TORONTO - Ontario says it's only fair that the online service Craigslist stop carrying ads for prostitutes in the province under its erotic services section, just as it has done in the United States.

Three Ontario cabinet ministers signed a Sept. 14 letter to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster applauding the service for agreeing to requests from attorneys general south of the border to shut down links to prostitution-related ads.

The Ontario ministers noted the website has not taken similar action in Canadian cities, where there are still hundreds of ads offering sex in exchange for money.

"While we applaud Craigslist for the conscientious response to the requests for assistance from our American colleagues, it has come to our attention that at present, none of these initiatives have been taken with Craigslist sites serving Canadian cities," the letter reads.

"We respectfully ask that Craigslist immediately take the same initiatives with its sites serving Ontario. This is a simple matter of fairness."

Ontario residents deserve the same protections extended to those accessing Craigslist sites in the United States, added the letter, which was signed by Attorney General Chris Bentley, Youth Services Minister Laurel Broten and Community Safety Minister Jim Bradley.

The province said Buckmaster has not responded to the province's month-old request, but an email from a public relations firm hired by Craigslist said their Canadian lawyer had responded to the province.

"Craigslist will continue to support the efforts of law enforcement in Ontario and all of Canada," said Susan MacTavish-Best. She did not say whether or not Craigslist would shut down its erotic services section in Canadian cities.

Craigslist agreed to shut down its adult services section in the United States after an open letter signed by 17 attorneys general, and after two young women sent another open letter to Craigslist founder Craig Newmark saying they had been sold for sex through Craigslist.

The open letter from the states argued that Craigslist should shut down adult services to "end the misery for the women and children who may be exploited and victimized by these ads."

The American attorneys general said that illegal ads on Craigslist created a "virtual certainty that someone will be victimized."

Benjamin Perrin, author of "Invisible Chains: Canada's Underground World of Human Trafficking," said Tuesday that street gangs are behind many organized prostitution rings across the country.

They bring in girls and young women from around the world — or other Canadian cities — to work in the sex trade, he said.

One of the first people convicted of human trafficking in Canada, Imani Nakpamgi of Toronto, used physical abuse to force two underage Canadian girls to sell themselves out of Brampton hotels, and even branded one of them with his name, said Perrin.

Court heard Nakpamgi advertised the girls on the Internet.

The Ontario government said Craigslist is uniquely positioned to lead by example and to exert influence over other advertising venues to follow in its footsteps.

"We are aware that Craigslist has recently expressed its commitment to being socially responsible, which includes aggressively combating ... human trafficking and the exploitation of minors in respect of adult services advertisements," wrote the ministers.

The province said it would continue to support organizations that provide services to victims of human trafficking and child exploitation.

"We are working to ensure that vulnerable individuals and our communities are protected, both in the real world and online," said the government's letter to Craigslist.

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