Nfld. & Labrador

Sex trade report from 2011 finally approved for release

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is releasing a 2011 report into the province's sex trade — a report that officials previously insisted would endanger vulnerable people if anyone even knew it existed.

Province, RNC had previously insisted that even acknowledging its existence put people in danger

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is releasing a 2011 report into the province's sex trade — a report that officials previously insisted would endanger vulnerable people if anyone even knew it existed. 4:29

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is releasing a 2011 report into the province's sex trade — a report that officials previously insisted would endanger vulnerable people if anyone even knew it existed.

Two years ago, the province and police castigated CBC News for reporting on a leaked copy of the document.

At the time, CBC News made an editorial decision to publish only 10 pages of generic recommendations, suggestions for legislative action, and commentary about the importance of accountability from the report, believing it to be in the public interest to do so.

In response, politicians and the police accused the broadcaster of putting sex-trade workers in danger.

Now the majority of the report is posted online, after information and privacy commissioner Ed Ring concluded the province "has not provided detailed and convincing evidence that all this information meets the harms test."

The commissioner launched an investigation after receiving a complaint from the Opposition Liberals.

New report to be commissioned

The police and politicians saw no contradiction in their comments two years ago, and their decision to release the report — and talk about it — on Thursday.

In fact, the minister responsible for the status of women, Susan Sullivan, said the province will commission a new study on sexual exploitation issues.

"We'll go forward and we will do another report," Sullivan told reporters at Confederation Building.

The 2011 report - titled "It's Nobody's Mandate and Everyone's Responsibility: Sexual Exploitation and the Sex Trade in Newfoundland and Labrador" - was commissioned and paid for by the province, and then locked away. (CBC)

"It will be written in a way in which it can be released at the end of the day."

Two years ago, Sullivan's predecessor, Charlene Johnson, said even discussing such research endangered vulnerable women, and noted that CBC News was "completely irresponsible" for doing so.

"The risk is already elevated because CBC has put this out there," Johnson said at the time. "We don't want to elevate it any further."

In fact, Johnson flatly rejected the idea of releasing a redacted version of the 2011 report, titled It's Nobody's Mandate and Everyone's Responsibility.

"You're missing the whole point," she said. "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."

'Puts more people at risk'

At the time, Bill Janes, the then-deputy chief of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, echoed Johnson's concerns.

"What happens is that the people who are involved in human trafficking, the people who are involved in the controlling of people who are involved in the sex trade, they became aware that we are doing research, they become aware that we are doing interviews," Janes said in 2013.

"Again, I'm giving more information, which again puts more people at risk."

Janes added: "Every question I answer puts more information into the public domain, which provides more information to those who could potentially do harm to others."

Janes, who is now chief of the RNC, said Thursday there is "consistency" between those comments and the current decision to release the report, and hold a media availability to discuss it.

"What happens now with the passage of time is that the relevance of the information changes, and the privacy commissioner is still indicating that there is a risk to individuals if parts of this report are released," Janes told reporters.

"There's some consistency there. The difference is about how much information should be released."

The province says any new study will be done in a way so that knowledge of the research will not put anyone in danger.

'Good day today'

The Opposition Liberals said the release of the report is good news for the "brave" women who participated in the research.

"I think it's a good day today," Liberal MHA Lisa Dempster said. "I think it's good for these women involved."

Dempster cited a part of the report that notes it's not enough to be compassionate, that action is necessary.

"It's hard to act when you don't know the full detail," she said.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.