Monday, June 04, 2007


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC


The long awaited Living in Community (LIC) final report on recommendations for a safer sex trade, has unfortunately, due to a number of its action plans, instead, created the potential, just like the West End injunction did in 1984, of denying sex trade workers their basic rights and creating the atmosphere of further harm.

With its hyped mandate of being all things for all people, LIC, a well-funded ad-hoc group, made up of business groups, residents associations, government officials and marginalized women's representatives, by trying to balance and appease various special interests, instead, has created an atmosphere of sex workers being lost in community initiatives which purport to be in the best interests of sex workers.

The LIC report has many recommendations and while a few action plans are well thought out, bold and even supportable, unfortunately, a number of recommendations fly in the face of sex workers' basic rights, civil liberties and therefore the entire report needs to be discounted, unless these serious human rights injustices are removed from the report.

Concerning for sex workers and their civil liberties are the following:

1) Action 26 calls for the support of the diversionary process when sex workers are facing criminal charges.

Action 26 is absolutely deplorable. The implementation of the 'Communicating' section of the criminal code was a diversion tactic to appease residents organizations and this diversionary process has done nothing to improve the safety and security concerns of sex workers. Moreover, another diversion program, John School, hasn't been a benefit to sex workers and never will be. Creating another diversion program such as a Jane School, is ill thought, irresponsible, misguided and an affront to basic civil liberties of sex workers. It needs to be pointed out that providing sexual services is not illegal under the current criminal code of Canada.

2) Action 18 calls for the support of innovative harm reduction programs, including the dispensing of substitute drugs for injection drug use.

Action 18 will not reduce harm to those sex workers involved in illicit drug use. Encouraging self-destruction by implementation of drug substitution which Action 18 calls for, is sheer madness and this action must be rejected at all costs.

3) Action 15 calls for for the re-development of SRO"s as a way to address the housing needs of sex workers.

Action 15 actually if implemented lowers the standard of providing quality, affordable family unit housing. SRO hotels do not assist sex workers, many who are single mothers, with adequate housing needs. Action 15, if implemented would set back the rights of the sex workers to decent, affordable and quality housing.

4) Action 3 calls for the striking of a working group from the city of Vancouver, provincial and federal governments to increase health and safety for sex workers and sexual exploitation. LIC proposes that the Civil City initiative may be the best vehicle to use regarding concerns associated with the sex trade industry.

Action 3 is actually quite frightening and potentially harmful since questions are already rising whether the Civil City plan, would erode civil liberties of those deemed throw-a-ways. Action 3 plays into the hands of those who through abuse of power processes, may favour cleansing the streets of sex workers during the lead up to and actual 2010 Olympic games. Action 3 must be rejected if basic rights for sex workers are to be maintained.

5) Action 13 calls for the development of Codes of Conduct and creation of No Go Zones for sex workers.

Action 13 is the worst and most obscene recommendation in the LIC plan of action. In 1984, a no go zone was requested by the Attorney General of British Columbia and granted by a judge. The West End Injunction or No Go Zone stripped sex workers of essential basic rights, especially regarding freedom of movement and in fact, placed sex workers in extreme danger. Since 1984, the horrendous injustices inflicted on sex trade workers can be directly attributed to the 1984 injunction. Creation of no go zones will once again lead to disastrous results as we know from the Pickton farm carnage.

Making sex workers adhere to some arbitrary code of conduct is an all out attack on a minority group who are being told how they must govern themselves, live, act or speak, by the majority in society and this is unacceptable. To proclaim, as LIC has, that this somehow benefits sex workers is disgusting and shameful.

I hope, other minority and equality seeking groups, as long as LIC promotes these hurtful and quite hateful provisions in their sex worker action plan, joins with sex workers in denouncing LIC and its manifesto.

What could have been a monumental shift in how we address safety and security for sex workers, instead, has created an distrustful atmosphere which will have far reaching and serious consequences for sex workers in decades yet to come. And just as the West End Injunction in 1984 created untold harm, now we are faced with the stripping away of sex worker basic rights, brought to us under the guise of codes of conduct, no-go zones, drug substitution programs and other shameful acts.

With friends like LIC, who needs enemies.

Jamie Lee Hamilton