Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Theresa Boyle
Queen'S Park Bureau

New act targets child prostitutes

Police could pull them off the streets and into safe houses

Police will get the power to force child prostitutes off the street and the drivers' licences of johns could be suspended under legislation introduced yesterday by the provincial government.

Under the Protecting Children from Sexual Exploitation Act, police could raid strip joints, bawdy houses and massage parlours to remove endangered children.

Police could also crack down on escort services, telephone or Internet sex lines and the pornography industry.

They estimate there are about 1,200 child prostitutes in Ontario and plan to crack down on the worst areas — Toronto, Ottawa, Thunder Bay, London, Niagara Falls, Sudbury, Windsor and Hamilton.

"If passed, this legislation would protect children who are exploited by prostitution and assist them to begin a new life," Attorney-General Jim Flaherty told the Legislature yesterday.

The bill would also enable the suspension of drivers' licences of "pimps and johns" caught exploiting prostitutes of any age.

"Upon conviction there would be a one-year licence suspension for the first offence and two years for the second offence," Flaherty said.

Endangered children would be placed in safe houses for five days or as long as 30 days with the permission of a judge.

The province is backing up the legislation with $14.5 million in funding for addiction counselling, medical and mental health services and special legal services.

"Across Ontario, children are being forced into prostitution. Some of these children are as young as 13. They are being exploited. They are victims in the truest sense and the police here in Ontario can do very little to help them," Flaherty said.

Currently, police can ask children's aid societies to intervene only if they are certain that prostitutes are under 16 years of age.

But that can be difficult to determine because they often carry fake identification and dress as though they're older, Flaherty said.

"The police have told me their hands are completely tied. They do not have the legal power to take these children off the streets and take them to a safe place," Flaherty said.

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Created: December 20, 2000
Last modified: January 21, 2001
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