Tuesday, June 27, 2000

Barbara McLintock and Kathy Tait
Staff Reporters

p. A06.

New law adds more secrecy to protection of children

New secure-care legislation will shroud even more of B.C.'s child-protection system in secrecy, warns the province's Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Commissioner David Loukidelis said the legislation, introduced in the House yesterday, effectively sets up "a two-tiered access and privacy system, whereby clients of the ministry (of children and families) have fewer rights than clients of other public bodies."

The legislation specifically exempts almost all aspects of the secure-care system from the information and privacy act. Even the courts can't subpoena information for use in any other proceeding.

Loukidelis said the ministry says the information it deals with is so sensitive it needs special privacy protection, but staff have never been able to point out why it's more sensitive than other difficult issues.

In fact, he said, the actual privacy of the teens involved would probably be protected better under the regular privacy law than under the system the ministry has set up for secure care.

The legislation allows youths up to the age of 19 to be held against their will for a period of up to 90 days.

Meanwhile, The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has come out against the secure-care bill.

"We support a secure-care regime in principle," said Murray Mollard, policy director of the association, "but not as it has been introduced."

  • It is only applied to children under age 16. Currently it applies to children under 18 although officials say it will focus on children 12 to 16.
  • There is a full continuum of drug treatment services available. Long waiting lists still persist.
  • Children could be held against their will for no more than seven days.

It will probably take between six and 10 months before the law actually comes into effect.

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Created: April 16, 2001
Last modified: April 16, 2001
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