VANCOUVER -- Canada's sex-tourism law could face a major legal test if federal authorities try to bring home a B.C. fugitive accused of raping children in Asia.
Christopher Paul Neil, from Vancouver-area Maple Ridge, is currently the subject of an international manhunt after Interpol released a photo last week of a man bearing his likeness in connection with the rape of a dozen boys in Thailand and Cambodia.
Neil, a private-school teacher who once aspired to be a Catholic priest, is believed to be hiding out in Thailand.
Should the hunt result in his arrest, Neil could become the first Canadian to be extradited under the country's sex-tourism legislation.
"It's uncharted territory," said Supt. Earla-Kim McColl, who's in charge of the RCMP National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre in Toronto.
On Wednesday, immigration police at 54 Thai border posts were ordered to keep a close watch for Neil - who is also wanted on a separate warrant in which he's accused of paying a 14-year-old Thai boy for oral sex. Police were scouring tourist hangouts for the 32-year-old, after he was caught on camera at Bangkok airport arriving from Seoul last week.
Meanwhile, a Canadian expert on human trafficking said Canada should be stationing police in Southeast Asian countries to combat the growing number of Canadian tourists who visit for the purpose of sexually abusing children.
"The Australian federal police have placed officers in their various embassies, and it's time we did the same," University of B.C. assistant law professor Benjamin Perrin said Wednesday.
"We've known for years that Canadian pedophiles essentially operate with impunity in countries such as Cambodia and Vietnam."
Canadian legislation was changed in June 2002 to make it a crime in Canada for persons to have sex overseas with children, with less than impressive results, Perrin said.
"Until now we've only had one Canadian convicted under our child-sex-tourism law and charges are pending against another. The RCMP needs additional resources to station liaison officers in child-sex-tourism hot spots to enforce our laws and protect children," said Perrin.
Donald Bakker was the first person to be convicted under Canada's sex tourism law when he pleaded guilty in June 2005, and was sentenced to 10 years in jail for crimes involving prostitutes in Vancouver and seven children in Cambodia.
Earlier this year, Burnaby art dealer Kenneth Robert Klassen was charged with 35 counts involving girls as young as nine in Cambodia, Colombia and the Philippines. He has pleaded not guilty.
In 2001, Perrin founded The Future Group, an organization to combat human trafficking, which operates the website youwillbecaught.com, where people can post information on suspected child-sex tourists.
More than 100 tips received on the website have been passed to various police authorities and have resulted in convictions in other countries, including a U.S. resident, said Perrin.
"When you break down the economics, you find it is being driven by foreign businessmen, and while they only represent a small number compared to the local men who use sex slaves, they are the ones who make it most profitable," he said.
"If you take the trafficking involving girls between the ages of eight and 18, you will find that virgins are being sold to tourists for between $300 to $700 US a week. They want virgins because of the fear of contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases," he said.
"A week later, these children are sold for $100 to $200 US a week or from $20 to $50 a night. By the end of a month that child will be sold for $1 an encounter," he said.
"It's foreign sex tourists paying the top-end price that is driving human trafficking. They are the ones paying the largest number of dollars and they are the ones that are making this profitable," he said.
Perrin said Canada passed laws against child sex tourism 10 years ago, but doesn't pursue the issue overseas unless information is unearthed in Canada that could lead to prosecution.
Source: The Vancouver Sun