Wednesday, November 29, 2000

Jim Macdonald

Alberta government ends fall session by passing law on child prostitution

EDMONTON (CP) — Premier Ralph Klein's Tories worked late Tuesday to pass their revised get-tough legislation on child prostitution and adjourn the fall legislature sitting after just nine working days. The House rose at 10:30 p.m. to cap a session dominated by opposition criticism to the province's plan to deregulate the energy industry and controversy over a bill commemorating victims of Nazi tyranny during the Second World War.

The revised Protection of Children Involved in Prostitution Act, which replaced a law quashed recently by the courts, means child prostitutes can now be detained in safe houses without charges for up to seven weeks.

Previously they could be detained for up to three days under the law, which treats them not as suspected prostitutes but as abused children.

In July, family court Judge Karen Jordan ruled the legislation violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it did not allow teens the right to answer the allegations or appeal the decision to detain them.

With the new amendments, detained children will now be informed in writing why they are being confined and that they have the right to a lawyer.

The time period for confinement has been increased to five days. Authorities can then apply to extend the confinement for two additional periods of 21 days each.

The session wrapped just hours after the province announced new measures on its plan to deregulate electricity generation — a plan that is set to go into full swing Jan. 1.

Alberta's opposition parties, industry, farmers and consumer groups have all complained that allowing electricity rates to be set by the marketplace when there is a shortage of supply will lead to sharp price spikes.

To combat this, the Tories announced earlier Tuesday that they will virtually freeze residential and commercial electricity rates for 2001 and introduce new regulations to expand the power supply and govern how prices are set by regulators.

The changes are expected to shield consumers from up to $500 million in potential price hikes. Klein said the changes were spurred by rate hike applications that "appear to be exorbitant."

The government previously announced a $1.1 billion rebate program for residential and industrial consumers to take the sting out of any deregulation price hikes

The opposition Liberals have said the Tories want to make sure consumers are not hit with hefty power bills during a provincial election, which Klein has said will come in the spring — an accusation the government denies.

Also in the session, the Liberals and NDP joined the Tories in passing a bill titled Holocaust Memorial Day and Genocide Remembrance.

Klein said the government hopes the bill will give higher profile to Yom ha'Shoah, the Day of the Holocaust.

The government changed the name of the memorial day and the bill creating it after some ethnic groups complained that a broader range of genocide and persecution other than just the Jewish Holocaust should be commemorated.

The term Genocide Remembrance was added to the name of the day and a reference to Yom ha'Shoah taken out of the bill's name.

The date of the memorial day will still be determined by the Jewish lunar calendar, meaning it will change annually. Next year, the day will be marked on April 19.

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Created: November 30, 2000
Last modified: January 17, 2001
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