Over the last few months, widening attention has brought much needed light into dark corners: Sex Work.
The oil boom of 2008 sent shockwaves through our little big town. A flash flood of raw hard cash washed through the old streets causing a surge of growth in all sectors and the sex industry was no different. Reports from the CBC as well as The Telegram have the sex industry increasing tenfold in a matter of a few years.
While the money flowed, social problems were obscured, but the tides changed and revealingly, the money dried up. The mobile workers followed the money elsewhere which rolled the industry back somewhat, but not back to former levels and that’s the pressure. Far less money and many more hands. And what was hidden behind closed doors is now being pushed out into the streets by need and pain. The centre of these troubles has been the Long’s Hill-Tessier area, with growing unease from the neighbourhood residents.
Cue the RCMP’s Nationwide sting operation, Northern Spotlight. In an attempt to address Human Trafficking, the RCMP in conjunction with the RNC in this Province has been luring prostitutes to Hotel rooms under the guise of being clients. When the sex worker arrives at the hotel, they are greeted by a room full of Officers and Constables for interrogation sessions. I fully acknowledge that policing this Country is an extraordinarily difficult job, one I don’t envy. I also appreciate that this sting operation is being carried out with the highest ideals and the best intentions.
The RCMP and the RNC have vigorously defended their actions and have reported that they are getting good actionable information, that arrests are being made as a direct result. I don’t question that these tactics are achieving results, I do question whether this is the least harm option to obtain them. I question whether turning the police force from a way out of danger, to a source of intimidation, fear, and a cause of danger, is the best way to achieve good ends.
Depriving these tenuous lives of income is no trivial matter. These interrogations take up time in which the sex worker was expecting to be paid. And even if they are able to keep the fact that they have been made subject to police interrogations secret, explaining why they have returned from a job without any money is no simple feat. There are vicious elements in the lives of sex workers which need to be paid.
The RCMP would argue that their actions are doing more good than harm, and that very well may be the case. I would argue that the RCMP has other options, ones which do not use people and put lives and income in real jeopardy. The sting operation, Northern Spotlight, is set to continue throughout 2018 and beyond. However that makes you feel, we can all agree that we face serious social issues. It is not fair to force people into increasingly unsafe work environments. And it is not fair to ask the RCMP/RNC to succeed in a no win scenario.
Is it not time to revisit Prostitution Laws? Legalizing sex work would allow for regulation, taxation, and better healthcare. It would allow for safer work environments off the streets and out of residential neighbourhoods. It would take money and people out of the hands of criminals. Legalizing sex work would do more to curb Human Trafficking than any possible policing measure. The laws we need are those which do not harm us. Moral laws for only moral reasons are simply not good enough.