The Liberal critic for youth and family services says he doesn't understand why the provincial government calls a report on sexual exploitation and the sex trade a risk to public safety.

CBC Investigates obtained a copy of the controversial report, which the province commissioned 2-1/2 years ago, but never released.

Charlene Johnson, the minister responsible for the Women's Policy Office, and RNC Deputy Chief Bill Janes told reporters on Tuesday that even acknowledging the sheer existence of a report causes harm to public safety.

Andrew Parsons said the secrecy around the topic doesn't make sense.

"[Tuesday's press conference] seems to indicate that, no, you should be quiet and not say these things, and keep quiet," he said.

"It's almost perpetuating the myth and the prejudice that's out there by saying to people, 'Be quiet.'"

Parsons said it's a missed opportunity for change.

"It's too sensitive to release about mentoring programs? I mean, we can't talk about these things?" he asked.

"I understand obviously the importance of protecting informants, protecting the game plan as they move forward. But there's a lot of stuff in this report that should be made available to the public."

'Their logic is backwards'

Sex work researcher Laura Winters said she also doesn't understand government's treatment of the leaked report.

"The logic of their argument is really backwards," she said.

Sex work researcher Laura Winters

Laura Winters says it's a missed opportunity for government to work on tackling this issue with partners from the community. (CBC)

"They say that the police were involved at the initial stages of this. If that was the case and they felt like it was such a threat to the safety of those involved, why did they interview them in the first place? The actual interview is where the real risk is. It's not in the report coming out."

For Winters, there's a sense of loss.

"The really ironic thing is that one of the recommendations was around community-government partnerships, and I think that's extremely important. In order to really tackle this issue, it needs to come from all angles. And the research report was a community-government partnership report – it would have been a great starting point for the government and community to start tackling this together," she said.

"I think there's a real missed opportunity there on behalf of government to really tackle this issue with partners from the community who I think are the experts – they're working on the front lines with these people."