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This article was published 6/4/2018 (1100 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The arrest of seven "johns" and the seizure of their vehicles during a Thursday night sweep of the West End was music to the ears of a sex-trafficking opponent.
"I’m so glad these johns were apprehended and their vehicles were seized," said Joy Smith. The former teacher, MLA and MP started the Joy Smith Foundation to use education to keep Canadians safe from "manipulation, force, or abuse of power designed to lure and exploit them into the sex trade or forced labour."
"That is wonderful, and the Winnipeg police department is to be commended," she said Friday.
Officers from its counter-exploitation unit arrested seven men, ranging in age from 29 to 73, for preying on the vulnerable, the Winnipeg Police Service said.
They were all charged with obtaining sexual services for consideration, had their vehicles seized under the Highway Traffic Act, and were released on a promise to appear. Six of the accused were diverted to the "john school" program for offenders, police said.
The Salvation Army’s "prostitution offender program" caters to those "referred by the court as consumers of prostitution." It includes an intake appointment, a full-day session and a closing session.
The Highway Traffic Act says a peace officer, who on reasonable grounds believes a motor vehicle is being operated in the course of committing a specified offence related to obtaining sexual services or procuring, must seize the motor vehicle and take it into the custody of the law.
“With a lot of the johns, their families don’t know what they’re doing and there’s some explaining that has to be done”
— Joy Smith
Sending an offender to john school and seizing their vehicle chips away at their ability to sexually exploit vulnerable people, said Smith.
"John school is a good idea. You can’t get inside their heads, but it is good for them to hear from the victims, to hear their feelings," said Smith, who became aware of the plight when her son, who is a police officer, was a member of the integrated child-exploitation unit.
"They get to hear testimonies from them and about the person controlling them," Smith said. "They just think they’re being sexually serviced by a young girl and don’t stop to think what it does to the other person.
"They don’t ask what age they are, and there are a lot who are underage women, with a trafficker who controls them."
For victims of sex trafficking, "It’s paid rape, is what it is," Smith said. "It’s a horrendous life for young women who’ve gone to hell and back."
Seizing a john’s vehicle may also alert the people he lives with to what he’s been up to, she said.
"With a lot of the johns, their families don’t know what they’re doing and there’s some explaining that has to be done," said Smith.
Manitoba is one of several provinces that amended legislation to allow police to seize, impound and later sell vehicles used in picking up persons selling sexual services on the street, says the parliamentary report Prostitution in Canada: International Obligations, Federal Law, and Provincial and Municipal Jurisdiction.
In Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, legislation allows police to seize and impound vehicles used in prostitution-related offences. Vehicles will be returned if the accused is acquitted or attends a "john school" to learn about the ramifications of prostitution and its effect on victims.
In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, only first-time offenders are offered the option of attending john school, the report said. If an accused does not complete or fully comply with the john school conditions, his or her driver’s licence is suspended.
In Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, if the accused is convicted of the prostitution-related offence, they forfeit the vehicle, the report said.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
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