They Can Take Their Charter of Rights and Shove It: Uncovering the Protection of Children Involved in Prostitution Act's Conditions of Possibility

  • Author / Creator
    Taylor, Rebecca A
  • In 1990s Alberta, two discourses about young people pervaded Legislative debates: discourse promoting tougher responses to young offenders, and a rallying cry to protect sexually exploited youth. Both discourses were promoted not only by the same political party (the Progressive Conservative Party), but also by the same politician, Legislative Member Heather Forsyth. This thesis is a social history, tracing the emergence of the Protection of Children Involved in Prostitution Act (PChIP, 1999). To this end, this thesis questions: Why did the Alberta government create specific legislation to deal with sexually exploited young people in 1999?; and How, with protective legislation firmly in place, and growing public and political discourse condemning youth in Alberta, did PChIP gain traction in the Legislature? In this thesis, I argue that, like the white slavery panic in early Canada, the specific actors calling to protect young women in 1990s Alberta drew upon racialized, gendered, and class-based rhetoric. This discourse fueled the creation of legislation protecting a particular subset of young women: middle-upper class, Caucasian girls from “normal, average, every day families” (Children Involved in Prostitution Report 1997, 7). At the same time discourses advocating for both the protection, and punishment of young people were circulating in the media and Legislature, Alberta was also resisting the growing consciousness of children having inalienable rights. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982), the Young Offenders Act (1984), and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) all marked a shift in the way children were understood in Canada. Alberta’s denial of children’s rights emerged in two ways through this research: first, in 1990s Alberta, Progressive Conservative politicians believed that children had too many rights; and second, politicians were willing to violate children’s rights to both protect society from young offenders, and save sexually exploited children. This transgression of children’s rights brings me to the final question this thesis attempts to answer: To what extent can law be employed to ameliorate the social conditions which give rise to such legislation? After more than a decade of investigating the sexual exploitation of children, committees in 1996 were tackling the same social conditions of marginalized women and children, and recommending that the same social supports be strengthened. I follow Carol Smart’s scholarship, which suggests that, rather than ameliorating the patriarchal relations which make legislation such as PChIP necessary, the law reproduces these relations, thus transforming narratives of social change into discourses of legal reform.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2016
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Judith Garber (Political Science)
    • Herb Northcott (Sociology)