Bring industry in off the streets, woman urges police board
A Vancouver sex trade worker reminded members of the Vancouver Police Board yesterday that their decisions affect and often compromise the safety of the most vulnerable sex workers in the city.
Susan Davis, a sex trade worker for 21 years, said the industry needs to be brought in off the street for the welfare of its workers.
But when show lounges are closed; hotel staff are taught how to identify and expel sex trade workers; and Downtown Eastside hotel landlords are discouraged from renting rooms to workers — it pushes women into less stable environments, she said.
“The street trade exists because industry workers have nowhere else to do business,” said Davis. “By limiting options for people they are creating a very dangerous and volatile environment.”
Katrina Pacey, staff lawyer with Pivot Legal Society, said criminal laws related to adult prostitution need to change so the working conditions can become safer.
“There’s a strong sense that something needs to change … but I don’t think there’s a sense (federally) of what the solution is,” she said.
“The police are mandated to enforce the criminal law, which forces them into the position of chasing marginalized sex workers around Vancouver and displacing them into isolated and dangerous places in the city.”
Those conditions, she said, are the direct result of the laws, but police have the choice how to enforce the laws.
“If we really want to improve the conditions and (women’s) safety, we need to allow them to work indoors and create safe working conditions for themselves, and that’s an impossibility with the current laws.”
Vancouver Police Const. Howard Chow said the police are very sensitive to the situation.
“Our huge concern is the fact that many of them are not out there on their own free will,” he said.“Our focus has always been on pimps in these situations and we try to extend any sort of help our resources to the sex trade workers themselves.”
“It’s a matter of making neighbourhoods safe not only for residents of the area but sex trade workers themselves.”