Saturday, July 29, 2000

Alberta may appeal child prostitution ruling

EDMONTON — The Alberta government is scrambling to protect its child prostitution law that was struck down on Friday.

The legislation, passed a year and a half ago, allowed police to put teens suspected of being involved in prostitution into a locked safehouse for three days.

But it was challenged by two 17-year-old girls, and on Friday a Calgary judge agreed with them that the law is unconstitutional.

Provincial Court Judge Karen Jordon said The Protection of Children Involved in Prostitution Act goes too far.

It gives police the authority to search a suspected teen prostitute's apartment without warrant. Girls could be locked up arbitrarily, without a chance to plead guilty or innocent.

For those reasons, the judge struck down the law.

The MLA who wrote the original bill, Heather Forsythe, says the province will do what it can to protect child prostitutes.

"I think the kids in the safehouse like where they are. I challenge anybody to go to the safehouses and find out what they're like. It's not a jail; it's a safehouse."

Iris Evans, the minister of Child and Family Services, sees the ruling as a hurdle in her pursuit to protect children.

"I think it's a challenge, but I don't think one should ever be discouraged from child protection. I see this as exploitation in its worst possible form. And I think where a child is involved, we should climb every mountain," she said.

The government will decide next week if it wants to appeal the court ruling, or rewrite the law.

Judge Jordon says if the government is committed to amending the legislation, it could hold an emergency summer sitting to deal with the ruling.

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Created: December 6, 2000
Last modified: January 17, 2001
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