For the first time in Canada’s history, buying sex will be a criminal offence starting December 6 this year.
That’s when the country’s new prostitution law comes into effect, following the passage of legislation introduced by the federal Conservative government.
But as far as the Vancouver Police Department is concerned, there’s not a whole lot that’s going to change in the way it deals with the sale and purchase of sexual services in the city.
“Our officers will still be guided by the principles and policies and procedures outlined in the sex-work-enforcement guidelines that we have,” Const. Brian Montague told the Straight in a phone interview.
The VPD spokesperson was referring to a set of directives adopted by the police force in January 2013 that states: “Sex work involving consenting adults is not an enforcement priority for the VPD.”
When asked if Vancouver police will be mounting sting operations against buyers of sex, Montague responded: “If you read our policy…I think the best way to put it is enforcement is a last resort for us.”
Montague also noted that the VPD has the same approach toward marijuana laws: the VPD does not place a high investigative and enforcement priority on possession of cannabis as a singular offence.
“We want to make sure that other options are explored, and I think the best way to describe it is the fact that our officers have a great deal of discretion when dealing with a variety of circumstances, whether it’s prostitution laws or drug laws,” Montague said. “Enforcement isn’t necessarily always the most appropriate option.”
However, Montague pointed out that as provided for in the VPD’s guidelines, high priority for intervention are cases involving violence against sex workers, minors, human trafficking, and connection with criminal gangs. Montague said: “At any time that we’re looking at crimes where children are involved, where people are being exploited, obviously…enforcement might be appropriate in those circumstances.”