Calgary’s chief of police is applauding the federal government’s proposed prostitution legislation as a balanced approach.

Bill C-36 would make the purchase of sexual services a criminal offence and prohibit the selling of sexual services in public spaces where anyone under the age of 18 could be present.

It would also criminalize the advertising of sexual services in print or online, and take aim at anyone who receives “a material benefit” from prostitution.  

Rick Hanson said on the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday that the Conservative government’s tough new stance against prostitution is the right strategy.

“I believe that they did find the balance,” he said.

Hanson said the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act acknowledges that most people who enter the sex trade do so because they have been abused, suffer from addictions or are victims of human trafficking.

“I’ve never talked to a boy or a girl who said, ‘Yeah, when I grow up I want to be a hooker,’” he said.

Hanson said he is pleased the bill would crack down on street-level prostitution where children could be present.

“What community wants the message sent to young people that prostitution is OK?”

Calgary prostitution report released

As many as 3,000 prostitutes work in the sex trade in Calgary, according to a report prepared for city council that was released this week.

Prostitutes found to be selling sex in public places would face fines under the new legislation in most cases, Justice Minister Peter MacKay said.

But the bill proposes tough penalties for pimps and johns — including five-year prison terms, 10 years in cases involving minors.

The proposed legislation is the government's response to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in December that found the country's prostitution laws were unconstitutional, partly because they put sex trade workers in danger by barring them from communicating with clients.

Some sex-trade workers and their advocates say the new legislation, which goes even further, will force prostitutes into the shadows, making their work more dangerous.

Hanson said it’s not yet clear how aggressively Calgary police will be able to enforce the proposed ban on advertising sexual services.

And it’s very likely the legislation will be challenged in court, he said.

“There’s going to be a whole lot of lawyers getting rich over the next few years,” he said.