Upper chamber would be ideal for study of prostitution laws, says ex-police chief


OTTAWA – When Ottawa police officers began focusing their arrest efforts on johns instead of prostitutes two years ago, they were trying out an approach that would wind up at the centre of a vigorous national debate.

They found weapons such as a gun and a Taser, bondage materials and date-rape drugs on some of the 205 men arrested in the sweeps since 2012. At the time, police were searching for suspects in the murders of at least two prostitutes.

“We were trying to (tell) them, look, we don’t want you in the dark alleys either, so hopefully they would have some opportunity to be in a safer environment … but at the same time we weren’t going to give up on johns,” said former Ottawa police chief Vern White, now a Conservative senator.

The approach mirrors the so-called Nordic model — Swedish and Norwegian strategies that criminalize the purchase of sex, rather than the sale, and uses social programs to encourage sex workers to leave the business.

Diverse groups and individuals, including Conservative MP Joy Smith, have called on the federal government to adopt that model in the wake of the Supreme Court decision last month that struck down Canada’s prostitution laws.

Other groups, particularly those that represent sex-trade workers, oppose the criminalization of any party involved in the exchange of sexual services, arguing it keeps the practice in the unsafe shadows.

New Zealand is sometimes held up as an alternative model. Prostitution there has been largely decriminalized, although restrictions on minors working in brothels remain in place.

White said he’s pleased that the country is finally talking about how to approach prostitution. He said the Nordic model has merit, but might need to be altered — to ensure the prostitution of minors remains illegal, for instance.

“I think it does force us to have a serious discussion around, is there a ‘Nordic model-plus’ that’s out there, are there other options available to us?” said White.

“I do think it’s a healthy discussion for us to have and I do think we’ll have to come up with something in the next few months to help us deal with this.”

White said the Senate would be an ideal venue for a comprehensive study of Canada’s prostitution laws.

“I do agree that with the amount of research that’s done with those committees, as we saw with (the) human rights (committee) on cyberbullying, I think there would be a real opportunity to do some work,” he said.

“It would have to be done a little more quickly than usual, you’d have to really crank it out this spring, so I certainly think the Senate would welcome that opportunity if the minister (of justice) engaged with us to do that.”

Fred Chabot, vice-chair of the board of Prostitutes of Ottawa/Gatineau Work, Educate, Resist (POWER), said her organization is hoping any parliamentary study or consultation involves actual sex-trade workers.

She said the group and the women it represents are opposed to the Nordic model because they feel it actually makes life more dangerous for prostitutes.

“If you criminalize one part in the exchange of money for sexual services, what happens is that once again you have an industry that is pushed into the margins, pushed into dark areas, in places where there is less chance of police supervision — alleyways, parking lots,” Chabot said.

“If clients are criminalized, sex workers — especially street-based sex workers, which are at higher risk of violence — will jump in the car right away.”

Filed under:

Upper chamber would be ideal for study of prostitution laws, says ex-police chief

  1. Could also outsource what the senate does for about 1/1000th the costs. And be more effective as the senate has no accountability in money or performance or costs.

    I guess now we are going to get government sponsored propaganda to sell us on keeping the utter useless senate and government bloat.

    Abolishing the senate is so simple even Ottawa might get it right. Keep on supporting the abolishment of the senate waste. If any sane person had the option to avoid paying for this useless bunch, they would be unemployed from their 6 digit salaries, platinum perks and part time lazy jobs of bloat and consumption of other peoples money.

  2. Of age and consensual prostitution is no crime. I agree under age, forced and drug sponsored prostitution should remain a crime. But by making prostitution legal, the prostitutes can report the drugs and under age parts to the cops without being busted themselves. Hey, a honest prostitute doesn’t want the competition from the immoral side and can help cops, if the cops were force to pull their heads out of the easy bust or posterity mentality.

    It would force LE to not go after easy targets, but go after the real criminals of pimps using drugs and under age. Best way to eliminate organized crime is make the consentual of age part 100% legal and it will in time cripple the criminal element of the business.

    Cops support it as if stuff like marijuana, prostitutes and making your own booze were all legal, we would need as many cops, not as many parasite lawyers, not as many over paid prosecutors, not as many excessively paid judges, not as many union jail keepers and less taxing to support it all.

    Always evaluate motivation behind all statements. Having a cop support senate and legal bloat is self serving as it also justifies police statism mentality.

  3. Was the ex-chief being ironic?

Sign in to comment.