An Alberta law that fines or imprisons individuals who don’t report instances of child abuse or neglect has by no means been used, one thing advocates say is a “lost opportunity.”
Under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, somebody with “reasonable or probable grounds to believe that a child is in need of intervention” should report it. Anyone who fails to achieve this, will be fined up to $2,000 or jailed for up to six months.
That a part of the act was added in 2003, however not one cost has been laid.
Former NHL participant Sheldon Kennedy, who introduced to mild intercourse crimes by his former junior hockey coach Graham James, stated there are often individuals who know what is occurring and don’t report it. If the law is there, he stated it needs to be used.
“I think it is a lost opportunity,” stated Kennedy, now an advocate for child-abuse survivors.
“The reality is other people a lot of times have gut feelings that something’s not right but don’t do anything about it. Somehow we need to enforce an act or empower people with the confidence and knowledge to make them act.”
Kennedy stated it’s a fable that youngsters are often abused by full strangers. The laws is one other weapon within the battle towards child abuse, he stated.
“If I look at my situation, the rumours about Graham James were all over the place. I guess if this was an act that was enforced, I probably would never have met Graham James,” Kennedy stated.
“I think that this is something that we have to look at.”
Alberta Children’s Services Minister Danielle Larivee stated one of many law’s greatest challenges is there should be adequate proof for a conviction.
“It’s pretty difficult to prove that someone knew about abuse and did nothing,” she advised The Canadian Press. “I honestly don’t ever want to see those kind of charges laid, I mean, to know that somebody intentionally knew a child was at risk and didn’t report it.”
But she stated the law will stay on the books simply in case whereas the federal government focuses on public training and prevention.
“We need to make sure that there is a clear understanding that it is not only a moral obligation but a legal obligation,” Larivee stated. “So we’re going to leave it on the books on the horrible chance that someone would actually make that decision on their own not to report.”
The president of the Alberta College of Social Workers stated maintaining the law in place is essential.
“It’s a great piece of legislation,” stated Richard Gregory. “I think the downside of that piece of legislation is that people don’t know about it. It’s an absolute necessity.”
A criminologist and lecturer at Mount Royal University’s felony justice program isn’t shocked the laws has not been used. Ritesh Narayan stated the law’s intention is ok however prosecuting underneath it’s problematic.
“If you really start enforcing it then you are opening the floodgates because then you are going to have everyone terrified because they don’t want to be prosecuted,” he stated.
“As a result they’ll be calling in when they see a parent smoking a cigarette in a car with a kid present because that definitely could be construed as child abuse.”
Using the law may even have a chilling impact if somebody knew about attainable abuse for a time frame after which went to police to report it, Narayan stated.
“If they were to disclose I’ve seen this for the last few weeks or few months, you’re basically incriminating yourself.”