CBC News was “irresponsible” to report on government-commissioned research into sexual exploitation in the province, says the minister responsible for the Women’s Policy Office.
In fact, Charlene Johnson told reporters Tuesday that even acknowledging the existence of a report causes potential harm to public safety.
“The risk is already elevated because CBC has put this out there,” Johnson said. “We don’t want to elevate it any further.”
Johnson was reacting to this CBC Investigates story.
The minister says the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary advised against releasing the report, and they are the experts on public safety.
“Unfortunately, the reporter went against that advice,” Johnson said. “And I have to say, in my view, this was completely irresponsible. These people, by being involved in the industry, are at risk, just by the sheer nature of the potential of being sexually exploited. Having these recommendations, or pieces of the report, out there now, elevates that level of risk.”
Johnson was accompanied at a media availability by RNC Deputy Chief Bill Janes.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the contents of the report put vulnerable people who are involved in the sex trade at additional risk,” Janes said.
“I will say that every question I answer puts more information into the public domain, which provides more information to those who could potentially do harm to others.”
The 120-page report, titled "It's Nobody's Mandate and Everyone's Responsibility: Sexual Exploitation and the Sex Trade in Newfoundland and Labrador,” was completed nearly 2-1/2 years ago.
Janes says referencing the fact that researchers interviewed people in the sex trade three years ago for a study on exploitation is harmful to the public.
“We looked at this very carefully,” Janes said. “We’re a very open organization, the RNC, in terms of providing information out to the public, but we have to weigh that against public safety.”
CBC News made an editorial decision to only publish 10 pages of excerpts from the report dealing with generic information about recommendations to address the issue.
Asked why the government couldn’t redact sensitive information, but release other parts of the report, Johnson said: “You’re missing the whole point. The whole point is that, by even saying that we’re doing a piece of work around this, will cause potential harm to these people involved. That’s the whole point.”
The minister says the government has acted on many of the recommendations made by authors of the 2011 study.
“It has been suggested that this report has been shelved,” Johnson said. “That is not true. There has been a lot of work done since the report has come in.”