MEGA-NEWS: City continues making strides in sex worker safety

DJ Joe, co-founder of Sex Workers United Against Violence, holds a sex workers' rights card. Photo By David P. Ball.  

The City of Vancouver has approved funding and initiatives meant to improve safety for sex trade workers.

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Last month, city council approved new grants for sex trade exiting and prevention services, encouraging the provincial government to establish a compensation fund for the children of missing and murdered women, and removing old bylaws that discriminated against people in the sex trade. 

During the last city meeting of the year on December 18, the Standing Committee on City Finance and Services approved $100,600 in grants for the Vancouver School Board, Battered Women’s Support Services and PLEA Community Services of BC to provide exiting and sex work prevention services for sex workers and youth at risk of entering the sex trade.

The grants came in addition to funding provided to hire two sex trade worker liaisons for the city: one to liaise with street-level sex trade workers and another to liaise with workers who work in brothels or their own homes.

The city also struck down bylaws that encouraged discrimination against sex workers—including one that encouraged nightclubs to bar a “prostitute or person of evil repute” from entering the bar—and others that may have put sex worker safety at risk, such as those making it easy for an illegal brothel to operate a business “front”.

Council also called on the provincial government to create a compensation fund for the children of Robert Pickton’s victims that the Missing and Murdered Women’s Commission of Inquiry report recommended. City councillor Kerry Jang says the city has yet to receive a response from the province. 

“Of all the levels of government on the sex trade file and in the Pickton report,” he told Megaphone, “the City of Vancouver, I’m very proud to say, is the only one who’s actually put their money where their mouth is with regards to [the report’s recommendations].”

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