Frances Bula header image 2

With the Pickton murders haunting them, police and city set new policies to make sex work indoors an option

December 18th, 2012 · 7 Comments

With the release of Wally Oppal’s report from Missing Women Commission of Inquiry now out, there’s been a lot of examination in what police (and everyone) did wrong.

(Note to self: Media might want to look at why so many weren’t interested in this story in the beginning, until Vancouver Sun reporter Lindsay Kines started doggedly pursuing it.)

There will also likely be a lot of discussion about what should be improved.

But, as I discovered as I was researching my Vancouver magazine column for the issue out next month, there have already been some changes made. Police reports on prostitution, and arrests I’m guessing, have plummeted in the last 10 years, now a tenth of what they used to be. The Vancouver police department has a new draft policy on dealing with people involved in sex work, and an officer, Linda Malcolm, dedicated as a liaison to the sex-worker trade.

The city has also been looking at its bylaws and licencing to deal with sex work taking place at operating businesses (some with permits, some without) in different ways, so that its staff are targeting actual problems (noise, exploitation, criminal behaviour, coercion, neighbourhood disruption) as opposed to trying to regulate the sex business.

We often think of women on the street when we think of sex for sale. They are the most visible aspect of any city’s usually flourishing sex trade, and they are the ones who are the most vulnerable.

But a growing group of researchers, policy makers, women working in the business, and others are making clear — in spite of the criticism they get from others — that they represent only 10-20 per cent of the sex industry in any town, and that sex workers are far better off doing business indoors than on the street.

Here’s my story, in advance.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • tf

    Thanks for talking about this report Frances.

    I must say that I find it absurd that the day the province receives a report that cost $9 million(!!) to produce, women are marching on the streets to prevent the closure of the Rainier, the only women’s recovery treatment centre in the DTES.

    Lots of hot air coming out of the powers-that-be about what “should” be done but in the face of an actual centre that is helping women, everyone closes their eyes.

    When will we ever learn?

  • Thanks for a good article Frances. But you also wrote about the Kerrisdale brothel and were not nearly as sympathetic as this article and I wonder why? I just want to address that the City should not use the development permit to take away a legitimate business license. We know that if you take away the development permit the business license than becomes invalid. This is an abuse of power and I think the City is going down a slippery slope here if they intend to make this a policy whenevere they get a complaint from a citizen that a brothel is operating in their neighborhood. My goodness we do have to advertise after all but we do so fairly discreetly but anyone can determine where indoor brothels are . I’m fearful that the City may decide to regulate all the indoor brothels into the eastside and to me that would be unacceptable. Its really no different than the VPD and City creating the containment zone which pushed street level sex workers to the deserted and dangerous North of Hastings industrial area and we know what happened as a result. The City if its going to license indoor brothels and which they have, I think they have a duty to ensure a fair process in issuing of said licences. Disclaimer : I operate with a city issued license and so I’m obviously in favour of indoor places which are properly run, free of exploitation and most of all provide safety for those of us involved in the sex trade.

  • teririch

    One thing that I always wondered about after watching the documentary – The Pig Farm … (by Stevie ?) why weren’t those that new, witnessed and turned a blind eye, prosectued?

    There were two women interviewed in the doc that new what was going on, but didn’t report it in return for drugs.

    The one did seem a bit remorsful and the other, still couldn’t give a sh*t.

    I personally don’t care if they were/are drug addicts – they played a part in what went down and could have quite possibly prevented other deaths.

    I am not dismising the botched job put forward by both the VPD and RCMP but….. don’t understand why these two got off ‘scott free’.

  • teririch

    And to my post of #3

    ‘knew’ not ‘new’.

    Sorry, multi-tasking and not doing so well at it today!

  • Raingurl

    @Teririch, Which one didn’t give a shit? Lynn Ellingson? I had the misfortune of knowing that girl when we were teens. I stayed at least a ten foot pole away from her whenever we were social. On the flip side, I think some of the ghosts of the girls have followed me home. I can’t find five pairs of dress pants and some black jeans were hanging on my ironing board the other day. I brought them to my bf ’cause I thought they were his. Now he thinks I’m cheating on him. Someone or some thing is haunting me………..I remember talking to the girls a month or so ago when I was in a pub in the DTES. (I told them I was very sorry this had to happen to them)

  • Raingurl

    and I cried……I always cry when I see articles in the paper about our fallen women……

  • Ms Jones

    This is by far the most despicable BC government/ Vancouver police force act against women, all women in fact.
    I’m talking about… indifference, racism, misogynistic approach… all the good stuff that made this city and province… “the best place on Earth”…
    IMHO, nothing changed, only a bit more activity on the PR front. For shame.