We do have laws in place. I'd like to see the definition of trafficking brought into line with the definition in the Palermo protocol. It's easy to arrest men for buying sex, but we have the Vancouver Police Department that has a stated policy that they won't enforce the law, that they're not going to enforce that provision in section 286.1, and they've encouraged other police departments in British Columbia to adopt the same approach. I don't understand it. We don't have to go to Sweden for a model. We can look to King County in Washington state, which has done excellent work using technology to target the most prolific johns and bring criminal sanctions against them without ever involving the women.
We have the tools at our disposal, but we have no will. You can keep ratcheting up the punishment all you want. If there's no enforcement and no convictions, that's the problem. It's the failure to enforce that is the issue. I think ratcheting up the punishment actually makes convictions less likely. We saw that when the penalties went way up for purchasing girls under age. We saw men arguing mistake of age, that they thought she was older, and they were being acquitted. I think there's a reluctance to impose those stiff penalties.
I've been to the john school a number of times in Toronto when it existed. It was a very interesting process in which men were diverted out of the criminal justice system. They did this day of training and paid a fine that went to an organization called Streetlight, which I don't think exists anymore.
It's an interesting model, but it is a model in which there is no criminal conviction, in which there is no criminal record, leaving aside the issue of punishment. When the men there were asking questions about what would happen or what wouldn't happen if they weren't there, that's what they were afraid of. They were afraid of the accountability of a public criminal conviction that other people would find out about. That was the deterrent—not the person who came in to talk about sexually transmitted diseases, not the woman who had been in prostitution who came in to talk about how she had been abused as a child and how she had ended up there. What they cared about was that their families might find out, that they might not be able to cross the border to the U.S.
So I know. The studies we have show that's the biggest deterrent, some kind of public criminal accountability for this behaviour. It doesn't need to be attached to a severe punishment, but it does have to be public.