PACE continues the push to educate people who have attempted to pay for sex following a recent three-day investigation into the sex trade in Grande Prairie and the County of Grande Prairie. The operation resulted in solicitation charges against 37 men, which is the most recorded in one sting since 2017.
A one-day Sex Trade Offender Program or “John School” course is offered to first-time offenders charged with solicitation which could include some of the 37 people recently charged. It is taught by police, therapists, lawyers, and former sex workers.
“The concept is one of education and providing participants with a real sense of the impact that their choices have on individuals and families and communities, says STOP Coordinator Buffy MacIntosh.
The program was launched in 2018 following the arrests of 35 people the previous year in a four-day investigation into sex trade activities downtown. Those numbers dropped to 19 in 2018 and then 11 last year.
MacIntosh says John School is an Alternative Measures Program that is part of the Criminal Justice System. It is designed for individuals who have no criminal record and has some rules for those who take it.
“If they participate in the STOP program there are conditions around their participation and completion of the program. If they don’t successfully complete the program then they still have to return to court and face their charges and if they successfully complete the program and they are rearrested there’s no opportunity for them to take the program again.”
In Canada, it is legal to sell sex but not buy it. However, it’s also illegal to advertise sexual services, which can lead to potentially dangerous miscommunication between workers and johns.
In order to offer some help for workers, Northreach Society does provide items like feminine hygiene products, harm reduction supplies like condoms and naloxone for opioid overdoses. They can also help workers get warm clothes and a hot meal.
STOP courses are run a few times a year. Anyone who may be concerned about possible sex work going on in their neighbourhood is asked to report a John on the city’s website.
Note: A previous version of this article listed a Report-A-John phone number. The number is no longer in service as the system has moved online as listed above.