PROTECTION OF CHILDREN INVOLVED
IN PROSTITUTION ACT, 1999/LOI DE 1999 SUR
LA PROTECTION DES ENFANTS QUI
SE LIVRENT À LA PROSTITUTION
Second Reading, May 11, 2000
Mr Bartolucci moved second reading of the following bill: Bill 6, An Act to protect Children involved in Prostitution/Projet de loi 6, Loi visant à protéger les enfants qui se livrent à la prostitution.
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I'm very happy today that we have children in the audience, because this bill deals solely and entirely with their protection. In the forward to the Progress of Nations, Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations, wrote in part: "The day will come when nations will be judged not by their military or economic strength, nor by the splendour of their capital cities or public buildings but
by the provision that is made for those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged, and by the protection that is afforded to the growing minds and bodies of our children." It is in that context that I would like to begin our debate today.
My private member's bill, Bill 6, has a history, I believe, worth mentioning. I first introduced An Act to protect Children involved in Prostitution back on May 12, 1998. At that time it was known as Bill 18 and there was no other jurisdiction in Canada that had enacted this legislation. The bill passed second reading on May 28 and went to the standing committee on social development. It received a number of days of public hearings: August 17 in Sudbury, August 18 in London, September 28 and 29 in Toronto, October 5 in Toronto; and clause-by-clause was scheduled for October 5 as well.
During public hearings the committee members heard over 50 deputations from both individuals and organizations. Individual presentations were made by former and current child prostitutes, like Meaghan, who so passionately said she needed this type of legislation because she was desperately looking for a way out of this lifestyle of sexual exploitation.
We also heard from parents like Alan, whose child was a child prostitute. He pleaded with committee members to pass this bill so that their children, in particular his child, could be protected from the exploitation and sexual abuse at the hands of pimps and johns preying on their children.
Organizations which showed strong support for this bill were countless. The bill received support from several social services agencies, such as the John Howard Society of Sudbury, the Toronto Child Abuse Centre and Covenant House, to mention only a few. In addition, in excess of 30 police chiefs from across the province, including the Sudbury Regional Police Service and the York Regional Police Service, then under the leadership of Toronto's current chief of police, Julian Fantino, wrote in support of this legislation. After all this, Bill 18 unfortunately died when the House prorogued in December 1998.
I reintroduced the bill on April 26, 1999. It was then called Bill 10. Again the bill did not survive the dissolution of the Legislature and the call, of course, of the 1999 provincial election. I reintroduced the bill for a third time in this Parliament on October 26 which brings us to today's second reading debate. I thank the House, especially Claudette Boyer, for moving my bill up 30 spots so that we could debate it today.
The purpose of the bill is to protect children under 18 who are involved in prostitution. The bill gives police officers the power, with a warrant, to remove a child involved in prostitution and return the child to his or her family or to place the child in a protective safe house. The police officer may also apprehend a child without a warrant where the child's life or safety is seriously endangered. If a child is brought to a protective safe house under this act, a child protection worker shall be responsible for the child and for determining whether to return the child to his or her parent, to a person who had care and control of the child before the child was taken out of the situation or to another adult who is capable of providing for the child's needs.
The child protection worker may also decide to apply to the court for an order under section 57 of the Child and Family Services Act, for example, for a supervision order, a society wardship order, a crown wardship order etc. The bill would allow a child, his or her parent or a child protection worker to apply to the court for a restraining order against the person who has abused the child or who is encouraging the child or is likely to encourage the child to engage in prostitution. The bill makes it an offence for a person to encourage a child to engage in prostitution. The penalty for the persons known as "johns" and "pimps" is a fine of up to $25,000, imprisonment for up to 24 months or both a fine and imprisonment.
As you can see, the bill works in tandem or in conjunction with the Child and Family Services Act. It is an act, though, and I do not make any apology, that deals solely with the sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children through prostitution. It does not conflict with but rather enhances other pieces of provincial legislation to ensure that these vulnerable children are no longer exploited but are protected.
I said earlier that there was no such legislation in place when Bill 18 first received second reading support. Since then, Alberta has passed identical legislation, and I make no apology for learning from other provinces about good child protection legislation. In fact, they passed it on February 1, 1999. In June 1999, the Alberta government heard from several stakeholders involved in this. Here's what some of the youth said: "Going to a protective safe house is good because it removed me from the high-risk situation."
Police in urban areas of Edmonton and Alberta who have experience with this legislation view it as an overwhelming success. To date and I'll give you some accurate statistics from Alberta 310 children have been removed from dangerous situations and put back into protective safe houses. Sadly, though, the average age of these children removed has been 15.5 years of age.
During public hearings and since I reintroduced this bill, I have received many letters of support. Let me read only a few to you. Julian Fantino, the police chief of Toronto, "We welcome any initiative which serves to discourage and sanction those who would lead our youth into prostitution, a life which offers no hope, no future, and an inevitable crushing of the human spirit."
Mike Beauparlant, then the head of the juvenile task force of the Toronto Police Service, said: "This bill would be a unique tool.
I can tell you that a frustration that I have experienced over the last 10 to 12 years is that I have seen children we were able to address who were 15. A week later they are 16 and I have to cringe and watch as they enter the car, unable to do anything."
Shelley Hallett, who is a legal counsel for the Ministry of the Attorney General, wrote to the Toronto Police Service back when there were Bill 18 hearings, and she said: "The Bartolucci bill attempts to address deficiencies in child welfare legislation in dealing with child and youth prostitution. If passed, it will have significant ramifications in terms of the powers of police and child welfare authorities to deal with youth who are presently, by law, out of the purview of these authorities. Many police officers who deal regularly with youth involved in prostitution, including members of the Toronto Police juvenile task force, have been calling for legislation that would allow them greater powers.
Finally, Zonta, which is an international worldwide service organization of executives in business and the professions working together to advance the status of women, states in a letter dated March 1, 2000: "We note that the bill received the unanimous consent of all parties on first reading this session. We also noted that Premier Harris was reported in the press following the Premier's conference last summer to have stated that" dealing with Alberta's similar legislation "'Ontario wants to move quickly to draw up new legislation in co-operation with other provinces to apprehend and protect juveniles who work as prostitutes.'"
I look forward to the debate that we will have over the course of the next 45 minutes, and I ask simply that you search yourselves and ask, is this legislation in the best interests of those children who are being sexually abused and exploited through prostitution?
Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): Let me start off by answering that question and saying, yes, I do support the direction of this bill. I will be voting for it. I do have a lot of comments that I will make about it. I have some reservations. I think the bill can be improved, but I do think that most of us on this side of the House are very supportive of this legislation and commend the member opposite for bringing it forward.
Before I go further, I'd like to welcome to the House today some folks from the St Ann's Adult Learning Centre from my riding of Niagara Falls. Welcome, to the members from St Ann's.
I know there are other members on this side of the House who have spoken to the Solicitor General on this bill. I have spoken to the Attorney General. I have spoken to the good member from Ottawa, Judge Guzzo, who has a great deal of experience in this field. He has some thoughts on the bill. We all very much respect his views on all of these law-and-order issues, someone with his experience, and I look forward to continuing to talk to him about the details of the bill.
I'd also like to mention, and congratulate once again, the member from Cambridge, Mr Martiniuk. As everyone knows, we have a crime commission that he chairs; he has for years. I think he's done more to help fight crime in the province of Ontario in the last couple of years than a lot of people. So I congratulate him.
I do want to say before I get into some detailed thoughts on the bill that the government really takes seriously the need to protect children. Our record is very clear on that. We proclaimed, and I believe all members of the Legislature, both the NDP and Liberal parties also supported, the new Child and Family Services Act, passed on March 31. These are the first major changes to that protection act in 10 years. We implemented a new risk assessment model which would help child protection workers better assess whether a child is at risk. We've developed a province-wide database to track high-risk families. We've improved the child protection training program.
Since December 1995 everyone should really pay attention to this we have hired more than 790 new child protection workers, a 34% increase, and right now they are still hiring more. I think we'll get up to about 1,000 new workers in short order. In fact, in my own area our family and children's services are having difficulty finding good, qualified people to fill those roles. So that's a great record that we're very proud of and we'll wear that on our sleeve.
In addition, reflecting the increase in workers, $650 million is now spent on child protection in our CASs. That's an 80% increase since 1995. So I'm proud of that record, and I did want to get that on the record before I move forward with discussion on the bill.
I've read Mr Bartolucci's bill very thoroughly. I will be speaking with him in the near future on some of the details I have. I have a few questions I think we need to deal with. For instance, section 3 deals with warrants obtained via telephone. The idea is a great one, that they can get warrants more quickly and easily. I'm concerned, actually, that some of it might be a little too cumbersome, and I'd like to talk to the member opposite and find out how we can make it even less cumbersome so that when a child is in imminent danger and a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a child is in danger, they can more easily get a warrant to help out.
I notice that in section 4 the member quite rightly provides that a police officer can get in without a warrant when a child's life is "seriously and imminently endangered because the child is engaging in prostitution." Again, I'd like to talk to him about the test: "seriously and imminently in danger." Any child who is engaging in prostitution under the influence of a scumbag pimp who has taken a young child and influenced them or physically intimidated them to do this I think it should be very easy for police officers to stop that and to intervene, and I want to make sure that we don't make a test that's too high. I want to talk to the member about that.
One of the concerns that I do have is under section 5 of the bill: "If a police officer apprehends a child under this act, the police officer shall notify a child protection worker immediately that the child has been apprehended and inform the worker as to whether the child has been returned to the child's parent" or brought to a protective safe house. We may need to bring in the child protection worker sooner so that once the police officer intervenes and has the child, he then goes to the child protection worker and in conjunction with that child protection worker then decides what the appropriate place is for this person, rather than leaving it to the officer to make that decision.
So there are some concerns. I have several others. I have members on this side of the House who would like to talk to the bill. I've gone beyond the five minutes that I had allotted to talk to this, so I'm going to step aside now. I will support the bill. I will talk further to Mr Bartolucci about the concerns I've mentioned and a few others. I'd like to turn the floor over now to some of the other members.
Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): I am very pleased to speak to this bill. My only disappointment with it is that this government did not enact it previously to this. I commend the member for Sudbury for hanging in and supporting what is a very necessary piece of legislation.
I bring to it a CAS perspective. I have been a member of the board of directors for 24 years, through some very difficult years. I recall 1995 when we laid off a substantial number of staff because of cutbacks from this government. I am pleased that in some ways they've recognized the error of their ways and are restoring the funding to bring some of the people back.
My wife and I have also served as foster parents. We're now in our 14th year. Many of the young people who have been dragged into prostitution are there as a reflection of things that are happening at home. When I was first on the board there was no such thing as sexual abuse. When there was an allegation of sexual involvement with a child, everything stopped at the agency, because it simply was not heard of. Now the cases number in the hundreds in our riding alone. Is that a reflection of better reporting or is it a reflection of more activity? I'm not sure. I tend to believe that it's a reflection of both, that there is more involvement of children in sexual activities. But if someone is involved in prostitution, there is an adult involvement somewhere with it.
I think I can reflect the statement of everyone in this House of how appalled they were at the BC court decision which said that possession of child pornography was legal. For there to be child pornography, there has to be a victim. I'm absolutely appalled that a court would condone the possession of material such as that.
The intriguing thing that has amazed me in dealing with children who have been sexually abused we have fostered substantial numbers of them and are aware of children as young as two being involved in the production of pornographic movies is that the children know it's wrong. Without exception, the children know that what they're doing is wrong. We were concerned, when we first started to foster, that in dealing with children who had been sexually abused or involved in prostitution, they would bring discussions into our house that we really didn't want talked about at the family table with our natural children. The reality is, they don't want to talk about it. They're embarrassed, they're ashamed and they know that what has happened to them is wrong. Yet adults have involved them in an activity that adults are prepared to overlook and to ignore the moral approach to.
The real problem with children involved in prostitution, from a foster parent viewpoint, is their memories. When a child is led into a lifestyle such as that, when caught by this bill and when brought to a place of protection, which is what has to happen, for the rest of their life their life fabric has been altered by what they have experienced. It is impossible to erase that memory.
We have worked with children of 10 and 11 years of age who know things that they should not have to know, but they can't forget them. The effect of involving children in prostitution is to steal their childhood, it's to remove that wonderful part of life's experience that they are entitled to and should experience. But once that fabric has been torn and they are made part of this evil activity, it can't be erased, they can't forget it.
This bill does wonders to ensure that very quickly they're entitled to the protection that they are owed by us as adults and us as legislators. But it also introduces a responsibility on this government, and that is to provide support for these young people once they're in a place of protection. They invariably require counselling. They invariably require supports. They invariably require assistance from us as a society and as a province to ensure that, although they can't forget the experience they've had, they learn to deal with it, they learn to recognize that the adults who destroyed their childhood are not typical representatives of our society but are aberrations, and allow them to be able to move on and contribute positively to society and, more important, to be satisfied within themselves that they were victims, they were not doing something wrong, they were in a lifestyle that was introduced to them.
I'm pleased to support this bill to facilitate moving children into places of protection.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Broadview-Greenwood): I'm pleased to be able to speak to this bill today and to congratulate Mr Bartolucci for being so persistent in bringing this bill back before us, because I believe all members of the House support the intention of this bill and want it to move forward. The last two attempts, as Mr Bartolucci outlined, failed. As we know, that often happens in the House with private members' bills. Sometimes people give up and sometimes people are persistent in bringing back these very important bills that we would like to see the government move on. But sometimes private members, when they're really committed to a cause and are persistent and keep bringing the issue back before us, succeed. Hopefully, today, Mr Bartolucci, this will be your day that we will pass the bill and it will move forward, and the government will step in and do the things that need to be done to make it happen. Obviously, some resources would be involved and I hope very much, particularly after a budget that is balanced and a tax cut given $8 billion, over $5 billion of it to corporations and very wealthy people that the government can find within the dollars, lots of dollars, that are coming in in revenue these days, the money and resources to put into this very important project.
I guess we all cringe when we think about child prostitution, because for those of us with children and for those of us who don't have children, just to even think about it is so heartbreaking and almost unbearable to contemplate. When I was Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, one of the things I was responsible for was the Ontario Film Review Board. So much of what the board had to do was to review pornographic movies. They are legal but there are certain guidelines they have to follow, and one of the guidelines of course, the top one, is to look out for child pornography, or even anybody pretending to be a child in such a film.
I also dealt very extensively with Bob Matthews, whom many of you may have heard of. He's a hero. For years and years he's been heading up a project to go after I believe somebody already called them the scumbags; I wouldn't normally use that word in this House but I think we would all agree here that it's appropriate scumbags who exploit little children, young children, in the most despicable ways for profit.
I admired Bob Matthews's work so much and was quite concerned that we do everything we could as a government to support that cause, and I was on a tour of the building where their offices were. I saw some pictures, just very tiny snapshots, literally and figuratively, of what they were dealing with. I can't get the images out of my mind, the young children in these pictures. It's just unspeakable what was being done to them. Some of them looked as young as six, seven, nine years old. The look in their eyes was just unforgettable. After seeing that, I certainly would support anybody in any measure that they want to take to do everything we can as a government and as a society to eliminate child pornography and child prostitution.
Having said that and I am supporting the bill and so is my caucus I know that Marion Boyd spoke to the bill before and we expressed some concerns, not about the intent, and I believe there are a few changes made in the legislation to reflect some of the concerns that have been raised in the past. Some of those are still concerns and I believe those are concerns we can deal with and should deal with, but they need to be pointed out again.
I know that Ms Boyd, back in 1998, expressed concern with respect to the apprehension of a child without a warrant. Although the wording does seem to provide protection to police officers in that they can do that if a "child's life or safety is seriously and imminently endangered," it goes on after that to place some pretty onerous requirements on child protection workers to follow up after the police. So throughout we have been concerned and are concerned with that enormous onus on the child protection worker to show cause why the confinement was necessary.
We also expressed concerns, and I will again today, that the legislation might conflict with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That's something we always have to look at to make sure that when we move forward with this kind of legislation, it won't be thrown out because of that. In particular, the concern is in regard to the confinement without a warrant of persons who may or may not have been involved in a criminal offence. Section 9 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms indicates that "everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned."
Having raised those concerns again, we did then and still do support the intent of the legislation and many aspects of the legislation.
I would say that this is a good opportunity to discuss as well the issue around the government providing an opportunity, as we discuss these issues, to establish programs that are necessary to assist children in ending their involvement in prostitution and also to designate protective safe houses under the act.
I think that is incredibly important, and I think it's incredibly important to talk about the support systems that are in place to help children even before they go down that road, to help families cope with difficulties within their families, to have enough counsellors and social workers in the schools, to have enough licensed child care centres, to invest in early years programs, to make sure that we have programs to help those children when they are apprehended. We have to think about: What happens to them when they are finally released from that custody? What kinds of programs are out there? What kind of education opportunities, work opportunities, support systems are there for them, and in many cases their families, to help them cope with the problems that may have led the children there in the first place?
We very much support the intention of this legislation to find a way of intervening and apprehending the abused, and the welfare of children, but we also continue to have some concerns about certain sections, and we would look forward now to having the opportunity to propose some amendments.
We also welcome the opportunity the legislation presents to reflect on the pathetic underfunding of family and children's services. The government can get up and brag all they want about services they've put in place, but the reality is and we cannot avoid talking about this, I would say to the members of the Tory government who are here today we need to look very closely at where the cuts have been made and the kind of impact that is having on the supports that are so important to the children of our society.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Niagara Falls is not in his seat.
Ms Churley: The government members don't like to hear this, but we cannot talk about this legislation today without talking about the proper supports being in place. For instance, the budget that just came out was a complete blow to child advocates. There was not one penny in that budget for early childhood years or to help poor families who need assistance.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Niagara Falls knows that he must be in his seat if he's to say anything. The next time, I will have to name him.
Ms Churley: Some of the government members are getting agitated here. I would say again that we cannot have this kind of discussion today without talking about resources. It's all very well to put a law in place that we agree with in principle and have nice chats about it here in the Legislature, and then not have a commitment to have the proper resources put in place. You can apprehend a child, but if the supports are not there to help that child afterwards, then that becomes a problem.
I say with the greatest respect that we should get away from the rhetoric and look at where there are holes in the system, where cuts have been made that are actually making it harder for families, particularly poor families, to get by and to get the help they need when they need it.
Despite the claims to the contrary, the government isn't spending a penny on early childhood, the early years. The $30 million the government announced is a reannouncement of an old idea, and they're not even going to spend that $30 million this year; they're waiting until the early years task group reports back in May of next year. I raise this because when we're talking about the protection of children, I think we in this place would agree, all of us, that early years intervention, early years development and education have been proven without a shadow of a doubt to be very important for the development of children later on in life. If you have good programs in place good licensed child care, good early years programs that can have a profound impact on the nature and the character of that child and that child's ability to learn and grow and flourish. That is absolutely necessary.
I would suggest to the government today, when we talk about this issue, that we also talk about and think about the supports that need to be put in place.
I heard the member from the Tory caucus speak earlier about all the things the government has done. I presume that if the government uses this opportunity to talk about and brag about the things they feel good about, then I should have the opportunity to talk about the areas where I believe there are gaps and problems, where the cuts have hurt, where we have to invest more and where I saw holes and gaps in previous governments, including my own. What's unfortunate is that some of those holes and gaps have been widened under the watch of this government, so we do need to have that kind of discussion.
It's a fact that there are fewer police per capita on the street now, for instance, than when the NDP was in government, yet the government continues to brag about its law-and-order regime and agenda. At the same time, we know that our police are still grossly underfunded. There are still, to this day, despite what they say, 818 fewer police per person on our streets than there were in 1995. That's a fact.
It is a fact that children's mental health has been severely underfunded and has been cut, and the waiting lists for children who are in dire need of help and support and their families need that support are just off the page. Thousands are having to wait. That does not bode well for the future of those children if they can't get the supports and the help they need when they're young and troubled and need some kind of intervention.
I support the legislation before us today and again congratulate the member for bringing it forward. I hope very much that the government will vote along with the Liberals and the NDP, as I believe they will, in support of this bill. Also, as they discuss it with the minister responsible, I hope they will look at where there are gaps in the system and talk about the kinds of resources that would be needed to make the act work, if passed, because an act passed without the resources to make it work is not worth the paper it's written on. It's nice to have it on the books but it won't really protect those children.
I don't believe a large amount of resources would be needed up front. Considering the revenues that we're enjoying these days, surely the government would be able to find the revenues and make this bill effective. It could go a long way in protecting those children who are being abused by some of the worst scumbags in our society. I would say that I'm very pleased about the fine and the jail sentence, because they're the ones we need to go after. I would even like to see that higher.
Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford): I'm very pleased to join in the debate on Bill 6 with respect to child prostitution. Certainly our government is committed to protecting vulnerable children. Let's be clear: We are willing to listen to any meaningful ideas about how to address the issue of child prostitution.
I'm certain everyone in this House is disturbed by the knowledge that children in this province are being used and manipulated by drug dealers and pimps. I'm confident that everyone would agree that if there are good ideas about how we as a government and as a society can help free these children from the clutches of people like this, we should look at them.
On the surface, the spirit of this bill seems to be in the right place and I'm comfortable saying that I think a more careful examination in committee will certainly be worthwhile. The focus of that examination may, in part, involve this, because in Alberta they do have legislation, but there are some subtle differences between the Alberta legislation and Bill 6 with respect to the apprehension of the child, as to who does that, and confinement.
In Bill 6, on the basis of a warrant or a court order, the police officer would be able to forcibly enter a premises to search for a child and, if necessary, apprehend the child and take the child to his or her parents etc. In Alberta the apprehension is on the basis of a warrant or a court order, a police officer or a child protection worker. That's the subtle difference between Bill 6 and Alberta's legislation with respect to the apprehension on a warrant or a court order.
Where there is no warrant or court order, a police officer, under Bill 6, would be able to forcibly search a premises and apprehend a child, whereas in Alberta, without a warrant or court order, a police officer or child protection worker would be able to forcibly search a premises, apprehend a child and convey the child to a protective safe house if he or she has reason to believe the life or safety of the child in need of protection is seriously and imminently endangered. The difference is, with or without warrant, under Bill 6 it's the police officer who apprehends; under the Alberta law, it's broader: the police officer or child protection worker.
With respect to detention, under Bill 6 a child may be detained in a protective safe house for three days, during which time the child protection worker may return the child to a parent or guardian, release the child if he or she can provide for self, or apply for a supervision or wardship order. Under the Alberta legislation, a child may be detained in a protective safe house for three days, during which time the child protection worker must either return the child to a parent or guardian, release the child if he or she is 16 years or older and can provide for self, or apply for a supervision or guardianship order. So there is an age distinction with respect to detention between Alberta and Ontario. Also, under Bill 6 a child protection worker could continue to confine a child to a protective safe house pending the outcome of a hearing for a supervision or wardship order, so it's subject to the process, whereas in Alberta there is no explicit authority to continue to confine a child in a protective safe house beyond three days.
Those are issues where there is a difference between Alberta and Ontario, and obviously the member will have to explain why he chose to draft it the way he did. A committee could also look at it and say whether what's being proposed under Bill 6 has more merit than what's being done in Alberta, and take a look at the history out there. I think that's something important that we should be looking at.
With respect to the preamble of the bill, certainly no one would question that. "The people of Ontario believe that, (a) the safety, security and well-being of children and families is of paramount concern for all residents of Ontario" certainly goes without saying.
In closing, because my time is limited, I just want to comment on some of the statements in terms of funding that were mentioned by the member for Broadview-Greenwood. It's my understanding that the funding for children's protective services has increased by 80% since 1995 and that the funding formula is based on caseloads. In other words, if the caseload increases, the funding automatically increases. I think this government has put together an approach that is in the best interests of the child and his or her protection.
Mr Michael Bryant (St Paul's): I am pleased to join this debate, pleased to support the Bartolucci bill, but I am in very good company. It would appear that the Bartolucci bill has been endorsed by everybody from Mother Teresa to Chief Fantino, and it is my great pleasure to say that this bill has been endorsed by over 30 police organizations, that this bill has been endorsed by victims' groups, by community leaders and by everybody who understands the scourge of child prostitution and its effect on our society and on our province. My city, Toronto, is the place of origin of 53% of the prostitutes in this country. This is an issue for my riding of St Paul's, and the people of St Paul's expect this Legislature to do something about this scourge. The Bartolucci bill does just that.
As the member for Sudbury pointed out, child prostitution is not as it is depicted in Hollywood. This is not Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. In fact, pimps control child prostitutes through battering, through drugs and through alcohol. Child prostitutes are victims of AIDS, of sexually transmitted diseases. They are prey for muggers, rapists and murderers. They have left our society, per se; they are not in it. They carry the stigma of being prostitutes. They carry the stigma of being outsiders.
Right now, the main response to it is the criminal justice system, and it's a punitive response. The Bartolucci bill is a way for our society and our province to reach out to these people who are being stigmatized and abused, and pull them back in. This is an opportunity for us as a society to literally rescue these people at the stage of them being children and pull them out of the hell they live in.
There may be some who question the constitutional status of this legislation, and we should always ensure that the legislation brought before this House meets with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other constitutional obligations. That goes without saying. But I hope that that in no way gets in the way of us in this Legislature moving forward on this bill and passing it.
It has passed second reading before. What is important is that we see it come to fruition, that we see it happen. We all agree that it is a problem. We all agree that this is a solution, that this is a constructive response and a way to deal with it. The fact that there may be some charter issues is the case with just about any bill that affects the liberty of individuals. I hope that the principles of fundamental justice under the Charter of Rights will recognize that not only is the charter there to protect people's civil liberties against state intrusions, but it is also there to permit the state to reach out and rescue those who are in so desperate need of rescue.
For thousands of years prostitutes, child and otherwise, have been outcasts in our society and in our province. Many people will look and think, "Why did they make that choice?" But these children did not make any choice, at the very least. They made no choice at all. They were forced into this life through a history of abuse in their family or otherwise.
If there is a level of individual culpability, I can assure you that once they are brought back into our society through the Bartolucci bill, they'll be willing to accept that. But here is an opportunity for us to support a bill that permits us to prevent the continued scourge of child prostitution, that can rescue these children from the horrible life they now are in. I'm very proud to sit on this side of the House with the member for Sudbury and support this bill.
Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener Centre): I'm delighted to be able to stand up and debate this bill today. I'd like to compliment Rick Bartolucci, the member for Sudbury, for bringing forward this bill. I know he does it with a great deal of principle. He very strongly believes in protection for our children. He has, as well, an accompanying piece of legislation, Bill 32, which I know he would like to bring forward for second reading at some time as well.
But knowing his principle in this and his concern for the children, I would like to point out I know he remembers this that there was another piece of legislation which our government brought forward which dealt with safety of children. It was the Safe Streets Act. Mr Bartolucci, the member for Sudbury, mentioned that Julian Fantino supported Bill 6. Well, Julian Fantino, the chief of the Metro Toronto police force, also supported the Safe Streets Act. I would like to know how he justifies using Chief Fantino's support for Bill 6 when he would not accept Chief Fantino's support for the Safe Streets Act.
There is a factor that I think we might take into account here, and that is that the Liberals felt that they had to oppose the Safe Streets Act because they are Her Majesty's loyal opposition. I'm sure that is the only thing that entered into their minds, and Mr Bartolucci, the member for Sudbury, along with many other members of the opposition, felt that they were subjected to the whip of that party and that they must do the whip's bidding. I know the member for Sudbury did not speak against the Safe Streets Act, and I give him credit for that. However, he did not stand by his principles and vote for the Safe Streets Act. He actually came into this House and voted against the Safe Streets Act. I would like to say to the member for Sudbury that I know it went against your grain to do that but that you were whipped to do it. There is room on this side of the House for you at any time, because your principles are our principles in this respect.
Now, the NDP voted against the Safe Streets Act too, but we expect that of the NDP. We don't expect that of you.
I do want to say that this Bill 6 is a good piece of legislation. There are amendments that need to be made. There's one that I have concerns about, that the police or the safe house may "release the child if, in the opinion of the child protection worker, the child is capable of providing for the child's own needs and safety." Had the child been capable of providing for his or her own safety, I think he or she wouldn't have been taken off the streets by the police in the first place.
Mr Dave Levac (Brant): I rise today with a great deal of pride in speaking to this bill and also a great deal of pride and respect for the member for Sudbury, contrary to what we just heard, which very much disappoints me, that we've turned child prostitution into a political agenda. I say to the member opposite that I'm very disappointed, extremely disappointed, and I know that the people in his riding would be disappointed that he took an opportunity to do such a thing. With the fact that we have children who are being affected on a daily basis and as we very well speak, it's disappointing to know that someone would take an opportunity to turn this into some type of agenda other than to protect those kids.
I would say very clearly that there are some members opposite who did take the time to offer constructive criticism, who did take the opportunity to express very clearly that they will be supporting the bill and that they would probably be making some recommendations at a later date at committee. I want to thank them for that, and I respect you for that. Yes, sir. You got it, Joe.
I want to make sure that people understand what we're talking about. A survey of youth conducted in 1998 by an outreach service organization that deals with child prostitutes gave us this information: regarding the age when they were first left at home alone, 45% of those 16 and over who were left alone have left home; 51% from the ages of 11 to 15 left home; those who have a life experience at home of serious conflicts, 63%; physical abuse, 45%; sexual abuse, 38%; those involved in CAS backgrounds, 48%; and the one that bothers me the most, 41% of those prostitutes had their first experience, their first trick, at 10 to 15 years of age, and 56% at 16 to 20. What does this point to? This points to the adults in our society who have made it their business to take advantage of and abuse our children. Mr Bartolucci's bill takes a step towards that that we want to correct the problem.
This is not the opportunity, this is not the moment, this is not the time in our history in this Legislature to try to win political points at the expense of our children. We must not, we cannot, the public doesn't want us to score political points on children. What we want to do is take the right action. This is the right action. Make the amendments, make the recommendations and move on with it.
As I stated in this House yesterday and this morning, the private member's bill needs to take on new life. We have to remove as much of the political party line as possible and move on to the legislation that speaks to the right thing.
The honourable member Mr Hastings made comment this morning, and we made those comments. I want to tell him very clearly that it was not a political issue. We spoke to the private member's bill in a way for it to move on. I want to say that yesterday, the historic moment when a committee put forward a bill, all members of this House moved as quickly as possible because it was the right thing to do.
This is the right thing to do. Our children must be protected. As the NDP member pointed out, and I agree with her, we must put our money where our mouth is. We must make the statement in this province of Ontario and I would say further, in the country of Canada that we will not tolerate the abuse of our children in any way, shape or form. I would say to you that we must not politicize it. We must make it a priority. We must make the statement in law and in process and in finance that our children must be safe.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Sudbury has two minutes to respond.
Mr Bartolucci: I would like to thank all the members of the House who took part in the debate. Certainly it was a very controlled and meaningful debate, from my perspective, and I thank you for it.
In conclusion, I would like to read from a letter that Dr Fred Mathews, who works with the Central Toronto Youth Services, wrote in support of my Bill 32, which Mr Wettlaufer referred to. He says:
"I have spent my professional life as a psychologist and social scientist advocating for the needs of high-risk youth. Young people on the street are an especially vulnerable group. They are subject to all types of hardship and violence. They are often preyed upon by unscrupulous adults who exploit these desperate young people's need to survive.
"I wholeheartedly support and endorse any and all actions that will help protect these young people and hold their abusers accountable. I believe it is up to us as a society, in the name of justice, to use any and every legal means at our disposal to protect vulnerable children and youth."
And so, my fellow parliamentarians, if you believe that children engaged in prostitution are victims of sexual abuse and require protection, and if you agree that it is the duty of the province to assist families and communities in providing that protection, and if you believe it is important for us to ensure, with unanimity, that the message to those poor, vulnerable children is loud and clear: "There is an avenue for you to explore in order to change your lifestyle and your life. If you believe," I ask you to support this legislation.