Friday, September 12, 2003

Jon Ferry

Wish them prostitutes for neighbours — that'll wake 'em up

First, we had "harm reduction" for drug addicts (including free needles and so-called safe-injection sites).

Now, it seems, we're about to have it for hookers, er, sex-trade workers. Whether we like it or not.

Most of us, however cool we like to appear, don't really relish the prospect of turning Vancouver's already drug-addled downtown into the best little whorehouse west of Amsterdam.

It's just that the, er, chickens are running the henhouse. That's to say leftist "activists," seized with reforming zeal, now control city hall.

Want subsidized housing? Just camp out in one of our fine parks, and civic staff will be along to attend to your every need (and that of your pet).

Want to smoke pot or deal drugs, while enjoying free health care and welfare? Come on down to the Downtown Eastside.

Want to set up your own brothel? No problem. Our bylaw boys will accommodate you.

Or at least that's what Vancouver's COPE-dominated council seems to want. Overruling its own staff Wednesday night, it voted 4-3 for a new "live-work" zoning category that would allow people to operate sex-related businesses out of their downtown, street-level homes — even though running a brothel is still illegal in Canada.

Confused? So am I. And so is NPA Coun. Peter Ladner, one of the three council members who voted against the bylaw change. He believes it needs further study and public input.

"We rushed into it," Ladner told me. "We were blinded by our ideological passion about helping sex-trade workers and we weren't taking all the different interests into consideration."

Ideological passion? That came in spades from COPE Coun. Ellen Woodsworth. "Having worked in the Downtown Eastside for the past 10 years, I have seen so much violence against people working in the sex trade," she's quoted as saying. "And many of them are on the streets because they're not able to live and work in their residence." Poor dears. And it'd be uncharitable in the extreme to suggest they might consider another line of work.

But, what would you, dear Vancouver resident, do if your nice, quiet neighbour suddenly set up a booming sex-trade business, with people coming and going at all hours?

Well, you might well suggest they moved themselves — and their tricks — slap next door to the homes of the COPE councillors who have opened up this particular Pandora's Box. Then, you'd see how fast those same councillors invoked the Criminal Code provision which says keeping a common bawdy house is an offence punishable by a jail term of up to two years.

Yes, once again, Vancouver council has found itself out on a limb, legally and morally.

In fact, I'd humbly suggest it's fallen off its tree.

Voice mail: 604-605-2603

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Created: September 12, 2003
Last modified: April 22, 2004
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