BY DOUGLAS QUAN, POSTMEDIA NEWS APRIL 2, 2012
Move followed announcement of ‘pattern’ in homicides
Ottawa police have not conducted any prostitution sweeps since Chief Vern White’s announced in December that a “pattern” had been identified in a number of unsolved murders of prostitutes.
Since Dec. 9, when White warned the city’s sex workers to take precautions because of a potential threat – police have been loath to use the word “serial killer,” but the link between killings is ominous – advocacy groups have been calling for a moratorium on prostitution sweeps.
Ottawa police refuse request for moratorium on sweeps while they probe possible predator
Six community groups are seeking legal advice after Ottawa police Chief Vern White last week refused their request for a moratorium on prostitution sweeps.
“We asked Chief Vern White to prioritize women’s safety by putting the risk to the lives of sex workers over nuisance complaints during a time which he has identified poses heightened risk to sex workers,” said Bryonie Baxter, executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa, in a press release. “We are effectively asking the police to take one operational tool out of their toolbox and we in turn offered to work with police and concerned citizens to effect longer-term solutions to their concerns.”
On Tuesday, Insp. Uday Jaswal told CBC News the police force can’t choose which laws to enforce and which laws to ignore. Jaswal said prostitution sweeps will continue and he added that police remain committed to discussing the issue.
In a meeting with police on Feb. 8, Baxter said the group argued that sweeps put sex workers at risk by forcing them into more remote areas away from circles of support.
Their request came two months after White issued a warning that police had discovered a pattern in unsolved assaults and homicides on sex workers in Ottawa.
“We believe the Ottawa police owe a duty of care to sex workers which extends beyond merely warning them about the existence of a predator,” Baxter said. “It also involves proactively working to eliminate practices which increase the risk of harm to this group of women.”
The six groups include the Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, POWER (Prostitutes of Ottawa-Gatineau Work, Educate, Resist), the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa (SASC), Families of Sisters in Spirit and the AIDS Committee of Ottawa.
By Victoria Abraham
Lindsay is a sex worker who participated as a Book in the Human Library project put on by the Ottawa Public Library, the Canadian War Museum, and CBC Ottawa on Saturday, January 28. Lindsay is currently working on an undergraduate degree in Women’s Studies at the University of Ottawa and holds an undergraduate degree in archeology and the classics from Wilfrid Laurier University.
Why did you choose to be part of the Human Library project?
I am big on breaking stereotypes. Anything that I can do to change people’s minds [about stereotypes] is moving in the right direction.
Tactic puts women at greater risk, advocate group says
A coalition representing local sex trade workers is urging Ottawa police to stop cracking down on prostitutes in monthly sting operations.
The group’s open letter to police was sent in response to the warning Chief Vern White issued in December, saying investigators had detected a pattern in the deaths of a number of sex trade workers. The police also issued a safety advisory, advising sex workers to work in teams and to avoid isolated areas.
But the coalition, which is made up of six local groups, says this advice only exposes sex workers as obvious targets for arrest. They’re especially afraid of being caught in a street sweep, an undercover operation where officers start conversations with prostitutes, only to arrest them once an offer of sex for money is made.
Greg MacDougall interviews sex workers rights advocates at the 2011 Women’s World conference. Interview with Chris Bruckert, Frédérique Chabot and Tuulia Law — of POWER, Students for Sex Worker Rights, and Sex Professionals of Canada. At Women’s Worlds 2011 conference in Ottawa, July 7. http://womensworlds.ca