Thursday, August 30, 2007


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC


An Aboriginal woman, 33 year old Nicole Parisien, was murdered on Monday in an apartment building, located at 1450 Chestnut Street, in the trendy Kitsilano district of Vancouver. Built by former Vancouver Mayor, Tom Campbell, and according to a source the building still remains in the Campbell family and is run by Mr. Campbell's son. It has come to light that Ms Parisien did not live in the building, however, provided escort services from Suite 517.

The senseless murder of Ms Parisien demonstrates how an unregulated sex trade industry, especially here in Vancouver has had terrible consequences for those who operate in the world's oldest profession.

In yesterday's Straight, an excellent article, written by Steve Smysnuik provides balanced reporting and explores why we appear unable to grapple with an industry which has serious repercussions and created untold harm for those involved in providing sex trade services.

The number one reason why we can't address this serious issue is due to those who desire prostitution to be abolished. The only way to achieve this goal according to proponents like Vancouver Rape Relief is by criminalizing those involved. But this approach which has been in existence since the Criminal Code was written in 1896. Since then, society has not been able to outlaw prostitution, although it has tried hard and to no avail. They never will be able to erase it. We all know that. In fact as society evolves, the sex trade increases.

According to Simon Fraser University lecturer and longtime former Vancouver City Councillor, Gordon Price, its all because of a moral line, which while it may shift from time to time, however, this line still needs to be in place to protect those impacted by the adverse affects of prostitution. Mr. Price claims this line represents something which can never be crossed.

In Vancouver, we have a defacto red-light district which is sanctioned by the Vancouver police and Vancouver City Hall. This area of the City is a no man's land, is dark, deserted and dangerous. It has been where most sex worker violence has occurred. It is called Low-track. In fact all the victims of the alleged killer, Mr. Pickton, plied their trade in this seedy dangerous area. They had no other choice.

Yet there were others like Ms Parisien, who most likely couldn't tolerate the thought of exposing herself to danger or facing the humiliating effects of working in Low-track, an area which offers little support or safety. Moreover, the sex trade demographic which Ms Parisien belonged to, would be deemed undesirable as potential workers by those who operate the city-licensed and quasi-regulated brothels. Even at age 33, Ms Parisien would be considered by these operators as over-the-hill and not a huge money-maker for them. Terribly sad that people could be viewed in this manner and really sickening, this is what the City, is supporting.

Other sex trade options, which most would agree are not ideal and especially with the advent of the Internet, allows shady characters to operate their unregulated brothels. All they need is a blackberry, a computer or access to an Internet cafe, a few girls, a couple cell phones and voila, they are in business. Do they care about the girls? Not likely, its all about business for them. The women who operate from these type of places, which allegedly Ms Parisien did, also face dangerous conditions. This recent murder proves that.

As of yet we have not been provided information of who the apartment was rented to, however, we are told the Vancouver Vice-squad are investigating. I think our vice department should know where these unregulated places are and perhaps a report from them to the Police board is in order. Council should in fact demand this from the Mayor, who chairs the police board.

This blog-writer though who has access to a sex provider message board has learned that a number of suites at 1450 Chestnut street were being used as unregulated places where sex trade services took place. Others in the building know of this and it has been alleged by an anonymous source that so does the building management.

OK so where does this leave us as a society and can sex trade murders be preventable?

Well the City continues to shy away from the issue, constantly claiming that Parliament must enact legislative changes which would provide it options to work with. I find this offensive since the City already regulates sexual activity services in the City.

It allows the gay community to engage in sexual activity in gay run city-licensed bawdy-houses, called steambaths. These places are regulated and individuals who attend must have memberships and show forms of identification. Often, these places have cameras so there is a monitoring of activities for safety and security purposes. Of course, men are not harmed in these places. and I've never heard of violence occurring in them. Because of the city-required regulations they offer and provide safety.

The same can be said for the regulated bawdy-houses called Body-Rub studios or Massage Parlours. There are a number of these places operating and governed by the City. To the best of my knowledge, staff in these places never encounter violence. Empirical data proves this point. In fact, the Police leave these places alone. Again, the clientele must sign-in and show identification and there are a number of cameras in place to ensure security.

So why can't independent women and men who engage in providing adult-based services also not have the ability to be regulated? Working with a small group of other providers would provide security. The reason they can't is mostly due to licensing fees which are highly restrictive for those not engaged in the really high-end business model which the City supports.

Unfortunately, all of Council appears unsure or afraid of stepping forward and needing to do what needs to be done. There are a number of ways that the City can support sex trade workers with their safety and security issues. The Mayor is actually in a strong position to lobby on behalf of a harm-reduction approach similar to the Injection site model which was given exemption and permission to operate even though drug use is still considered illegal.

Recently there was a two year consultation study funded by the Vancouver Agreemment, which the City of Vanouver is a major partner. This ad-hoc group called Living in Community (LIC) , which received $200,000.00 of funding has no plans to introduce their report to Council and Council shockingly hasn't demanded that this report come before them, especially considering the taxpayers footed the bill. It seems that both LIC and Council are remiss in this regard and one is left questioning whether it was another make-work project or just an opportunity for a select few to make names for themselves.

Finally, following up on Gordon Price's argument that there is a moral line that society is unwilling to cross, what does this say about those individuals who profess to be righteous, upstanding and moral citizens as they stand silently by and do nothing as the senseless murders of hundreds of sex workers continue piling up?

That stance to me is offensive and immoral and I can't believe citizens can justify standing on that side of the moral divide.

Jamie Lee Hamilton