Wednesday, March 17, 1999

Gay Abbate

p. A9.

Green light sought for red-light district

Councillor suggests high-rises in city core be specifically designated for prostitution

A Toronto councillor has repackaged his plan to create a red-light district in the downtown core, this time as high-rise brothels.

Chris Korwin-Kuczynski wants to take the sex trade off city streets and put it into apartment buildings built specifically as places where adults could buy or sell sexual favours.

"The way to go is to create a zone of tolerance where this activity can take place," he said yesterday. "If prostitutes were caught outside that area they would be fined substantially or be put in jail."

The idea of a legalized red-light district is not a new. In 1995, Mr. Korwin-Kuczynski proposed the establishment of a red-light district on Toronto's waterfront, near the site of the Toronto Star building. That area is no longer practical because of development and he is now suggesting the so-called zone of tolerance be located in a commercial or industrial area.

"It would have to be away from residential communities" but be in the downtown area, he said.

Also in 1995, Mr. Korwin-Kuczynski was one of the prime movers that persuaded Toronto Council to ask Ottawa to change the Criminal Code to decriminalize prostitution and give municipalities the power to license prostitution.

The federal government flatly turned down the request but Mr. Korwin-Kuczynski, undeterred, continued his campaign to get the other levels of government on his side.

His latest attempt occurred last month, when he wrote the Ontario Solicitor-General asking why they have not taken any action on the issue. He first wrote them a decade ago.

"The problem is not going away. I know that consultation (with the provinces) have been going on for quite some time now. What is taking so long?" he wrote in his most recent letter.

By reviving his concept of a legal red-light district, Mr. Korwin-Kuczynski said he hopes to reopen debate and get something done. "We have concerns about drugs, about pimps keeping prostitutes on them to keep them in the sex trade, about youths involved in prostitution, about hookers being beat up. This has got to end," he said.

He noted that governments are concerned about the homeless and children's issues but are doing nothing about the problem of prostitution, much of which goes on in residential neighbourhoods such as Parkdale, which is in his High Park ward.

There has been much talk over the years about overhauling Canada's archaic prostitution laws, under which brothels and pimping are illegal and prostitution is legal but communicating for the purpose of prostitution is a criminal offence.

Mr. Korwin-Kuczynski said the lack of action by Ottawa and Queen's Park has led him to conclude that "politicians are cowards and they just don't want to deal with this issue because it's a no-win situation."

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Created: March 28, 2000
Last modified: January 31, 2001
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