Canada's new prostitution law won’t change policing priorities in Vancouver

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      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.”

      Comments

      16 Comments

      K

      Nov 26, 2014 at 11:59am

      " our officers have a great deal of discretion"

      - Then why did Parliament bother making laws? Who gave you discretion?

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      Graham

      Nov 26, 2014 at 3:10pm

      We are really lucky to have the VPD here in Vancouver. They focus more on harm reduction than on throwing people in jail for minor crimes. Sure there have been a few bad apples, but the vast majority of officers do an excellent job. Contrast this to when I used to live in the 'burbs and the RCMP spent most of their time making traffic stops and harassing teenagers.

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      M

      Nov 26, 2014 at 3:50pm

      The VPD model will prove to other cities who enforce this unconstitutional piece of legislation creates more problems for the cities who enforce it. Therefore making it easier for the enevitable constitutional challenge to defeat it.

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      Babolat

      Nov 26, 2014 at 7:26pm

      The Vancouver Police have common sense unlike the federal Conservative government.

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      James ?blq

      Nov 26, 2014 at 8:41pm

      Just don't have a 2x4 strapped to your ass...you could get shot.

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      James ?blq

      Nov 26, 2014 at 8:41pm

      Just don't have a 2x4 strapped to your ass...you could get shot.

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      AKG

      Nov 27, 2014 at 9:42am

      It's good to see some common sense applied to the Conservatives' "Arrest the Pervs and Murder The Hookers" law. One wonders what will happen outside of Vancouver, though, in the suburbs, where a lot of legitimate sex workers are based. Will the RCMP show the same level of common sense in these jurisdictions, or will they be forced into crime prevention theatre - stings and such?

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      @K

      Nov 27, 2014 at 11:05am

      "Then why did Parliament bother making laws? Who gave you discretion?"

      There is some truth to this idea, that when any office is granted, it is granted with a secret condition that it be duly used, and that offices are forfeited for neglect. Blackstone says such in his Commentaries on the Laws of England. But does this apply to the Mayor? The Chief of Police? The individual constable who in error believes he has discretion?

      That being said, prostitution is wholly legal, and only conniving mentally disabled people have ever suggested otherwise, often because they use sex as a means to obtain continuing resources through marriage---they hate competition.

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      K

      Nov 27, 2014 at 12:58pm

      The BC Police Act states that "The minister must ensure that an adequate and effective level of policing and law enforcement is maintained throughout British Columbia." http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/96367_01#section2

      Nowhere in the Criminal Code does it say that some things are illegal depending on where, when and by whom they are done - but this is how the police treat crime. You can do things with impunity in certain areas that would instantly get you arrested in others. People in Vancouver are largely suspicious of the Conservative government, and rightly so, but the police are not democratically elected. We abdicate our own governance to a body over whom we have little oversight. When the police choose to ignore one aspect of a law (prostitution/drug dealing/living on the street and in parks/public intoxication) and ruthlessly enforce another (court injunction against protesting on Burnaby Mountain/driving 40 km/h over the speed limit/joking about terrorism), we are living in a non-transparent police state, subject to the whims of heavily armed unelected officials. To quote Daphne Brahmam (although she was speaking on a different, but related, topic): " In democracies, laws and regulations are supposed to supposed to develop out of informed debate with the aim of maintaining social harmony, while taxes are assessed to pay for services for the common good. It’s not supposed to be left to unelected police board members and individual officers to decide what kind of...policy is acceptable. That should be left up to citizens."

      http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Daphne+Bramham+Citizens+police+should...

      Actually the VPD have done a really great job...

      Nov 27, 2014 at 1:19pm

      I used to be a disruptive teen and also in my early 20s and have dealt with the VPD several times and they seem to be the most professional, common sense people to deal with in so many situations. Where as the RCMP are just clueless and bust anyone/anything in site. We are lucky to have the VPD, they're doing an excellent job.

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