Shining a Light on Operation 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.

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.

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  • Yeah and I hope they give receipts ..

  • Prostitutes don’t want their “profession” legalized because then the taxman might come sniffing around. You left-wing kooks are always whining that us legitimate businesspeople don’t pay enough tax, do you want the hookers to be taxed as well?

  • There are so many problematic aspects of this article that I don’t even know where to start. This portrayal of sex work further contributes to stigmatization, misinformation, and discrimination of sex workers. Sex work is not in a “dark corner” and opening your piece with that description immediately contributes to the idea that sex work is wrong, bad, immoral, and something to be kept secret. In other words, it contributes to stigmatization of sex workers. Furthermore, it reads as though the author has never asked a sex worker about their job. I’m a sex worker in St. John’s and I know other sex workers, and while I am not representing all sex workers in this city, I have to say that I have never met one who uses the word “prostitute” to describe themselves, as the author has written. Most find the word insulting and degrading, and as an extension, the federal laws regarding sex work should not be referred to as “prostitution laws”. Moreover, I have also never met a sex worker who wants sex work to be legalized. If the author didn’t want to actually talk to sex workers, then a simple google search would have revealed that sex workers are generally calling for decriminalization, which is vastly different from legalization.

    In addition to the problematic language and portrayal of the sex industry, a lot of incorrect assumptions are made throughout the piece. First of all, there are many different types of sex work, yet the author makes no attempt to distinguish them and instead writes about them all as if there is no distinction. Not only does the author offer an oversimplification of street level sex work in St. John’s, he also includes this opinion for no reason, as Operation Northern Spotlight is not targeting people who do street level sex work. The RCMP website explains that “police pre-arrange to meet with individuals,” which means they are calling, emailing, or messagaing sex workers to arrange a date ( This is not the case for people who work at the street level. Second of all, why are the lives of sex workers described as “tenuous”? Tenuous means weak, fragile, questionable, flimsy. Is this how the author perceives sex workers? That our lives are weak and fragile? Also, who do they need to hide the lost income from? You’re assuming that all sex workers have pimps? I’m an escort and I don’t have a pimp and I don’t know a single sex worker who does. I post my own ads, respond to clients, arrange dates, schedule transportation, collect the money, do the work, and keep all the money. I do this all on my own. I don’t work with or for anyone else. While I would be incredibly angry if I arranged a date and found police officers instead, I wouldn’t have to “explain” this to anyone. And lastly, sex work, sexual exploitation, and human trafficking are not the same thing. Sex work is a chosen job. Sexual exploitation is a type of human trafficking, which means there are also other kinds of human trafficking. Therefore “legalizing sex work would do more to curb human trafficking than any possible policing measure” makes no sense because sex work and human trafficking are completely different. People being forced to perform sexual acts for money is sexual exploitation. It is not sex work.

    To conclude, this article should have been written by someone who understand the issues being discussed, i.e. a sex worker. At the very least, numerous sex workers should have been interviewed or consulted because that is what good journalism entails – researching the topic so it can be written about professionally, instead of just being the opinion of some guy who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And this opinion has offended me and many other sex workers in St. John’s.

  • Ah English grammar, my favorite mythical beast. As I’m sure you know the English language has never had an overarching regulatory body. So the rules of grammar are fuzzy at best, although they are still taught in too many schools as dogma. English is a Germanic language which has had a Latin structure squashed on top of it , achieving dubious results at best.

    It is important that your sentences do not stray from their intended meaning, however in writing style and voice are far more important than grammar. If you adhere to strictly to grammatical precepts you will end up sounding like a robot and not a person, which as a writer is a very very bad thing indeed.

    Thanks for reading.

  • Moral Laws, in the articles context, are real laws on the books whose origins stem from moral traditions. As opposed to laws which arose from pragmatic legalistic traditions.

    An example of a good moral law would be the legal age requirement for the sale of alcohol. Many countries around the world have different age requirements based on their moral traditions of adulthood. Some countries have no legal age requirements and in others it is illegal for anyone to buy alcohol. Most people in our society would agree that the legal age limit for the sale of alcohol performs a protective function for us and therefore is a good moral law.

    An example of a bad moral law, would be laws preventing two adult women from marrying. That law would provide no protection to society and would harm a significant percentage of it, therefore it would a bad moral law.

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