Last week I wrote a post about Toronto councillor Giorgio Mammoliti’s proposal to create a red light district on Toronto Island. You can read it here. As promised, here is my letter to the Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, regarding Mammoliti’s proposal.
*Update: Mayor Ford’s response below!*
Dear Mayor Rob Ford,
My name is Michelle Brock and I am a documentary film maker and writer at www.hopeforthesold.com, a blog about sex trafficking. I am also an Ontario resident. I recently had several concerned readers contact me in regard to Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti’s proposal of having a red light district on Toronto Island. From what I understand, Mammoliti is currently preparing a report on the matter, which he plans to bring to your attention sometime this spring.
Though regulating brothels would provide the city with some tax revenue, I would like to present you with the negative consequences of a regulated, legal prostitution industry. The proposed location adds its own set of repercussions.
Amsterdam is often heralded as an example of how a government can regulate the prostitution industry. Though the Amsterdam government had thought legalization and regulation would make organized crime easier to control and women safer within the industry, the opposite has proven true.
In 2003, a mere 3 years after the brothel ban was lifted, the City Council realized their actions had invited Nigerian and Estonian criminal groups into the area. Because legalization increased demand for paid sex and men from all over the world flocked to the region, human traffickers saw an opportunity to fill the supply side. Trafficking comes in threes – people, drugs, and guns – and the mayor of Amsterdam has called their decision to legalize an abysmal failure. The city is now back tracking by shutting down big sections of the red light district.
Project SECLUSION in Canada has found human trafficking suspects to be linked to other organized criminal activites such as conspiracy to commit murder, credit card fraud, mortgage fraud, immigration fraud, and organized prostitution, in Canada or abroad. We do not want more of these people flocking to Toronto.
Once demand for paid sex begins to increase, it will be impossible to contain it to an island. Illegal brothels, massage parlours, and strip clubs would spring up in other parts of Toronto as well. Following legalization in Victoria, Australia, illegal establishments quickly outnumbered legal ones at a rate of three and four to one. Escort services out of private residences and hotels are becoming the new mode of prostitution, which is almost impossible to regulate.
I understand that if Justice Himel’s ruling to strike down prostitution laws stands up to the appeal, you will be in the difficult position of having to make decisions about regulating such an industry in Toronto. To avoid this position, I would encourage you to speak up against the legalization movement. If the ruling does stand up however, I strongly advise you, on behalf of the anti-trafficking community, not to accept Mammoliti’s proposal of creating a red light district on Toronto Island. Though legalized prostitution would itself increase demand for paid sex, a sex island would increase it even more dramatically due to its novelty. Because demand for paid sex is an opportunity for human traffickers and pimps to provide supply, a red light district to increase tax revenue is not a wise move.
In contrast to legalization or full decriminalization of prostitution, Sweden’s approach has significantly cut down human trafficking levels. It has criminalized the purchase of sex while decriminalizing the selling of it. Women are offered exit programs. This has decreased demand for paid sex, reducing monetary incentives for traffickers to set up shop. Because its success has encouraged other countries to adopt it, this approach is now known as the “Nordic Model.” This is the direction we should be headed.
The costs outweigh the benefits when a regulated red light district becomes a tourist attraction. Tax revenue is not worth it in the long run when organized crime sees an opportunity to make money too.
I hope this gives you some points to think about regarding Mammoliti’s proposal. Thank you for your service and dedication to Toronto. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or want more information!
***UPDATE: Response from Mayor Rob Ford***
Thank you for sharing your thoughts about a Toronto Island red light district.
Councillor Mammoliti has said publicly he believes that if there were to be a “red light district” established in the City of Toronto, it should be on Toronto Island. This is an issue the Councillor has brought up in the past, and the idea is his own. I personally do not support the idea of brothels or a red light district being built on Toronto Island.
Thank you again for taking the time to express your comments and concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact my office at any time.
Yours truly, Mayor Rob Ford, City of Toronto
This is GREAT news! Thank you Mayor Ford for responding so quickly. We are delighted to hear that you do not support Mammoliti’s proposal.
To HFTS readers, you can still write a letter to Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti to inform him of the dark side of a ‘regulated’ red light district on Toronto Island. Â His contact information can be found here.