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A reminder of the old ground rules for sex work and how Vancouver was moving to make it safer long before today

December 20th, 2013 · 4 Comments

A year ago, I was visiting brothels, madams, and feminist advocacy groups all along Hastings Street to talk to women about the benefits and dangers of doing sex work in the city.

A reminder, in light of today’s Supreme Court ruling, of the situation then.

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  • rph

    It is inevitable that legalized brothels will become the norm in our communities. And of course these will be primarily staffed by foreign temp workers from Eastern Europe, Asia, wherever there is a good supply of young men and women lured by the money, and the promise of Canadian residency.

    The women who are addicted and marginalized, not quite so attractive, or older, will be left to work the trade out of their apartments or on the street. And with legal competition, no doubt for much less money.

    It will be much harder to restrict – if indeed we can – customers from condo halls and lobbies.

    And for those of us with young sons and daughters, the legitimization of their bodies for paid sex will have to be explained a bit more carefully and thoughtfully.

  • rph

    And not to be flippant…but still…there is a lot of excess space at the new Vancouver casino site.

    Brothel anyone?

  • Michael Gordon

    I read the Globe and Mail article which identified the big dilemma posed by the Supreme Court decision and it’s well worth a read, it notes:

    1) Supreme Court: Criminalizing people at risk will not be tolerated if it is done in such a way to heighten risks;
    2) Federal Government: Its lawyers argued that prostitutes bring the risks upon themselves.

    So Peter McKay has already stated the government has no intent to decriminalize Prostitution while the Supreme Court chief weighs in “Many prostitutes have no meaningful choices.” There is quite a gap between those two world views.

    I did a google search on the demographics of prostitutes. Generally, many are young people and many of those under 20. A disproportionate number share experiences of sexual abuse by family members when they were living at home and they fled that. So sending many of these young people back to their families sounds like a bad idea. The studies also note that aboriginal women make up a disproportionate share of those working in the sex trade. So many of these folks have little money and few life experiences that would give them a foundation to have more choices.

    To me, this all adds up to leaving the federal government with few options that fit their ideological framework. What’s worrisome is that it looks like it needs all governments to agree on a proactive workable approach to the sex trade. I hope that happens but it does not appear to be a significant one for the federal and provincial governments.

  • Bill Lee

    The building you described in the start of the 3000 word Vancouver Magazine article above, was opened as a wedding photo studio with an office of Amnesty International office upstairs later.

    A block east, in Burnaby, 2 brothels, Another block, one brothel moved from Kingsway, now noting ‘discreet parking in the rear”

    These are among the 50 brothels and sex services that Burnaby licences.

    Sing Tao and Ming Pao newspapers had many pages of sex and brothel adverts for years, just after the many pages of restaurant adverts, with some Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby addresses where mentioned.

    Georgia Straight’s back-of-paper sex and prostitution adverts are supposed to bring in one-third of profits as they did in the old Vancouver Star

    Why did the Black Press’s WE (West Ender) drop its many sex adverts?

    Amapola (then called the Windsor Spa) which you mentioned, had postage stamp adverts in the (Kerrisdale) Courier for more than a year, surprisingly giving the address. I guess the Courier reporters never read their own paper.

    Two blocks west down the street from the Hsstings and Boundary brothel, is a new one opened a year, then advertising in the papers as being only steps from the Cassiar and Hastings Macdonald’s. As is now the Hastings Ramada Hotel new low-income hostel to be opened by the city.

    Raid 8 December 2006
    Here is the Sun’s initial story

    18 massage parlours raided, 100 arrested

    More than 100 people were taken into custody after a massive police raid on 18 massage parlours across the Lower Mainland Thursday night.

    By The Vancouver Sun December 9, 2006

    More than 100 people were taken into custody after a massive police raid on 18 massage parlours across the Lower Mainland Thursday night.

    Seventy-eight of those arrested were women whom police believe could be victims of human trafficking.

    So far, no charges have been laid despite the enormous undertaking by RCMP detachments in Coquitlam, Richmond, Surrey and Burnaby, as well as the Vancouver police department, the Integrated Border Enforcement Team (IBET) and other government agencies. [ MORE ]


    One might read “International Human Trafficking in Canada: Why so few prosecutions?” a doctoral in laws thesis by John A. Ferguson in 2012. ( ix, 327 p.
    2 Mbytes )
    This studies the raid and quotes the press at length.

    From the abstract:

    ” ….Through an analysis of government documents, statistical enforcement results, study research interviews, and alternative explanations that have been offered to account for the lack of international trafficking prosecutions, this thesis establishes that the most plausible explanation for so few international trafficking prosecutions in Canada is that the international trafficking of foreign women and girls into Canada for prostitution is not as systemic in this country as many have claimed. The examination of the lone international trafficking prosecution reveals that the victim formation which underpins the understanding of international trafficking can appreciably affect prosecutions because it dismisses from consideration as victims those persons who exist beyond the parameters of the accepted international human trafficking victim indicia.”

    Madame Bula did the Globe’s local reaction story today.

    Unfortunately the sanctimonious councillor Kerry Jang was assigned to speak, (about nothing).
    And as you can see in the 2006 Sun story the whole issue needs a regional co-ordination as noted in the Piction Enquiry as squabbles and different views of the RCMP Horsemen and the Vancouver Blues, [ and the concomitant better hiring and screening methods on various forces of “men” ]