Wednesday, December 16, 1998

Canadian Press

p. A20.

Don't legalize hooking: Study

But prostitution indoors might be OK says group

OTTAWA — A working group that has studied prostitution for six years issued its final report yesterday without recommending decriminalization of street walkers.

But it did suggest there's value in considering whether to give some communities authority to allow prostitutes to operate at home if it alleviates problems associated with street prostitution.

The Working Group on Prostitution, commissioned in 1992 by federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers, said in its final report it had misgivings about decriminalizing prostitution.

Among them is a potential influx of hookers and johns to Canada. The group was also concerned decriminalization would "send a message of endorsement of prostitution when there is much evidence of the victimization of its participants."

In consultations with police, clergy, prostitutes and others, the group received mixed messages about decriminalizing prostitution. And there's no comprehensive evaluation of decriminalization and regulation in other countries, said the report.

But the group said it might make sense to allow indoor prostitution in order to address "hazards posed to residents, the involvement of youth in prostitution and the dangers to prostitutes themselves."

The report notes, however, that, while a significant number of city councillors in Toronto like the idea, most municipal representatives expressed little interest. It also notes that experiments in sanctioned red-light districts, such as one in Boston in the 1970s, failed.

But the working group said discussion of the options could allow municipalities to "reduce the serious problems they face ensuring the safety of their residents, including the women involved in prostitution, while maintaining an acceptable environment in which businesses can operate and residents can live."

The working group could not agree on whether it should recommend making communicating for the purpose of prostitution an indictable, rather than a summary, offence.

Summary offences carry a maximum six-month jail term, a $2,000 fine or both. The offender is not fingerprinted or photographed and does not receive a formal criminal record.

Some members of the working group were concerned the reclassification of the offence would lead to harsher penalties and increased denial of bail for female prostitutes, thus furthe entrenching them in street life.

But Reform MP Eric Lowther said yesterday that current laws make it harder to keep track of repeat offenders. In addition, he said, the impression is that the offence isn't serious and that the punishment is merely "a slap on the wrist."

— Canadian Press

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