New prostitution bill focus of round-table talks in London
Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay was in London on Wednesday to hold a round-table discussion about community safety.
The focus though was on Bill C-36, Canada's new proposed prostitution legislation.
MacKay, along with London North Centre MP Susan Truppe and London West MP Ed Holder, were on hand to answer questions and hear feedback about the controversial new legislation.
MacKay referred to a visit a year ago saying he is seeking further input after "We received some tremendous feedback on the victims' bill of rights and...for that reason I know London is a very engaged, active community, you have tremendous organizations, support groups here that work with victims."
The new legislation focuses on going after those who purchase sex, not the ones selling it - unless it's taking place in a area where children could be present.
But not everyone agrees with the new laws, with some critics saying this will force prostitution underground - something that could compromise safety.
That's something Megan Walker of the London Abused Women's Centre doesn't agree with.
"I think those are unfounded criticisms - there's nothing in this bill for instance that's going to push prostitution underground or into back alleys. It's just not going to happen."
The minister has been conducting feedback sessions since the legislation was first introduced.
Walker travelled to Ottawa to discuss the bill in committee in early July, and says she is hopeful.
"I feel really optimistic...I don't think everybody agrees with the London Abused Women's Centre, but what is essential is that we place the lives of women and children at the forefront."
So far, the government has pledged $20 million to help women leave the industry. It's a number critics say is too low, but MacKay says the programs have room for expansion.
"We have to start somewhere - $20 million is a significant amount of money to start."
The government is trying to fast-track the legislation to pass it ahead of a December deadline set by the Supreme Court.