Sunday, August 6, 2000

Kathy Tait

p. A23.

Youth-care law 'flawed'

A growing number of youth groups are worried that the B.C. government has given itself too much power with its new "scoop and coop" law.

The groups — including Vancouver Youth Voices, the Urban Native Youth Association, United Native Nations, and Justice for Girls Outreach Society — say the new B.C. Secure Care Act violates civil liberties and lacks judicial safeguards.

And a member of a panel that recommended the law says it goes far beyond the panel's recommendations.

The law, passed July 6, is designed to rescue children — anyone under 19 but mostly 12-to 16-year-olds — against their will from drug addiction or sexual exploitation by pimps.

A child in immediate danger can be detained for up to 72 hours on the instructions of the director of secure care. A board would decide if a youth should be forced into care for periods ranging from 30 to 90 days.

Randy-Lee Taylor of Vancouver Youth Voices said the act was passed without consulting youth.

She said the act will allow authorities to simply "warehouse" youth.

"They just want to pick up youth, put them away, without any judge to review that."

Tim Agg, a member of a government-appointed group that recommended the law, says it goes far beyond what the panel recommended or what the government intended.

"We achieved consensus on the 72-hour emergency measure but this goes a great deal beyond that," said Agg.

"We advised that the decision to lock people up be made by the courts, but this law gives the director of secure care that power.

"We advised it be independent-court-ordered, not dependent-bureaucrat ordered.

"It was intended to target a very small number of high-risk kids, but it is written so that the catchment is very broad.

"It also gives the director of secure care power to order intrusive medical examinations and treatments and it does not unequivocally guarantee the child legal counsel.

"The legislation is flawed and needs to be fixed."

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