Tuesday, July 4, 2000

p. A16.

Secrecy protects ministry, not kids

Let's face it, who would argue against the need for secure care for B.C.'s most troubled teens?

A youth poised to ingest a fatal drug dose, someone's daughter kept by an abusive pimp; a program which yards these kids off the street — even briefly — may be life-saving.

But there's more than that at stake in the Secure Care Act introduced by the NDP last week.

It's called secrecy, meaning with few exceptions, the children's ministry will have the power to imprison and assess a kid at risk for a month, and no one has a right to know a thing about it.

Not you, not the politicians, not the media, not youth-service agencies; the program's inner workings, its treatment programs and assessment methods will be hush-hush — exempt from B.C.'s freedom of information legislation.

You need look no farther than the ministry's callous handling of the Draayers' foster girls to know that public scrutiny of government intrusion is essential.

The Ministry of Children and Families argues that the chronic secure care cases are too sensitive. No question, children's identities must be protected.

As for more, Information and Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis points out that other fragile data, criminal justice and mental health issues, for example, have been open to scrutiny — and it hasn't been a problem.

Given the public's airing of recent ministry booboos; the sloppiness and lack of accountability, it could be said the secrecy will do more to protect the ministry than our kids.

What do you think?

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