said. "Parents want society to protect their children. With this legislation, we will have more options to help young people escape a life of drugs or prostitution."

Under the act, a parent, guardian or the director of secure care will be able to apply to a board to have a child taken into secure care for up to 30 days. In some circumstances, the period can be extended. In emergency situations, authorities will have the power to take immediate action to ensure the safety of a young person by detaining them for up to 72 hours for assessment.

Many parents have become frustrated with a system that allowed their children to go so far off the straight and narrow. Troubled children have been free to continue down a road of despair. Police can't help if laws aren't broken and the health-care system is powerless unless it can be established the child has a mental condition that puts them at risk to either themselves or others. As a result, children have slipped through the cracks, with parents and authorities relegated to mere spectators as hundreds of lives go down the drain.

Dosanjh acknowledged that the act will be controversial, as has a similar law in Alberta aimed at child prostitutes.

"Holding children against their will is not a very comfortable prospect for anyone," he told reporters this week. "But at the same time we cannot simply stand back and allow children to be harmed by addiction or the degradation of sexual exploitation."

There are safeguards to protect children, with the rights of youth enshrined in legislation intended only to be used as a last resort.

The legislation is sorely needed to ensure parents have options available in times of crisis and to ensure measures are in place to protect children from both themselves and those who would prey upon them.

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Created: March 31, 2001
Last modified: April 8, 2001
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