Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hounding Sex Trade Workers To The Margins

The more things change, the more prostitution appears to remain a confounding, disturbing, insoluble public-policy dilemma, and so one of the most helpful things about the just-published Red Light Neon: A History of Vancouver’s Sex Trade (Subway Books, $22) is that it doesn’t pretend to have something bold and new to say on the subject.

Author Daniel Francis, the prolific social historian who was the guiding hand behind the Encyclopedia of British Columbia, has no particular argument to make and doesn’t approach the subject from any deep theoretical conviction. He does something far more useful.

That's from my Chronicles column this week.

Francis simply provides a well-told story about prostitution in Vancouver from the earliest days, and in the effort he also provides a history of the ideas and attitudes that have animated the city’s approach to prostitution. Inevitably, it’s also a history of class, race, and poverty.

Recently, the RCMP arrested more than 100 people in a sweep of Lower Mainland massage parlours, a parliamentary committee looking into Canada’s prostitution laws concluded three years of investigation with a report that contains practically nothing of any obvious value, and jury selection wrapped up for the trial of Robert Pickton, a Coquitlam pig farmer charged with murdering 26 Vancouver prostitutes.

The one case that Francis does make—and it’s made so convincingly, by letting the historical facts speak for themselves, that you hardly notice—is that all those murders that ended up with Pickton standing accused as a serial killer were a direct result of the way public policy toward prostitution evolved in Vancouver.

Over the past quarter-century or so, Vancouver’s street prostitutes have been hounded to the margins. And it’s there that they always end up dying. . .


Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

Okay, I'll bite - why the Smilin' Buddha sign photo? Isn't that associated more with Vancouver punk rock than prostitution?

12:50 PM  
Blogger keefer said...

Something to do with Francis' book title I should think.
That is one of the first signs that pops into mind when neon is mentioned...
Or maybe it's deeper-- the buddha, the pot-bellied johns?
But seriously, it's a book that seems a must-read. Lest we continue to marginalize...

1:24 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

Ah, okay, missed the title.

2:38 PM  

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