Child sex trafficking and the possibility of regulating pornography in North Cowichan will be the subject of an upcoming discussion at a future meeting of council.
Council made the decision after a presentation by Cathy Peters at its meeting on March 17.
Peters, a former inner-city high school teacher who has worked with police forces across the Lower Mainland to stop human sex trafficking and participated in a number of federal roundtables on the issue, recently launched a stop sexual exploitation campaign in B.C. and is talking to municipal councils, MPs, MLAs and police forces across the province about what they can do.
“Sexual exploitation for the purpose of prostitution is the fastest growing crime in the world, and it’s right here in B.C.,” she said.
“Statistics show that 13 is the average age for recruitment for prostitution, and it’s much younger for indigenous girls who make up 54 per cent of girls and women in the sex industry. I call it the worst case of systemic racism in the country and the province. About 95 per cent of those women and girls in the industry want to leave, so it’s not a job or a choice for them.”
Peters said that through her campaign, she’s raising awareness about the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, which became law in 2014, so that police will enforce the law and people will understand it.
She said the law has three parts; the first targets the pimps and the buyers of sex by criminalizing them, the second recognizes that sellers of sex are victims and are not to be criminalized, and the third is to provide exit strategies to assist victims that want to get out of the trade.
“Unfortunately, we don’t do any of these well in B.C.,” Peters said.
Peters said pornography is also fuelling the sex industry and is creating a market for sexual exploitation.
She said council can be helpful in trying to deal with the problem.
“You can train your business-licence managers what to look for when granting licences in North Cowichan,” she said.
“You have control of the types of businesses that are active in the community. Unregulated massage and body rub parlours, model agencies, escort services [and a number of other businesses] can be typical covers for sex trafficking and exploitation. Council should be aware that no community is immune from this.”
Insp. Chris Bear, head of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment who attended the Zoom meeting on unrelated business, said the local police are aware that this type of activity is occurring in North Cowichan.
“We do have our crimes-against-persons section that is involved with trying to deal with it,” he said.
“[Peters’ campaign] is a worthwhile venture and we look forward to building more bridges and looking more seriously at this.”
Council then passed the motion to hold a discussion on child sex trafficking and the possibility of regulating pornography in North Cowichan at a future meeting.
But Mayor Al Siebring said he has a friend who has been working on the issue at the federal level for six years.
“He’s had a hell of a time, so I can’t imagine what we can be do at the municipal level,” he said.