VANCOUVER — A lawyer for the Vancouver Police Department says the force initiated a decades-long campaign to move sex workers to the city’s darkest, dirtiest streets because that’s exactly what Parliament intended when it drafted this country’s prostitution laws.
The public inquiry into the Robert Pickton case has heard from several witnesses who have complained about police tactics that have displaced sex workers and contained them in dangerously isolated areas of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
But Vancouver police lawyer Tim Dickson suggests the force was only doing the best it could under the law that prohibited communication for the purposes of prostitution, which came into effect in 1985.
Dickson argues the law was designed to keep sex work and the nuisances associated with it out of sight, rather than eradicate prostitution completely.
Dickson put that suggestion to Simon Fraser University criminologist John Lowman, who agreed that the law has resulted in moving prostitution rather than curbing it.
In fact, Lowman says the law only appears to target street-level sex work, leaving a two-tiered system in which safer forms of prostitution such as escort services are effectively legal.