Pubdate: Wed, 11 Mar 2009
Source: Meliorist, The (CN AB Edu)
Copyright: 2009 The Meliorist
Note: AARC is a descendant of Mel Sembler's Straight, Inc.
Cited: The Fifth Estate
Bookmark: (Treatment)
Bookmark: (Straight, Inc.)


Rachel Notley, the NDP MLA from Edmonton-Strathcona, demanded last month
that the provincial government launch an investigation of the
controversial Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre (AARC). Former AARC
patients have raised allegations of various abuses within the facility,
including sexual assault.

When questioned about AARC by Liberal MLA Harry Chase, government took no
responsibility for the alleged criminal abuses occurring at the facility,
despite admission by Health Minister Ron Liepert that the facility
receives "about $300 000" of annual provincial funding. CBC News later
reported that the centre receives $400 000 annually.

Chase, while praising the institution's successes, was also critical of
AARC. "The weakness of the program is that the Alberta government has
allowed an underregulated facility to operate as though it were an
accredited residential treatment centre," Chase told the Legislature. The
MLA from Calgary-Varsity also raised questions about the confinement of

"Is it acceptable to you that each night throughout Calgary, at-risk
adolescents are locked in bedrooms with fixed bars on the windows, in
direct violation of fire safety codes?"

Children and Youth Service Minister Janis Tarchuk called the allegations
of abuse "deeply concerning," but added that her department has no
jurisdiction over the licensing of non-residential treatment facilities. A
spokesperson for her department advised abused patients to contact police,
despite the fact that some of AARC's patients have no access to outside
communication. Liepert also dismissed the opposition's calls for
oversight. "Unlike the opposition, we don't believe that it's necessary to
have civil servants hovering over all of the programs in Alberta,"
Minister Liepert told the Legislature.

AARC was featured in a February episode of CBC's popular documentary
series The Fifth Estate. Makers of the documentary spoke with a number of
former AARC patients, several of whom reported instances of physical and
sexual abuse.

Former patient Rachel O'Neill reported that she was sexually assualted in
a closet while at AARC. O'Neill eventually escaped from the so-called
"host home" where she was incarcerated during her treatment. O'Neill told
CBC reporters that she ran away on New Years Eve in bitterly cold weather,
despite the fact that AARC "host parents" lock up patients' shoes to
prevent them from fleeing.

Christine Lunn, another former patient, reported being thrown down stairs
and sexually abused. "I would say that they terrorized us," said Lunn.
Lunn alleges that, when she reported these abuses, she was accused of

Another criticism directed at AARC by former patients is that the program
is willing to incarcerate those who are not addicts, and only engaged in
the casual use of drugs or alcohol.

When confronted by CBC reporters, AARC director Dean Vause called the
concerned former patients "liars." Vause portrayed the patients in
question as manipulative, calling them "the best cons in the world."

While it has been heavily criticized, AARC has many ardent supporters. "I
have no complaints about it whatsoever," said former AARC patient Jordan
Remple, who is one of several AARC "graduates" speaking up in favour of
the facility.

When challenged about AARC in the Legislature, Conservative ministers were
quick to cite success stories. "I've heard from many families who have
used AARC after terrible years and have seen some great success," said

Liepert presented a similar defense of AARC while questioning the recent
CBC feature. "I didn't have the opportunity to see the particular [Fifth
Estate] production, but I can tell you that you can talk to many people
who have gone through the program in Calgary, and I'm not so sure that
they would necessarily agree with this Mother Corp program out of
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