Wednesday, April 7, 1999

Gloria Galloway

p. A10.

Ottawa won't introduce car-seizure law for johns, despite provinces' urging

Provincial justice ministers who had hoped the federal government would change the Criminal Code to allow police to take the cars of men trying to hire prostitutes are in for disappointment.

Anne McLellan, the Justice Minister, is not contemplating any such action on a national level, in part because the provinces could not reach a consensus, Pierre Gratton, her spokesman, said yesterday.

"It was an issue that Manitoba was pushing for nationally but a lot of other provinces disagreed," he said.

Ms. McLellan said she liked the concept when questioned by reporters in Edmonton last year, said Mr. Gratton. But "it's another thing to say that she expressed support for the federal government doing something nationally. I think she was saying that, if some provinces want to pursue that, that's a great idea."

Manitoba amended its Highway Traffic Act last May to give the authorities the right to take the cars of people who try to negotiate the services of a prostitute, and there is pressure within Nova Scotia and Alberta for those provinces to follow suit.

First-time offenders in Manitoba can get their car back if they take a course designed to persuade them to give up the habit. Second-time offenders lose their vehicle for good.

Alan Abraham, the chairman of the police commission in Halifax, has written to Robert Harrison, the provincial Attorney-General, asking that similar changes be made to Nova Scotia's Motor Vehicle Act.

Mr. Harrison has received the request and plans to reply promptly, his spokesperson said yesterday.

Last October, the police commission in Edmonton asked the province's transportation minister to take the same measures. Alberta's Transportation Ministry wants to observe the effect of the changes in Manitoba before considering changes to the Alberta act, said a ministry spokesman.

Mr. Abraham's letter, which was prompted by a suggestion from the Halifax vice squad, was aimed at improving the flow of traffic rather than eliminating the sex trade, one officer said yesterday.

"It's designed to combat the increase in traffic and the traffic problems associated with street level prostitution," said Sergeant Tom Moser. Of course, he added, it would be a side benefit if it curbed the discourse between hookers and their customers.

If Ms. McLellan were to change the Criminal Code to allow the seizure of the cars, the sanction would apply in every jurisdiction in the country.

But the issue of child prostitution was the subject of a study by a federal-provincial-territorial task force that released its final report last fall, and the report did not recommend that the issue be pursued nationally, said Mr. Gratton.

"As far as our minister is concerned, it's really up to the provinces to determine if it's appropriate. But she supports anything that they do that meshes with what we're trying to do to deal with prostitution."

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Created: April 7, 1999
Last modified: January 21, 2001
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