Dad feels 'helpless' after daughter targeted for human trafficking

The father of a teenage girl who police say was targeted to join a prostitution ring says gaps in the system have left him feeling 'helpless' to support her.

Father says daughter needs mental health treatment but in Ontario has legal right to refuse it

The father of a 15-year-old girl who police say was the victim of a human trafficking ring, and facing criminal charges herself, says she is falling through a 'critical gap' in the mental health system. (CBC)

The father of a teenage girl in Ottawa who police say was targeted to join a prostitution ring says the mental health system has failed her.

Two women have been accused of trying to pimp out the 15-year-old girl along with a 14-year-old girl in July. Police said the girls were found in a downtown Ottawa apartment on July 22.

The women were arrested on Aug. 5 and face a host of human trafficking charges. A man was also accused of sexually assaulting the two girls during the attempt to draw them into prostitution.

The girl's father, who isn't being identified to protect her identity, said this is just the latest of her troubles.

He said she's run away from home and children's aid, has been using drugs and is facing theft and assault charges, which he ties to mental health problems that got worse once she started high school.

In January, he said a doctor recommended she get a psychiatric assessment but she's refused. Under Ontario law, someone who has the capacity to consent to their own treatment has the final decision — regardless of their age.

"All her actions and the trouble that she got into clearly demonstrate that she's crying for help, but where's that help and who's going to provide it?" he said in an interview on Sunday.

Getting help 'a huge challenge'

Her father, who works with children and youth, said the Children's Aid Society became involved in his daughter's case after she ran away earlier this year. Police took her to children's aid, even though he doesn't believe she was a fit to be there.

"The [children's aid] folks are trained to provide support to those children who are abused at home and who need protection. The children who don't need protection, who have mental health problems, how can they be supported?" he said.

He said children's aid, police and doctors can only do so much under the law as her case continues to expose what he calls "a critical gap" in the system for children her age.

I'm for the first time feeling extremely helpless.

"Everyone is just doing his job and no one has any solution to a complex situation like this, where a child needs mental health support and who is not willing to go seek that support," he said.

"Providing that type of person some mental health support is a huge challenge at the moment."

He said under provincial law, when she turns 16 she'll have the right to choose where she lives, meaning police won't have to help if she runs away again.

He wants to see that age increased, and to find some way to get her mental health treatment.

"I'm for the first time feeling extremely helpless because I don't see any solution and I don't see anyone to go to for help," he said.

with files from Chloé Fedio