Ottawa tougher with pimps

Pimps will now have more difficult life. On June 21, two sections of Federal Act C-452, designed to discourage sex work, came into effect. The burden of proof will now rest on the shoulders of pimps, and assets acquired with the money of their crimes may be seized. This law passed unanimously in 2015 will remain on the ice for four years, before being partially implemented. Interview with Maria Mourani, former member of the Bloc Québécois and president of Mourani-Criminologie, who tabled this law in 2012.
Q How do you describe the stage that Canada has just taken in the fight against sexual exploitation?

A It’s been a long time since the police, the victims and their parents were waiting for these items. For them, it’s a blessing. I sent emails to a number of people who worked on the file with me, and there was a parent who said, “Finally, I will be able to file a complaint against my daughter’s pimp.” It will help the victims, who will no longer have to testify at the courthouse. We will avoid this judicial burden and this stigmatization. And that will allow families whose daughters do not want to report because they are in love with their pimp or because they are afraid of it, to do it anyway. There is more “pogne” to catch them.

Why was the onus shifted on pimps?

A Because human trafficking is a crime for which it is very difficult to collect evidence. I see it on the ground. It takes much more investigation with spinning, wiretapping to have proof that the person is forced to prostitute herself, that she is beaten. When the girl was over 18, it was even more difficult. With the reversal of evidence, the police will be able to investigate even if they do not have the testimony of the victim. It will be up to the trafficker to show that he is not guilty. The judge will ask him to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he is innocent.

The fact that the police will be able to confiscate the fruits of this crime, does it hit him hard?

R Absolutely. If we apply the law as it should, it will be a heavy blow to pimps. We will be able to confiscate everything, as for drug traffickers. We are dealing with a great injustice that has been going on for too long. Drug traffickers, when convicted, get their property confiscated. But this was not the case for those who traffic human beings. It was an aberration of the system that was settled. Prostitution and sexual exploitation pay so much that street gang members forsake drug trafficking for human trafficking. Now, I really hope that the money that will be confiscated serves two purposes: to help girls and boys who come out of prostitution and to fund other pimping investigations.

What more should be done?

A There must be heavier sentences. This section of Bill C-452 only calls for a government decree to be implemented and I hope that the government that will be elected this fall will do so quickly. At present, the person who is convicted of procuring will often have several charges against him, but he will only serve the heaviest sentence. It should be consecutive sentences. If we add the sentences, it will send a very important message.

Why has Quebec become a hub of sexual exploitation?

RThere are several factors, but the main one is the trivialization of prostitution. We do not denounce the customers who buy sexual services. We live in an incredible incoherence in Quebec. We have a law since 2014 that allows to stop prostitution clients, but those who are arrested, it is a half-drop of water in the ocean. What are we waiting for to take action against clients in Quebec? From the moment the client is not afraid to be arrested and is not afraid for his reputation, remorse goes away. He has the impression of contributing to the economy and helping this poor girl to make money. Except that it is pure exploitation. And there is also Quebec’s reputation in North America. Many American and Ontario tourists come here for “beautiful girls”.

What should the Special Commission on the Sexual Exploitation of Minors, which will begin its work this fall in the National Assembly, do?

A Federal change in the Criminal Code is the tip of the iceberg. The real work in the field is the province and the municipalities that have to do it. It takes a global strategy. If the police shut down an erotic massage parlor, he pushed a few blocks away, with a city permit in due form. Everything is in silos too. We must also understand this crime to better treat it, and it is up to the government to do that. We have had major awareness campaigns on domestic violence or drinking and driving. I’m waiting for a campaign on sexual exploitation. Mindsets are the hardest things to change.

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