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Monday, December 07, 2009

I would rather be raised in a grow-op then be raised by the state

In 2006, the increasingly authoritarian Stelmach government in Alberta passed the Drug-endangered Children Act. In a column in the Calgary Sun about the new law, former Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant wrote:

Police in Alberta now have the power to seize children as old as 17 from their parents if there are any illegal drugs in the house.

Just to clarify: The kids might not even know about the drugs. Even the parents might not know the drugs are there. There might not even be any drugs -- just "a chemical or other substance" used to manufacture drugs. If any of these things are even in the house, police can seize the children.

Without a trial.

Showing his libertarian side, Levant criticized the law, calling it an "embarrassment" and a "political stunt":

Seizing children without a trial, who are not in any real danger, (other than from mould) does not strengthen our society, it weakens it. It puts the state ahead of the parent-child bond. It allows police to use children as weapons in a battle against their parents. That isn't right.

This is a political stunt, not an act of law and order. It is a circumscription of rule of law, a product of junk social science and cruel and unusual punishment.

It is the nanny state, backed up with guns. What an embarrassment to a government that claims to value families.

(h/t Richard Lake & The Media Awareness Project)

Seizing children from their parents does, in fact, weaken society, as Levant argues. On that point, the Calgary Herald is reporting today that:

Four of every five children under Alberta government care don't complete high school within three years of entering Grade 10, says the province's child advocate.

In an interview with the Herald, advocate John Mould said provincial data compiled for his latest annual report-- released this fall--confirms his concerns about the high school completion rates of Alberta's foster children.

The rate for children in care hovers around 18 per cent, while the provincial rate is about 70 per cent.

The family is the most important component of the social infrastructure of a free society, which is why pro-family advocates often clash with social engineers. In a post entitled "Institutional child care needs more critics," I wrote:

It’s hard to find a literary account of a dystopian society that doesn’t include some form of institutional child care.

In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, human beings are born artificially in Hatcheries and Conditioning Centers and family life is unknown.

In Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, women of child-bearing age are forced to work as Handmaids, bearing children they will never raise.

In Ayn Rand’s Anthem, children are conceived in Controlled Palaces of Mating and raised by the state in the Home of the Infants.

In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, family life is controlled and poisoned with suspicion and fear as children are encouraged to denounce their parents for real and imagined Thought Crimes.

While strong families are central to sustaining a free society, advocates for the family are generally well-meaning social conservatives who too often support legislation like the Drug-endangered Children Act. This is invariably counter-productive, to say the least. To empower families, we must first dis-empower the state.

Ezra Levant understands this; the conservative movement does not.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 7, 2009 | Permalink


Matthew, I agree with you totally. If I want to keep my 16 year old from running away, I have little legal ability to do so unless I can convince the state that she is in danger of harming herself. This is no small task. Yet with little evidence they can come into my home and take her on a hunch. If the state wanted to help, the police would be willing to assist me in keeping her home. Not that I really want it's help with anything.

Posted by: TM | 2009-12-07 10:33:11 AM


One might be tempted to respond to your (and Ezra's) position by accusing you of fear-mongering. The reply would be that while technically the law allows the state to remove children in the weakest kinds of circumstances described, in practice there is no reason to think the state has ever or will ever do so in such cases. After all, it is costly and a lot of work to take care of a child taken from parents, so if the parents don't really seem problematic and the nature of the drug infraction is minimal enough, they won't really take kids away.

It would be a reasonable reply other than one small thing: The state has taken kids away in similarly flimsy circumstances. Any parent who has ever taken photos of their children at bathtime could be accused of being child pornographers and have their children taken away. This very thing happened in Arizona. If it can happen there over innocent pictures, it can happen here over drugs.

There is no question that there is a compelling interest in preventing child pornography, but attempts to protect children can be so over-zealous that things like what happened to the Demarees can and do happen. People who believe (rightly or wrongly) that there is a compelling interest in protecting children from homes where drug use is rampant can also become quite over-zealous and so kids could be taken away in trivial cases.

You don't need to oppose drug laws generally to oppose this law. It is not fear-mongering to think the state just might take kids away in marginal cases. This is a bad law. A very bad law.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2009-12-07 11:15:43 AM

This law is especially bad when it comes to cannabis "grow-ops". Cannabis plants are simply plants, and are no danger to anyone. They are a lot safer than many legal houseplants which are in fact poisonous. There is no reason that growing a few pot plants should be dangerous to anyone other than the fact that cops may break in and shoot someone. The equipment and methods used to grow pot are no different than those used to grow orchids which is completely legal.

The possible dangers from larger "grow-ops" are caused by prohibition, because it encourages ppl to bypass hydro meters, and makes unqualified ppl attempt to do their own wiring out of fear that an electrician might call the cops and rat them off.

In a legal environment the so called dangers of growing plants indoors could be easily mitigated without the state having to kidnap children and hold them, with a guilty plea from the parents as a ransom.

Posted by: DrGreenthumb | 2009-12-07 11:42:19 AM

"Prohibition" made people mess with their electricity? Hardly. No one or any force compels people to grow drugs, except maybe the chance for quick and easy money from other druggies. When will you people learn that the penalty is supposed to be as severe as the crime. It's called the deterrent effect. And it works. All you people do is attract attention to yourselves. When will you wake up and realize the error of your ways?

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2009-12-07 11:59:19 AM

Scary stuff. And Zeb, your comment is written like a man with his head in the sand. This will change very little, except more damage to families in the name of prohibition. The deterrent affect, as you call it, doesn't work. If it did, there would be no drugs, no speeding, no jaywalking, ect.

Posted by: Steve Bottrell | 2009-12-07 1:31:29 PM

zebulon said:
"No one or any force compels people to grow drugs, except maybe the chance for quick and easy money from other druggies."

I love it when you prove your own point wrong in the same sentance in which it was made. Don't forget about addiction; it too compels people to produce drugs. So, to be accurate, your statement should have read "Not very many things compel people to produce drugs". In which case, it loses it's point. Thanks for more pointless input.

zebulon said:
" When will you people learn that the penalty is supposed to be as severe as the crime"

Which brings up the obvious problem of determining how severe a crime is. It sort of depends on each individuals own interpretation, doesn't it. How does one determine a punishment of equal severity? Do we really want to just leave the decision in the hands of the government?

Posted by: EndtheFed | 2009-12-07 4:48:09 PM

"Ezra Levant understands this; the conservative movement does not".

Ezra has seen first hand what a monster we create when the state feels empowered to meddle in our personal lives. We are a country where the activists now pull the strings. Stelmach has pleased some activists. His personal convictions led him in that direction.Ralph Klein would have told them to get stuffed.
You get what you vote for. Like all politicians they tell you whatever you want to hear and then push their own agenda once in power. Same old same old.

Posted by: peterj | 2009-12-07 10:20:11 PM

peterj, also you get what you don't vote for.

Posted by: TM | 2009-12-08 12:24:54 AM

Criminy, looks like it is time for a revolt. Everybody should report all their neighbors and put some small amount of a drug in their house. When the police have all the children in Alberta in jail, maybe they will rethink their law.

Posted by: JackDoitCrawford | 2009-12-08 11:16:28 AM

"peterj, also you get what you don't vote for.

Posted by: TM | 2009-12-08 12:24:54 AM".

Lately it seems that way. Much better than my post.

Posted by: peterj | 2009-12-08 12:37:51 PM

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