Friday, October 20, 2000

Jeanine Snodeen
Weekend Edition Staff

p. 8.

Views differ on Secure Care Act

The intent of Secure Care legislation is to protect youth at risk from getting trapped in the sex trade, but whether the proposed provincial government legislation is the right way to go about it is open to interpretation.

"Our feeling was that we should hear both sides of the equation," says Carol Pickup, Capital Region Action Team on Sexually Exploited Youth co-chair.

The Capital Region Action Team recently brought together four experts to give their opinions on the proposed legislation — which mirrors similar laws in Alberta and would give the state the power to apprehend underage you;th in the sex trade to give them counselling, even if they do not wish to be counselled.

Those who attended the forum on the legislation at Victoria City Hall last week included: Jeremy Berland, who is drafting the legislation; lawyer Richard Schwartz; Peggy Mahoney, who works with sexually abused children; and University of Victoria sociologist Dr. Jim Hackler, who specializes in juvenile justice system issues.

The B.C. legislation is scheduled to be implemented this fall.

Berland notes he is approaching the legislation with caution, as it could be seen to be infringing on the rights of children who are put in secure care — even if the intent is to protect them.

"These are real people… but what do you do for a person who is resistant to services? There are some serious threats to their physical and emotional well-being. Are we prepared to wait until a kid is ready — or watch them go down the drain?" asks Berland.

He says the Act states that its purpose is to assist children who are at risk but are unwilling to help themselves and notes that secure care is meant to be short-term in nature.

Schwartz, who is also the chair of the Youth Justice Committee of the Canadian Bar, says it is important to examine any holes in the Act so it cannot be challenged, as a similar act in Alberta was.

The Protection of Children Involved in Prostitution Act was adopted in Alberta in February 1999. But this past August it was struck down after a court challenge, because it was found to violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Hackler says the Secure Care Act creates a double standard for children and adults and leans toward controlling young people.

"We tell adults you can have freedomj, but juveniles not," Hackler says.

Hackler says such an approach leads to the criminalization of disobedience.

"You can not lock up kids for not doing what adults want (them to do). You can only lock them up for offences."

Pickup says there is a difference between clearing the streets of child prostitutes and assisting children who need care and are at a point where their lives are on the line. She says the Secure Care Act would not be used frequently and only as a last resort.

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