Saturday, May 1, 1999

Robert Matas
British Columbia Bureau, Vancouver

p. A5.

Vancouver to get help in fight against child prostitution

Province planning more money to back police in gathering information on pimps, exploited youth and sex-trade customers

British Columbia is expected to unveil plans today for increased support to help Vancouver police identify pimps and prostitutes' customers in an attempt to reduce the sexual exploitation of children in the city.

An increase in provincial funds would enable Vancouver police to enhance their computer databases on pimps, prostitutes and those who hire prostitutes. Improvements in the program are expected to help police make the links between youth on the street and those involved in the sex trade.

B.C. Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh said in an interview yesterday that exploitation of child prostitutes is a serious problem and that the province has provided several million dollars since 1994 to deal with issues relating to children and prostitution.

"Obviously, it hasn't worked," he said. "We need more safe placements, more comprehensive treatment centres for drug addicts, drug courts and tougher enforcement against johns and pimps."

Another tool in the government's arsenal against child prostitution is a change in the federal Criminal Code that comes into effect today. New wording will enable police to arrest anyone communicating for the purpose of buying sex. Previously, the Code limited arrests to anyone attempting to obtain or obtaining sex services of a child.

Mr. Dosanjh, who is a keynote speaker today at a conference on sexual exploitation of children for commercial purposes, said he anticipates the legislative changes will lead to more arrests, especially of pimps, who were not affected by the old law.

Renat Aebi, co-ordinator of the Vancouver Coalition for Children and Youth, said community groups have been scrambling to qualify for provincial funds in recent years. "A lot of promise has been ringing around for a long time."

However, the government has not done enough, she said. The city needs a treatment centre and a prevention program that goes beyond a poster campaign, Ms. Aebi also said.

In recent months, child prostitution has attracted more attention in several provinces. A law enacted in Alberta last month allows police and child-welfare workers to take underage sex workers off the street for three days, even without their consent. In those three days, they are to receive counselling and medical help.

The Alberta law also provides for fines of up to $25,000 and maximum jail terms of up to two years for pimps and clients who prey on underage prostitutes.

Ammendments to Manitoba's Highway Traffic Act, proclaimed earlier this year, allow police to seize vehicles of those who use prostitutes.

First-time offenders can recover their vehicles by attending classes designed to make them stop frequenting prostitutes. The Manitoba provision is the first of its kind in Canada.

The City of Toronto asked the provincial and federal governments last fall to amend the Ontario Highway Traffic Act and the Criminal Code of Canada to give police the authority to seize vehicles used in connection with prostitution.

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Created: May 3, 1999
Last modified: June 11, 2001
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