Ontario won't fund study that pays sex offenders
Published Friday, May 4, 2007 10:41PM EDT
Ontario's Health Minister has pledged that the province will withdraw any provincial funds that may have helped pay for a study that will hire sex offenders to look at images of children.
The study will be carried out by researchers at the University of Toronto and University of Lethbridge, and will pay 250 sex offenders $60 each to view computerized images of fully dressed children.
Their responses to the pictures will be measured to help provide new insight into pedophilia.
Health Minister George Smitherman told reporters on Thursday night the government won't be supporting the study -- which has prompted an outcry from victims' rights advocates.
"I'm inherently uncomfortable with the idea that we're going to be involved in compensating, especially any individual that's incarcerated or still serving out probation or anything like that, so having heard of it I'm going to make clear with my ministry officials the inappropriateness of it from our standpoint."
The study is being conducted by the Ontario Mental Health Foundation, an independent organization that receives funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health.
Smitherman said he has asked his staff to make it clear the government is not interested in funding the study, and said he will claw back any funding used to pay for the study -- not because the research isn't valid, but because he doesn't agree with the methods.
"The (Ontario Mental Health Foundation) is very, very independent but nevertheless we have the responsibility to ensure our government resources are being invested in a way that is in keeping with what the people of Ontario would expect," Smitherman said.
The study has stirred up debate between those who believe the study could provide valuable insights into how the brains of pedophiles work, and those who offenders locked up for life.
Dr. Michael Seto, a researcher from the University of Toronto who is working on the project, said the goal is not to gauge the arousal of the participants, but to prevent abuse from happening.
"The ultimate goal of this project is to prevent the sexual abuse of children, and in order to do that as a researcher we need to have the understanding of doing the research,'' Seto told The Canadian Press.
He pointed out that like alcoholism, there is no known cure for pedophilia.
"It's more about what we can do manage that sexual preference so that it doesn't manifest in sexual offences against children,'' he said.
The study is set to receive $66,000 in funding from the Ontario Mental Health Foundation.
Carrie Kohan, who once had a convicted pedophile enter her home with the intention of grabbing her young daughter, told CP she was outraged at the premise of the study and questioned the validity of any information provided by sex offenders.
"Once they're released, that's almost like releasing someone back into the candy store -- a sugar addict back in the candy store. So it's a dangerous situation for the children," Kohan said.
"Their whole purpose, their whole crime is centred around a manipulation of lies and getting what they want. How do you trust someone whose whole criminal background is based on lies?''
John Muise, of the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness said researchers must take care not to use images that could act as "gasoline thrown on the fire" and cause the participants to re-offend.
But the bottom line, he said, is that no money should be paid to sex offenders for their services.
"I know that $60 doesn't sound like a lot of money, but $6 would be too much money and quite frankly 60 cents would be too much. We shouldn't be paying convicted sex offenders to do the very thing that titillates them, excites them."
Of the more than 180 men expected to take part, the study is to include 60 who have been charged with pornography offences but haven't had sex with a child and another 60 who have committed sexual crimes against children but haven't been charged with child pornography.
The rest would include men who have been convicted of both.