Westward Independent

Safe Care Act – Private Members Bill

by Westward Independent
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Private Members’ Bill to give parents control in times of crises – BILL M 202 – 2024


There is a growing awareness that the current system of providing free drugs, wet housing, and injection sites is not the solution to addiction and mental health issues. Many groups are forming to address these challenges, and local governments feel burdened as these initiatives, which are primarily provincial, are being passed down to them and taxpayers to manage. One demographic often overlooked in discussions about these needs is our youth.

The resources available for addicted youth are far from adequate. The prospect of waiting months for youth recovery beds is distressing, contributing to a growing number of young people being ensnared in the cycle of addiction. Compounding the issue is the Infants Act in BC, which stipulates that there is no age limit for a child to manage their health choices. Consequently, parents and guardians find themselves isolated and powerless when attempting to intervene in their children’s crises.

While children are restricted from so many other activities and decisions due to the incomplete development of their frontal lobes, the Infants Act paradoxically allows them to refuse therapy, detox, rehab, and counselling services. This leaves parents feeling helpless, scared, and desperate.

Despite parents’ pleas for change, children are informed of their rights to decline crucial services during their initial meetings with these facilities. This raises questions about why children are entrusted with decisions that could potentially lead to their demise or serious harm. Parents, who are intimately familiar with their children’s crises, are left out of the picture.

Even if parents manage to get their children into detox programs, many children leave of their own accord due to discomfort they may feel, exacerbating the wait for rehab, which often requires prior detox for admission. Tragically, this delay has led to the loss of many young lives. Parents understand when their children are in crisis and are best positioned to make decisions on their behalf.

MLA Sturdy is bringing forward a Private Members’ Bill, after hearing stories from parents who lost their children to overdoses while they were struggling to get help. The Bill is designed to protect minors struggling with mental health and addiction challenges. It is a last-resort tool that allows for the limited use of involuntary treatment to protect vulnerable youth at risk of serious harm.

MLA Sturdy has noted, “Any decision to implement involuntary care is not something I take lightly, however, I stand firm in the belief that there are times when compassionate involuntary care is necessary to save lives.”

The Safe Care Act authorizes a parent, adoption director, child and family services director or safe care director to apply to the Provincial Court for an apprehension order in respect of a child if the applicant reasonably believes that the child is at risk of serious harm, and no less intrusive measure is available to reduce the risk to the child’s health or safety.

The purpose of the apprehension order is to create the space, under medical oversight, to stabilize the child and give them some time and opportunity to get out of what they may view as an impossible circumstance. Before applying for an apprehension order, a parent, adoption director, child and family services director or safe care director must first obtain leave of the court, and discuss the child’s circumstances and the voluntary alternatives available.

The child must be informed of their rights and when less intrusive options are available, the system defaults to those options. If these conditions can be met, the Court can allow that a child be detained under an apprehension order, in a safe care facility, for up to 4 days; under a stabilization and assessment order, up to 15 days; and under an order to extend a stabilization and assessment order, up to 30 days. Each step requires the court to agree this action is in the best interest of the child and that no less intrusive measures are available or adequate.

Somehow the NDP are against this Private Members’ Bill, which could be a means of complacency in future children’s deaths.

If you support this private members bill, please write your local MLA and phone in your support to MLA Sturdy, West Vancouver-Sea to Sky:

Ph. 604-894-9403

email: jordan.sturdy.MLA@leg.bc.ca

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