Media release – 440 words
Indigenous teen denied addiction treatment by government agencies and police
Burnaby, BC – February 11, 2021 – A mother is pleading with BC government agencies and police to cease denying access to health care for her son. The son suffers from severe addiction to street drugs and has overdosed. He is at extreme risk violence, rape, permanent impairment, and death.
But numerous staff in the Ministry of Child and Family Development (MCFD) and at housing and treatment programs for youth have repeatedly refused to allow the mother to put her seventeen-year-old son into addiction treatment services claiming that treatment is voluntary and insisting that only the minor himself may consent.
However, under the BC Infants Act, minors do not have an automatic right to accept or refuse health care, nor does legislation give government agencies the right to deny parents access to their children’s personal information. Under so-called ‘mature minor’ provisions, a minor must have a health care provider formally assess and confirm the minor’s capacity to consent to or refuse health care.
The youth has not had an assessment of his capacity despite extensive contact with government agencies. The mother believes that his addiction and related psychosis clearly make him incapable of providing informed consent or refusal.
The law recognizes that parents – not minors or government agencies – have a legal obligation and the right to ensure their minor children receive needed health care.
The mother has also pleaded with police in Burnaby and Vancouver to take her son to a psychiatric facility for assessment in order to have him committed under the BC Mental Health Act. Police have repeatedly refused claiming that the youth was fine and not a risk to himself or others despite the overdose crisis, his extremely high risk drug use, related aggressive behaviour, and his involvement in illegal street prostitution on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.
Kids First Parent Association of Canada President, Helen Ward, has assisted the family. “I have personally repeatedly witnessed the complete refusal of police and MCFD to do – or to allow the mother to do – what is needed for her child. I am appalled by government’s systemic violation of the relevant laws, including human rights laws and the Charter. This youth has indigenous ancestry and a disability – his addiction. The system-wide discrimination could result in the death of another beautiful youth who would be held responsible by his government for his own demise.”
The teen’s behaviour has led to eviction and homelessness for both mother and son. The mother’s need to spend time dealing with her son and authorities resulted in under-employment and income loss.
Kids First provided the mother with a letter threatening legal actions against those involved. The redacted letter is here: https://kidsfirstcanada.files.wordpress.com/2021/02/kf-feb-2021-letter-to-mother-re-bc-gov-denying-her-access-to-health-care-for-addicted-son.pdf
Video of interview with the mother: https://kidsfirstcanada.org/2021/02/10/2021-february-video-interview-of-bc-mother-battling-government-agencies-and-police-who-refuse-to-allow-her-to-access-health-care-for-her-minor-son-who-is-at-extreme-risk-due-to-drug-addiction/