Vancouver sex workers will gather in West End for annual Red Umbrella march

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      Many Vancouver sex workers were thrilled when Stephen Harper's Conservatives were defeated in the 2015 federal election.

      That's because the Conservatives introduced the draconian Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, which outlawed the purchase of sexual services and imposed harsh penalties on sex workers who wanted to market themselves.

      The Triple X Workers' Solidarity Association of B.C. claimed that the legislation, which was introduced by former justice minister Peter MacKay, was unconstitutional.

      It came after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down three laws—communicating in public for the sale of sex, operating a common bawdy house, and living off the avails of prostitution.

      In the Bedford decision at the Supreme Court of Canada, then chief justice Beverley McLachlin linked horrific violence meted out to sex workers with laws that push this trade into the shadows.

      McLachlin concluded that this infringed on their charter rights to security of the person.

      But much to the sex workers' surprise and disappointment, Harper's replacement as prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has done nothing to repeal the former Harper government's legislation.

      Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau once said that state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation, endearing him to the LGBT community.

      Clearly his son Justin doesn't agree with that sentiment, nor did his former justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould.

      So on Saturday (June 8) at 1 p.m. at the West End Sex Workers memorial (1130 Jervis Street), sex workers and their allies will hold their seventh annual Red Umbrella march.

      Patrick Clark, a man with cerebral palsy who has patronized sex workers, told the Straight in 2015 that he didn't want to be driven underground by the Harper government's new law criminalizing what he had done in the past.
      Charlie Smith

      It will highlight the dangers sex workers face as a result of the federal government refusing to recognize that they should enjoy the same rights accorded to other business people.

      Unlike a shopkeeper or a nightclub owner, sex workers cannot hire security staff, advertise their services, or share financial proceeds of their chosen work with loved ones.

      In some communities, the federal anti-prostitution law forces them into rushed decisions with a potential client, making this work far more dangerous.

      That's one of the reasons why too many sex workers end up dead in this country.

      We in Vancouver know that as well as anyone.

      It's here where the country's most prolific serial killer preyed on sex workers in the Downtown Eastside for many years.

      Where's the political courage to address this situation?

      It's certainly not visible on the Liberal side of the House of Commons where Trudeau sits when he's not jetting around the world.