Sunday, April 13, 1997

Alison Appelbe
Staff writer

p. 12.

Feds to give green light to red-light district study

Mayor Owen furious, but study supporters say civic leadership inadequate on prostitution issue

"No, no, no," snapped Mayor Philip Owen upon learning the federal government is funding a study to consider the creation of a red-light district in the Vancouver East riding.

MP Anna Terrana announced the Downtown Eastside Youth Activities Society (DEYAS) will get $15,000 to examine street-level prostitution in the riding.

Under scrutiny are the repeal of the federal Bawdy House Act prohibiting brothels, the acceptability of red-light districts, where they should be located and who should make that decision, said a statement from Terrana's office.

"I can hardly believe it," said Owen. "We close Riverview and put people on the street who need shelter, We have to deal with that.

"We have a needle exchange. We have the province expanding gambling. We have the police sending out letters to 70 johns -- 50 per cent who live outside Vancouver. And now we have the federal government talking about this. No. Not interested. This is bizarre.

"We'd be sending out a signal to the pimps and criminals of North America that Vancouver is open for business. This is a non-starter. It shouldn't even be considered."

But DEYAS executive director John Turvey, who runs the needle exchange, said "inadequate leadership" by the mayor and other politicians is on the study's agenda.

"What we do now is move (prostitution) all over the place -- from pillar to post and pillar to post," said Turvey of activity that has been driven out of the West End, portions of Mount Pleasant, and is now most intense along the Hastings Street corridor, particularly northeast of Commercial Drive. "The city's already a pimp."

Turvey described the eight-month study as "a low-key piece of information-gathering" that will ask East Siders what they can and can't abide about prostitution.

"The community is impacted and women are getting murdered. We're asking, is there a solution out there? We're saying this dynamic is happening now, so why aren't we talking in open terms rather than denying reality?"

Turvey conceded that opinion may be polarized. "Some merchants say hang these people, others say let's legalize the sex trade or at least decriminalize it."

But Owen warned against attempting to pin to a single community what he said is a transient activity that attracts participants and customers from outside Vancouver. "I'd take real exception to any proposal to build bawdy houses in East Vancouver," he said, jokingly adding that they try it out at the site of the Italian Cultural Centre, a power-base for Liberal Terrana, who will seek re-election.

The federal study is funded by Human Resources Development Canada.

Other groups involved are Prostitution Alternatives Counselling and Education (PACE), Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Safety Office, and the WISH program.

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Created: April 17, 1997
Last modified: July 2, 1997

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