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More shelters sought

Needed for young sex-trade workers

Friday, June 5, 2009

By: Chris Kitching, Sun Media

Manitoba needs more safe places geared to sexually exploited youths when they don't have any supports at home and want to get off the streets, a panel of experts said yesterday.

There are several places youths, mostly girls, can turn to but only one specializes in care for girls under 18 who are involved in the sex trade.

It's a six-bed shelter operated by Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata but its waiting list is so long some girls wait for years, become adults and never get a spot.

Since the shelter opened in 2003, it has been unable to accommodate 106 documented referrals, said Jackie Anderson, the agency's child-in-care co-ordinator.

"We certainly need a lot more safe places where they can go," Anderson told an audience of about 50 people at the legislature.

The shelter has taken in 46 girls in its six years, some for a few days and others for a few years, Anderson said. Some arrive at 13 or 14. They stay as long as they want but must leave when they turn 18.

The shelter provides resources such as counselling and cultural lessons -- many of the girls are aboriginal -- and refers them to outside agencies for addictions treatment and other help, Anderson said.

Anderson made the remarks during a panel discussion held by the Association Promoting Awareness of Child Sex Exploitation in Manitoba, which formed after the murder of Fonessa Bruyere in 2007.

Anderson was joined by city police Insp. Bill Fogg and Beyond Borders president Roz Prober, discussing everything from prevention and intervention to penalties for child predators and how to change public opinion to create a zero-tolerance society.

Society must get away from words such as "hooker" and "prostitute" because they normalize behaviour of predators and don't portray the youths as victims, Anderson said.
Copyright © 2009, The Winnipeg Sun.