B.C. logo Ref. 107276

Ministry of Children and Family Development
British Columbia
Office of the Minister

PO Box 9057 Stn. Prov. Govt.
Victoria, BC  V8W 9E2

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Dear Stakeholder:

May 16, 2001, marked the beginning of a New Era in government for the people of British Columbia. Among the government's ten priorities is a commitment to better services for children, families, and First Nations. That commitment includes fighting the sexual exploitation of children and youth and providing greater protection for children at risk.

The government conducted a Core Services Review to identify and focus programs and services to meet social and economic objectives that genuinely matter to the people of British Columbia. As a result the ministry determined that previous plans to protect sexually exploited children could be improved. The previous administration had attempted to address this issue through the Secure Care Act, which has passed in July 2000 but never proclaimed into force.

The Secure Care legislation was intended to protect children who are at risk for serious harm from high-risk activities such as addiction, commercial sexual exploitation or an emotional or behavioural condition that presents a high risk of harm to themselves. However, after public consultation and a careful review of submissions, significant concerns were raised about the legislation. These included:

  • the considerable expense to create a Secure Care Board, an administrative tribunal to review applications for secure care detainment certificates or renewal of these certificates;
  • the definition of 'high risk' and the potentially broad scope of the legislation;
  • the potential for lengthy periods of detainment (up to 100 days);
  • the secure care Director's power to authorize medical treatment without the child's consent;
  • existing voluntary services first needed strengthening or improved co-ordination to support Secure Care Act services;
  • the potential disproportionate impact of secure care services on aboriginal youth and the need for culturally appropriate services;
  • the unproven benefit of the intervention must be weighed against the potential risk of driving youth underground to avoid detainment;
  • the need for strengthened enforcement/deterrents for abusers;
  • the difficult logistics (i.e. transportation, staffing, facility location);
  • concerns about the linkages and relationships between the Secure Care Act and the Mental Health Act; and
  • high costs, including that funding may be insufficient for the broadly defined target population.

Given these criticisms, government will focus on developing new legislation, to be called the Safe Care Act, which will replace the Secure Care Act. This proposed legislation will focus on sexually exploited youth through a more efficient, court-based adjudicative process which will better protect the rights of youth. The new legislation will also feature shorter maximum periods of detainment. Existing legislation will provide the framework for individual consent for medical treatment. The system of services supporting the new Safe Care Act needs to be designed so that services to these vulnerable children will be delivered in a manner that is streamlined, effective and efficient.

A discussion paper will be issued in fiscal year 2003/04 that will form the basis of detailed consultation with stakeholders, families, communities, and the general public. We expect to bring forward new legislation in 2004/05, and implement a "Safe Care" system targeted to sexually exploited youth in 2005/06.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development is currently working with the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General to identify additional legislative options to impose penalties on those people who abuse children and youth through commercial sexual exploitation. This will include urging the federal government to raise the age of consent (14 years) under the Criminal Code, which would assist in enforcement against adults who sexually exploit youth.

As well, ministry staff, assisted by police officers, are engaged in an extensive province-wide training program to provide an "Orientation to the Legal Protection of Sexually Exploited Children and Youth" to child welfare workers, police, youth and adult probation officers, street outreach and safe house workers to facilitate an integrated approach towards these youth.

We will provide you with further updates on Safe Care and other initiatives on the Ministry web site at www.mcf.gov.bc.ca. We welcome your input.


Gordon Hogg

"Secure Care" … [Gov. Reports]

Created: April 24, 2002
Last modified: April 24, 2002
CSIS Commercial Sex Information Service
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710
Email: csis@walnet.org