British Columbia

Help us keep our children safe, B.C. parents ask legislators

Some parents of high-risk children and teens want legislation to enable them to make their children spent time in treatment and detox even if they refuse.

Legislation proposed to allow parents to place high-risk children into treatment against their will

Some B.C. parents of high-risk children want legislation to enable them to force their children to spend time in treatment and detox. (Irene Bonacchi/Flickr)

Some parents of high-risk children and teens want legislation to enable them to force their children to spend time in treatment and detox even if they refuse.

Currently in B.C., if children are abusing drugs or addicted, parents can't force them into detox or treatment programs — something the ministry calls the "involuntary detainment of youth".

Alberta, in contrast, has legislation called the Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act which allows legal guardians to seek a court-protection order to put their child in treatment against their will.

Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia also have similar legislation.

'No ability to keep my child safe'

Diane Sowden, the executive director of Children of the Street Society in Coquitlam, has been advocating for such legislation since the early 90s.

Diane Sowden, the executive director of Children of the Street Society in Coquitlam, said the legislation would have helped her 13-year-old daughter who ran away from home. (Diane Sowden/Twitter)

In 1993, Sowden's daughter left home when she was 13 years old.  Sowden says her daughter soon fell into drug addiction and was sold for a drug debt to a pimp, eventually becoming pregnant at 14.

Sowden tried to intervene and convince her to sign up for drug treatment, but her daughter would sign herself out whenever she wanted.

"As a parent, I was absolutely shocked and appalled that I had no ability to keep my child safe," she said.

Since then, the province implemented a working group in 1998 and legislation passed a third reading, she said.

It was shelved after a new government came into power.

"Right now, if a child is being abused in their own family home, they are apprehended from that situation, even if the child says no," she said.

"But if a child is in a situation where they're living in a crack-house or being controlled by pimps ... we have no child protection act that can step in and take that child from that situation and make sure they receive the services they need."

Ministry: voluntary services most effective

In an emailed statement, the ministry said it welcomes any ideas on how we may be able to improve existing drug-treatment options for youth.

But a spokesperson pointed out that "in certain circumstances under the B.C. Mental Health Act, individuals with both mental health and addiction issues may be admitted to a psychiatric facility for assessment and treatment, if they pose a clear danger to themselves or others and are suffering from a mental disorder".

Judges can also make orders for treatment as part of a youth's sentence, the ministry spokesperson said.

Furthermore, "it is widely agreed that voluntary services — such as detox, residential treatment and outpatient addictions and/or mental health counselling — are the most effective means of addressing addiction issues, which are often concurrent with mental health problems".

With files from Daybreak South.

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