Ontario tells Craigslist to axe prostitution ads now
TORONTO - Craigslist was able to quickly pull prostitution-related ads from its American websites at the request of several U.S. attorneys general and should do the same in Canada, says Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley.
The province first asked the San Francisco-based company to remove the ads under its erotic services section to help fight human trafficking and child exploitation in Ontario in a Sept. 14 letter, just two weeks after Craigslist removed the ads in the United States.
Since then, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the federal government have also written the online classified ads service to ask that the prostitution ads be removed in Canada.
The company wrote back asking for a meeting with Ontario officials, which the province agreed to set up, but the Liberal government says there's no need for Craigslist to wait to remove the ads.
"You have recently expressed an interest in meeting with us, but have not yet taken any steps to implement any such protections in Canada," Bentley wrote to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster.
"The urgency to protect Ontario's most vulnerable citizens cannot hinge on a meeting, and we expect you to begin removing this content without delay."
The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the Oct. 20 letter to Buckmaster, which was also signed by Children's Minister Laurel Broten and Community Safety Minister Jim Bradley, expressing disappointment that "Craigslist has ignored the interests of Ontarians."
"We specifically recognized the steps Craigslist had taken with respect to sites servicing cities in the United States, and urged you to immediately extend the same protections to its sites serving Ontario communities," wrote the ministers.
"Your efforts in the United States clearly demonstrate that Craigslist is in a position to take concrete steps to protect the public immediately."
Despite the pleas there are still hundreds of prostitution ads listed every day on Craigslist for cities right across Canada, many with nude pictures, detailed explanations of the sexual services on offer and price lists.
Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson wrote to Craigslist last week to ask that it remove the prostitution ads because of concerns they encourage child exploitation and human trafficking.
Many weekly newspapers in Canada carry similarly explicit ads, but Nicholson said there's a difference.
"It seems to me with Craigslist there's no regulation at all as to what goes on," he said.
"With respect to newspapers, there are editors who, I'm sure, take the precautions to make sure they're not getting into the business of child exploitation or human trafficking."
In her letter to Craigslist last month, Alberta Justice Minister Alison Redford said the prostitution ads "appear to be thinly-veiled cover for human trafficking," and help support a "despicable" crime.
Craigslist did not respond Thursday to requests from The Canadian Press to give its side of the story or offer reasons for the delay in removing the prostitution ads in Canada.