Video: Sex workers' Red Umbrella march goes virtual this year in wake of COVID-19 pandemic

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      Vancouver's sex workers have taken a big economic hit this year.

      Because federal legislation makes it illegal for people to purchase sex, they're not eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, or federal rent assistance for small businesses.

      It means that their livelihoods have been seriously jeopardized by the COVID-19 pandemic.

      "They face evictions, food insecurity, and poor access to public health services," Vancouver Centre Liberal MP Hedy Fry noted on in May. "They have families to feed and despite fears for their health and physical safety, they are pushed even further to the margins in order to survive.

      Every second Saturday in June since 2013, the Triple-X Workers' Solidarity Association, Pivot Legal Society, Sex Workers United Against Violence, the PACE Society, First: Feminists Advocating for Decriminalization of Sex Work, B.C. Coalition of Experiential Communities, and SWAN have been holding the Red Umbrella march for sex workers' safety and labour rights.

      It took on even greater urgency in 2014 after former attorney general Peter MacKay introduced legislation to create four new crimes: for purchasing, advertising, procuring, or sharing the material benefits of sex work.

      The red umbrella is the symbol for sex workers' safety. Yet in the eyes of sex workers and their allies, the federal government is not moving quickly enough to amend the Conservatives' legislation.

      This is the case even after Robert Pickton was convicted of murdering vulnerable sex workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

      This year, in response to the pandemic, there was a virtual Red Umbrella march on June 13.

      Video: Red Umbrella March 2020.

      Check out the video above, which includes a few photos that have appeared in the past in the Straight. 

      For those who've been attending the event in Vancouver over the years, it brings back some joyful memories.

      It also serves as a timely reminder that much more needs to be done on the legislative front to prevent another Pickton-like killing spree.