April - June 1997

On April 3, MP Anna Terrana sent out a press release announcing federal Liberal funding for a study into the feasibility of red light districts and the removal of the bawdy house laws. In early April a member of SWAV reported seeing 11 cop cars in less than an hour. Chatting up the officers, a member heard that police were being pulled from other neighbourhoods to come the the east end and watch the hookers in the east end work. Some of the officers confided that they were not happy about it. The officers were expecting to be on hooker duty for four months, until the end of July.

By the end of May, police presence on the strolls in the east end had waned. On June 2, Federal Election Day, one member of SWAV reported someone handing out flyers for a "zero tolerance" protest to voters waiting in the line at the Vancouver East poll. She confronted him, telling him that she didn't think it was appropriate for him to be soliciting an election line.

On June 6, the Grandview Woodlands Neighbourhood Action Group waged the protest which got local television and radio coverage, but no big newspaper stories. One SWAV member who attended the protest reported that it was a flop. Only about ten people. BCTV covered the protest and did an interview with a woman who ran a Sandwich Tree shop who claimed that she was losing business because of the prostitutes. She never mentioned the fact that a new Subway Sandwhich shop opened up down the street. The news that week had been filled with promises from Mayor Phillip Owen to crack down on crime.

On June 10, I drove my bicycle around East Vancouver. I was hunting for a poster that announced the protest I was told about. I cycled through Strathcona and then down East Hastings Street. I didn't find any posters along East Hastings but I did find a few other interesting things. I found a poster for a candlelight vigil to honour and pay respect to slain sex worker Cassandra Antione, who was brutally murdered on or about June 1, 1997. The vigil was held on Friday, June 13, in the Parking lot of the Patricia Hotel, 403 East Hastings Street.

I noticed that many of the stickers I had put up were still there and very readable. But there were also new, hand-lettered stickers stuck on lamp posts and the back of signs, especially around Sir William Macdonald Elementary. They said things like:

  • "65% of East Van prostitutes are mothers,"
  • "Our community includes prostitutes" and;
  • "Women in this community support ALL women."

There were also 8 1/2 X 11 inch laser printed posters that said, "A prostitute is a person in your neighbourhood," and Johns are: your fathers, husbands, brothers, bosses... Prostitutes are: daughters, wives, mothers, friends, sisters..." There were also some more interesting stickers like "Capitalism = Prostitution" and "Whores and Dykes Unite" which is slogan originally printed on a sticker by Carol Leigh, the Scarlet Harlot of San Francisco. The stickers seemed to be done in several different handwritings.

I finally went to the Kiwassa Community Centre and ask staff their if they had seen a nasty poster about prostitution. They said they hadn't even heard of the demonstration.I searched the neighbourhood around the centre and finally found a copy of the poster.

The interuption of the strolls has created havoc and confusion. Girls are no longer working on usual streets moving from street to street out of the known area. Girls are hitchhiking all over the city. They are dressing down to be less detectable. Girls are harder to reach for health services because you can't find them where they usually work. This confusion causes an increase in propositioning by customers of people who are not working. It's time to come up with solutions not just moving prostitution from one backyard to the next.


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Created: September 26, 1997
Last modified: March 6, 1999
SWAV Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710
Email: swav@walnet.org