Government oversteps in grow-op case

Kamloops Daily News
December 19, 2012 01:00 AM

One of the most overt examples of government intrusion into the homes of its citizens is when the state threatens to take away kids from their parents.

There are times when it's appropriate for social workers to apprehend children: when kids are denied the essentials of life, are physically abused or are living in a situation where their lives are in imminent danger.

The incident that happened in Kamloops on Nov. 28, in contrast - when it's alleged social workers threatened the apprehension of a family's kids - can only be described as an abuse of power.

Angela Ferguson and Brad Olson are filing a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal after threats of apprehension due to a licensed - and therefore legal - grow op operating in their house.

Olson, who juices marijuana leaves to cope with the pain of degenerative discs caused by a spinal cord injury, grows the plants in his home. The social workers apparently believed this was bad for the kids, citing air quality, ventilation and electrical safety.

It turns out everything was to code, but it's the alleged threat that's most worrisome. In most cases, tearing away kids from their parents would undoubtedly cause more trauma than the reason for the apprehension.

As the couple's lawyer said, "There's a lot of emotional pain and hardship when you disrupt a family."

A child's home is a familiar environment, and their parents, even if they are bad parents in society's eyes, give comfort and stability to kids.

Taking children into the state's hands must be the last resort. Even threats can be disruptive to the family.

Certainty of wrongdoing and investigation should take place well before suggestion of apprehension. And other forms of intervention should come first, such as counselling and parenting courses.

The social workers involved in this case - if it proves to be true - obviously didn't see it that way and overstepped their bounds. It was a minor, minor issue that should have been handled differently, and one hopes similar incidents in the future will be.

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