[VANCOUVER] Residents are gathering at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at Vancouver City Hall to bring a message to Mayor Gregor Robertson, who also holds the role of Chair of the Vancouver Police Board. The residents, together with several community organizations, are calling for Gregor Robertson to uphold commitments he made in 2009 and in 2015 to end prostitution and human-trafficking.
Federal law passed as Bill C-36 Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act criminalizes pimping, brothel-keeping, sex-buying and advertising some for sex, recognizing the activities as inherently violent and exploitative. Prostituted women are mostly decriminalized. The group is calling for a John-free Vancouver and are demanding that the Mayor allow Vancouver police to arrest pimps, brothel-keepers, and sex-buyers, commonly known as “johns”.
“Having witnessed the harms of prostitution outside my back door,” says Amy Fernandes, a resident who will speak at the demonstration, “I am calling for the Vancouver police to acknowledge the inherent victimization and violence associated with prostitution, and by arresting pimps and johns, to start protecting the women and children being harmed.”
Jindi Mehat, a local resident who presented on the issue to the Vancouver Police Board earlier in March, says, “As a woman of colour, it's very disturbing to me that our mayor has acknowledged that prostitution harms our most vulnerable yet he hasn't acted on his commitments to end it. Legislation was passed by the federal government in 2014 is a tool police forces across the country have used to hold pimps and johns accountable - it's time for Vancouver to step up and offer prostituted women the full protection of the law.”
“I want to help make Vancouver a john-free zone because I believe that it is the demand for paid sex that is causing the widespread exploitation of young women and girls in our city,” explains David Minor, one of the volunteers organizing the demonstration.
“Prostitution is violence against women, and pimps and johns need to be held accountable for exploiting girls and women. I hope that this rally will push Mayor Gregor Robertson to recognize the community's strong support for ending violence against women,” explains Bella Margolles a volunteer front-line worker at Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter, one of the community groups involved in the demonstration.
Mary-Lee Bouma of REED (Resist Exploitation Embrace Dignity) says, “I remember being so encouraged in 2009 when Mayor Robertson, alongside many of us with first-hand experience of violence against women in the sex industry, signed on to Vancouver’s Emancipation Proclamation, a declaration that named prostitution as ‘violence against women and youth.’” She adds, “Now that Canada has federal legislation giving police the power to arrest the johns and pimps who are the source of that violence, keep your promises, Mr. Mayor! Give leadership to enforcing that law.”
“Prostitution promotes racism and sexism by taking advantage of poverty imposed on women. We’re calling on Mayor Gregor Robertson to attack the power of the pimps and the sex-buyers to exploit women with impunity,” explains Suzanne Jay an organizer with Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution.
The Tuesday demonstration is a collaboration between many individual residents and community groups affected by and deeply concerned about the mayor’s hands-off approach to all those involved in the prostitution and exploitation of women and children.
In 2009, Gregor Robertson signed (by proxy of Councilor Kerry Jang) the Vancouver Emancipation Proclamation committing to work with the groups at the summit event to end human trafficking and prostitution.
In 2015 Gregor Robertson signed a common declaration of intent to combat environmental damage and human trafficking with Pope Francis.