Wednesday, November 18, 1998

Janice Tibbetts

Report rejects war on prostitution

Task force shies away from harsh measures

A criminal crackdown on street prostitution looks unlikely in light of a new report, six years in the making, that favours a softer approach to curbing the illegal sex trade.

The task force steers clear of pushing for contentious measures such as seizing johns' cars and other Criminal Code sanctions.

Instead, the senior bureaucrats call for stronger outreach programs and more safe houses. The government is expected to release the report before Christmas.

The 100-page report also rejects "shame the johns" campaigns and "john schools" that have cropped up in several provinces.

As well, the group dodges the prickly question of whether there should be legal prostitution zones, an idea that police widely oppose.

A federal Justice Department spokesman said the report is not expected to lead to changes to the Criminal Code, unlike the group's 1995 interim report that resulted in tougher sanctions for people who prey on child prostitutes. "At the moment there are no specific plans under way," said Richard Mosley, assistant deputy minister of criminal policy.

Since the report stresses social intervention rather than toughening the Criminal Code, it will be up to provinces to decide whether they will act, he said.

"I will be disappointed if the federal government does not step to the plate in this," said Ross MacInness, a former police officer who is executive director of Street Teams, an outreach program for young prostitutes in Calgary. "The provinces are really without any clout."

Among other things, he wants the federal government to change the Criminal Code to permit fingerprinting and photographing of prostitutes and johns to make it easier to keep track of them.

Some provincial justice ministers, who saw the report at a recent meeting in Regina, dismissed it as too soft.

Several provinces and cities have already taken measures of their own to fight prostitution, ranging from impounding cars to sending letters to johns' homes after tracing their licence plates.

"I personally noted that there wasn't any recommendation of seizing the vehicles of those involved in street prostitution and I would have thought that would have been one of the No. 1 ways to rid the streets of prostitution," Ontario Attorney General Charles Harnick said in an interview.

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Created: December 14, 1998
Last modified: February 2, 2001
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