Opinion Column

Canada should focus help on young exploited people

Leo Knight Prime Time Crime columnist 24 hours (PHOTO SUBMITTED).

By Leo Knight, Law and Order, 24 hours Vancouver



Last week’s column sparked much discussion about the problems facing Parliament as politicians look for new ideas on prostitution to comply with the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to strike down three existing laws.

Some of the discussion was ideologically inane and filled with rhetorical nonsense. But much of it was thoughtful and relevant.

Polls seem to indicate a majority of Canadians favour the legalization of prostitution. That seems to be driving the federal government as it gives signs it favours the so-called Nordic model. That system — used in such countries as Sweden, Norway and Iceland — makes prostitution legal, but criminalizes those who would do business with sex trade workers.

While that may be palatable to many, one is left wondering how that model would comply with the court’s decision? How legitimizing the sale of sex, but criminalizing the purchase of it, would do anything to positively affect the security of sex trade workers is not immediately apparent.

One of the sections struck down by the court was the section outlawing living off the avails of prostitution. Typically this was used to prosecute pimps or bawdy house madams. The court argued this prevented sex workers from hiring bodyguards, drivers or even accountants. But in doing so the court opened the door to the exploitation of the young and vulnerable.

In Vancouver there are several classes of sex workers. There are the high-end call girls and escorts who primarily ply their trade by advertising on a myriad of websites. At the other end of the spectrum are street walkers driven by drug addiction. They have few prospects of getting out of that life due to their condition.

In between are the massage parlours to which everyone turns a blind eye.

All of these are essentially already decriminalized in reality, if not legislatively. But the category the police are especially concerned about are the young ones who are seduced and then exploited by the most vile of people. In December 2013, after a two-month project, York Regional Police laid 120 charges against a human trafficking ring.

The girls were between the ages of 14 and 19 and had been coerced into the sex business through threats, intimidation and drugs. These weren’t exploited immigrant women. These were local girls, some runaways who were seduced by their tormenters then turned out.

There is no moral equivalency in any of the discussion to justify or legitimize their situation. The people who exploit them are evil. That, to me, is where the debate should be focused.

Leo Knight is a former police officer, security expert and host of primetimecrime.com. Comment at Vancouver.24hrs.ca/opinion.


Should Parliament choose the Nordic model to change Canada’s prostitution laws?

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