July/August, 1982, No. 85

Kevin Orr

p. 10.

Prostitution squeeze moves nation-wide

TORONTO -- As complaints from the North Jarvis neighbourhood increase and this year's municipal elections loom, downtown politicians have begun vying for the public's attention on the issue of prostitution.

Ward 6 junior alderman John Sewell drew 125 people to the Church Street Community Centre May 22 for a Intblic meeting which heard suggestions ffom residents that ranged from regulation through zoning to increased police foot patrols. Morality bureau sergeant Tommy Stephen told the audience to lobby MPs for stricter laws.

The Metro Toronto Police commission decided June 3 to increase foot patrols and to send a delegation to Ottawa to testify before the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs June 10. Commissioners Jane Pepino and Dennis Flynn were joined by Ward 6 alderman Gordon Chong. That day Mayor Art Eggleton also sent a letter to the federal government.

Prostitution is legal in Canada. Being in a place that is resorted to for the purposes of prostitution (a bawdy house) is illegal. Soliciting is illegal, but only if it's "pressng or persistent," something that's difficult to prove in court.

Toronto politicians are just the most recent addition to what seems to be a national trend. From Halifax to Vancouver, citizens have been lobbying the federal government to tighten Criminal Code provisions against soliciting as municipal politicians try to placate their constituents who live in areas frequented by prostitutes.

Municipal bylaws in Vancouver, Niagara Falls and Winnipeg have either been instituted or planned since early May. Complaints have been received from Halifax, Ottawa and Toronto since then. Both Montreal and Calgary introduced bylaws restricting soliciting in 1980 and 1981 respectively. Montreal's bylaw was struck down by the Quebec Superior Court in December. Calgary's was upheld this spring and is now on its way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Virtually all of the angry citizens' groups across the country have said they're not anti-prostitution, they just don't want it happening on their front lawns. At the Toronto meeting organized by Sewell, whenever anyone advocated the legalization of prostitution, morality officers protested that prostitution was already legal. They neglected to mention that being in a bawdy house, even if it's your private home, is not. Crown attorney Ed Ceiler told the meeting that zoning wouldn't work because johns wouldn't travel to industrial districts for sex; they'd rather do it on your lawn.

The government has been asked to repeal the bawdy house laws by feminist organizations concerned about prostitution as well as by gay organizations concerned about the baths. But with the government's final amendments to Bill C53, the current revision of sexual offences in the Criminal Code, it is clear they won't. It remains to be seen whether or not they will give the police the new laws they seek to bust prostitutes on the street.

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