REGINA, SK - Outreach workers say the government is on the right track with a new plan to crack down on the exploitation of children in the sex trade.
The province announced legislation to crack down on 'johns' Friday. The act gives police and social workers the power to prevent people from preying on children through "Emergency Intervention Orders".
It also gives police the authority to search and seize evidence from suspicious vehicles.
Organizations working with street people call it a solid first step. "I'd say it's a very happy moment", exclaimed Jacqui Barclay.
She works with a group that devotes itself to stopping the sexual exploitation of children.
Barclay says the new measures reflect a change in attitude she's been waiting for. "This really clearly recognizes and identifies these children and youth as victims and survivors of sexual exploitation and puts the onus on looking at these adults, these sexual predators, that are sexually preying on these children and youth.
Bill Thibodeau works with EGADZ, an outreach program in Saskatoon. Thibodeau says the government's new plan is a step in the right direction. But he's not clear how it's going to deal with the underlying problems that put kids on the streets in the first place. "There is homelessness, abandonment issues, addictions, the list just goes on", says Thibodeau. "We can't forget about the kids who are neck deep in the garbage."
The provincial government has promised to set aside $300-thousand to build a safe house in Regina.
It's also setting up special intervention groups including police, school and health officials, to help get children off the streets.
Saskatchewan residents who use their cars to pick up prostitutes could be travelling on foot after April 1.
That's when the coalition government expects legislation allowing police to seize the vehicles of men charged with prostitution offences to come into effect.
Justice Minister Chris Axworthy said Thursday his department is putting the finishing touches on rules and regulations governing the vehicle seizures, which were recommended by a special committee of the legislature.
"There has to be a place for those cars to go and rules and regulations in place to ensure cars confiscated are available to those who own them and weren't using them (when the charges were laid)," Axworthy said after the throne speech was delivered.
"The rules and regulations to ensure the process is working have to be in place before the police can begin that process.
Axworthy is expected to provide more details at a news conference Monday.
Last year, the legislature's Special Committee to Prevent the Abuse and Exploitation of Children Through the Sex Trade made 49 recommendations to curb the child sex trade in Saskatchewan.
Legislation allowing police to impound the vehicles of johns and suspend the driver's licence of a person convicted was introduced last July. Government officials were unavailable Thursday to confirm whether the government will be able to sell the vehicles of perpetrators.
In Manitoba, if an offender attends a john school, the vehicle will be returned. But if a child is found in the vehicle when charges are laid, and the accused is found guilty, he doesn't get his wheels back.
In the throne speech Thursday, the government hints more legislation is on its way.
"The government's legislative response to that report (of the committee) will emphasize the accountability of perpetrators and timely intervention on behalf of the victims."
Saskatchewan Party MLA Arlene Jule, co-chair of the special committee, said she was pleased the government was moving ahead with the vehicle seizures.
"It's one of the measures we need to control child exploitation."
But Jule wants action on the committee's other recommendations, a few of which may require legislation.
The committee called for the government to give police new powers to investigate the possible abuse of children involved in the sex trade.
It also recommended a minimum mandatory fine of $25,000 for johns convicted of sexually abusing a child and a $25,000 fine for people who entice a child into prostitution. The committee said the government should proceed with the protective secure care of children on a pilot project basis.
There are an estimated 600 children under the age of 18 involved in the sex trade in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert. Most of them are aboriginal and most have been forced into prostitution.
REGINA, SK - It's a shocking scenario, but true. Children, as young as 9 years old, have been turning tricks in Regina, selling their bodies to pedophiles.
Now, there could be help for them, if a Regina woman gets her way.
Christine Deiter is turning to the community for help. She has a motor home that's been used as a temporary refuge for about 30 'regulars'. But she says what's really needed is a network of 'safe homes', where the children can go to escape the life of prostitution.
She says child prostitution is a real problem in the city. "The youngest that we've been in contact with is 9. And then they just go up from here. The youngest male we've had contact with is 14", she says.
Melinda Dubois has been a prostitute for 3 years. She agrees help is needed, but she's not sure it'll work for everyone. "Most of these girls, they're stubborn you know and they go I'm in trouble now and they'll change their minds and they'll just be back out there again. But I think it would be good for young girls."
Deiter's idea of a safe home would be similar to a foster home. The child would stay there up to 48 hours. During that time counsellors would visit, to work with the child and decide where to go next.
But Deiter says getting families to offer up their homes as safe houses is going to be hard sell. "I imagine they're worried about the risk of their children being in the house, the risk of their possessions, and maybe a pimp showing up in the night", she says.