Court ruling raises grave concerns for vulnerable, homeless youth

TORONTO, ON, December 20, 2013 – The Supreme Court’s decision to allow legal prostitution could result in an escalation in child prostitution and human trafficking as it has in other countries where the sex trade is legal, according to the country’s largest homeless youth agency.

“We have grave concerns about the impact on vulnerable and homeless youth who are regularly targeted by those who force them into the sex trade,” says Bruce Rivers, Covenant House Toronto Executive Director. “Our primary concern is the protection of the young and we will be closely monitoring how the government proposes to implement and regulate this activity.”

Rivers says the experience in other countries is a grim warning. For example, in Germany, where prostitution was legalized a decade ago, human trafficking crimes have increased 70 percent and much of this involves youth. In the Netherlands, which legalized in 2000, it is estimated that child prostitution increased by more than 300 percent between 1996 and 2001.

Today’s decision “does not address the plight of those who are being sexually exploited, particularly the young,” he says.

Rivers joined other social service groups calling on the federal government to make legal changes that would penalize the buyers of sex (johns and pimps) rather than the sellers. This so-called “third way” would eliminate criminal charges against those who are sexually exploited. Instead of “re-victimizing” them in the courts, there would be more support to enable them to escape their situation.

“Homeless youth are targeted by those who prey on their desperation and vulnerability to coerce them into the sex trade where they suffer physical and emotional abuse and addictions,” Rivers said. “When they come to us, these youth are among those most in need of counselling and support to change their lives.”

Rivers estimates as many as 30 percent of the agency’s young people have been involved in some form of the sex trade – a number consistent with Canada-wide statistics. He also estimates the agency sees at least a dozen young victims of domestic and international trafficking annually. But the numbers are likely far higher as young people are often too frightened to reveal their experiences.

As the country’s largest agency for homeless youth, Covenant House provides the widest range of services under one roof to about 3,000 youth annually.

Contact: Rose Cino
Manager, Communications
(416) 204-7081

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