Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Richard Mackie

New Ontario law aims to rescue child prostitutes

TORONTO — Legislation to enable police to take child prostitutes off the streets and put them into safe houses for up to five days is to be introduced in the Ontario Legislature today by Attorney-General Jim Flaherty.

The children would get medical care, psychiatric treatment if necessary and counselling for any drug or alcohol addictions.

The proposed bill is similar to legislation passed last month in Alberta, the first such legislation in Canada. A proposed law to fight child prostitution, introduced by Sudbury Liberal Rick Bartolucci, is already before the Ontario Legislature. Mr. Flaherty's legislation refines and extends Mr. Bartolucci's proposal.

The aim is to get child prostitutes into a safe house for a few days, getting them away from pimps and giving them help in hopes of convincing them that they can get off the street permanently.

Mr. Flaherty's bill to protect children from sexual exploitation would require that a judge or a justice of the peace review their cases "as soon as possible," a government official said.

The Alberta legislation ran into trouble when civil-rights advocates complained that the children could be kept in custody with no legal review.

It was changed by giving the children the right to a hearing before a judge within 24 hours of being removed from the street.

The Alberta legislation was endorsed by Kevin Hood, co-ordinator of the Alberta government's Protection of Children Involved in Prostitution program.

A former child-welfare worker who dealt with prostitutes, Mr. Hood said the legislation provides child-protection workers with authority they never had before to compel children to leave the street.

The Alberta law is a revised version of a law first enacted in February, 1999. That law was quashed by the courts because it did not take the rights of the children into account.

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Created: December 22, 2000
Last modified: January 19, 2001
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