Tuesday, August 10, 1999

Southam Newspapers

p. A11.

Standoff over prostitute, 14

Girl now a ward of B.C., but Calgary dad wants her back for drug rehab

A 14-year-old prostitute was detained and then quickly released by social workers in Vancouver during the weekend.

Because of the difference between provincial child-welfare laws, the former Calgary girl has become the subject of an interprovincial standoff between Alberta and B.C. child-protection authorities.

Her father wants to get her back to Alberta, where she can be placed in long-term treatment for an addiction to crack cocaine.

But the Calgary oil and gas consultant has been thwarted by B.C. child-protection authorities.

A court order had granted the children's ministry interim custody, making the girl a ward of the province, pending a protection hearing this month.

She will be represented by her own lawyer.

Meanwhile, she is at liberty and remains vulnerable to returning to Vancouver's pimp-plagued streets.

"We have the authority, as all provinces do, to apprehend or remove children who are in need of protection," said Ross Dawson, the B.C. ministry's director of child protection.

"The issue is, can you walk up and confine youths who don't break the law?"

Alberta is the only province with a law empowering authorities to apprehend and lock child prostitutes in protective safe homes for up to 72 hours.

The breathing space gives parents and social workers some time to persuade the child to quit life on the streets.

Although the girl says she doesn't want to return to Calgary, "she's going to die" if she stays in Vancouver, her father predicts.

"I am convinced of that. She has lost 20 to 30 pounds in the last three months. She's sick. She's not interested in anything."

Upon hearing of the former Calgary girl's plight, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein was moved to ask his colleagues at the premiers' meeting in Quebec City for nationwide laws to save children from prostitution.

— Southam Newspapers

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Created: August 10, 1999
Last modified: June 11, 2001
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