Monday, July 05, 2004


Underbelly of Vancouver
Downtown Eastside


The safe streets act introduced by MLA Lorne Mayencourt and which has gone through first and second reading has the potential to arm police with a new approach in dealing with the perceived nuisance factor of prostitution on city streets.

Today, I interviewed both MLA Lorne Mayencourt of the BC Liberals and NDP'er Jenny Kwan on Mr Mayencourt's proposed legislation. Mr Mayencourt was asked whether his safe streets bill could have any spill-over affect or consequence on Sex Trade Workers. His response was that the legislation is intended "not to deal specifically with Sex workers but has in it, designs for dealing with the problems of discarded condoms and sharps(needles)".

Of course when I heard this from Mr Mayencourt, all my antennas were provoked. I then sauntered over to Ms Kwan for her response. Ms Kwan was aghast and said this is exactly why "this bill should never see the light of day".

So exactly what does the safe streets legislation say. For starters in section 4, a person commits an offence, who disposes of any of the following items in an outdoor place a) a used condom.

This means that any sex worker can be intimidated through selective enforcement of the law by police. When asked by this writer what a street sex trade worker should do, since turning tricks indoors, leaves you open to being charged with keeping a common bawdy house and often the sex worker has no other option then to carry out her work in cars, Mr Mayencourt replied,"a sex worker should keep the used condoms on her until such time as she can safely dispose of them".

Of course since the red light districts have no garbage containers except on private property one is left wondering where exactly the Sex trade worker might dispose of the condom(s). Moreover if a sex worker, keeps the used condoms on her person would the police then have evidence to charge the sex trade worker with prostitution offences.

Another aspect of the safe streets act which further places the sex trade worker at extreme risk is Section 5. It states, "Section 182 of the motor vehicle act is amended by adding 4) no person, while on the roadway, shall stop, attempt to stop or approach a motor vehicle for the purpose of offering, selling or providing any service to the driver or any other person in the motor vehicle".

As we all know, sex trade workers offer and provide services which is lawful in Canada. Many sex workers who desire not to be pimped are left with no other re-course, then to work the streets. Yet, if a motor vehicle stops to engage in communication with the Sex worker, the wording of this law, I believe then makes the communication of the sex worker illegal. I foresee countless violations and infringements on the civil liberties of Sex Workers.

MLA Jenny Kwan was questioned on the hazards posed to prostitutes on the above section of the SSA and here is what she said, "Sex workers, if this law is passed, will I agree, be placed in harm's way, and this is why the proposed safe streets act should be scrapped".

I agree with Ms Kwan' sentiments. Mr Mayencourt, while I am certain only desires to help some of his constituents, is nevertheless, embarking on what appears to be an anti civil liberties crusade. His private members bill needs re-tooling, re-shaping and re-thinking. While not wanting to second guess the motives of Mr Mayencourt, I implore him to amend his proposed legislation. For him not to do so, is an absolute miscarriage of justice!

Jamie Lee Hamilton