An excellent article appears in today's McGill Daily, with input from Stella,on the subject of how the SPVM deals with street sex workers in the city, and the consequences of these policing policies. - McGill Daily: Sex and the SPVM
The article mains two main points:
- SPVM targeting of clients results in increased risk to sex workers from bad clients:
2. The attitude of the SPVM towards sex workers results in violence against sex workers most often not being reported, and even when it is reported, it is often not investigated, effectively leaving street sex workers without any protection from the violence they are subject to on a regular basis.Every year, beginning in the spring and early summer, the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) plants fake police officers disguised as sex workers on corners normally occupied by outdoor workers, in an attempt to target and prosecute clients seeking sexual services.
“Client-based approaches are dangerous for sex workers,” says Émilie Laliberté, a former sex worker and the general director at Stella.
“Whenever there’s a raise in the persecution of [Stella’s] clients on the streets [by the SPVM], we have way more descriptions on the bad tricks list.” The “bad tricks” list is a section of a monthly bulletin released by Stella that provides workers with descriptions of violent assailants recently seeking services, and the act, and location, so that the workers may better protect themselves.
According to Laliberté, the SPVM might arrest anywhere from 50 to 75 clients in one week. Fewer clients on the streets leads to longer hours spent soliciting, more tension and stigma from area residents, and less choice and control over clients. Reports of violence against sex workers increase.
They’re going to accept clients that they would have not accepted before, and they’re going to accept less for services than they would have done before. Sometimes they will have the instinct that maybe someone doesn’t look good or they get a bad feeling, but they’re not going to listen to it because they’ve been waiting on the corner for three hours, and so they’re going to jump in the car.”
The article concludes by stating that sex workers are pinning their hopes on a favorable decision in the Bedford case which will be heard by the Supreme Court on June 12.Sex workers in Montreal greatly mistrust the SPVM because it sees them as criminals rather than members of a community. As a result, they are unable to ask for the services they need, and are forced to choose between obeying the law and maintaining their own personal safety.
One of the major issues regarding sex workers and [lack of] police protection…is that all the violence faced by sex workers goes unresolved. We have about 15 to 20 bad trick descriptions of events of assault, sometimes rape, sometimes attempts of murder,” Laliberté told The Daily. “These sex workers that come to us with a number, address, description – they won’t necessarily press charges against the assaulters because they don’t believe in the system and they’re afraid they’re going to be the one ending up in jail.”
In Montreal, Stella annually records between fifty and sixty cases of violence, including rape, brutal beatings, and attempted murder against sex workers. These statistics, and the information that accompanies them – sometimes as specific as home addresses of the assailants – are available to the SPVM, often only nominally investigated. Only four or five cases reach the courts every year.
171 female sex workers were murdered between 1991 and 2004, according to a 2006 Statistics Canada report. Because many such killings go unreported, a House of Commons sub-committee declared that these numbers were “almost certainly lower than the real figures.”
It is also worth mentioning that the attitude and policies of the SPVM towards sex workers contrasts greatly with those of the Vancouver Police, as explained in the following article:We’ll be looking to the Supreme Court to make a decision that could make it much safer for all sex workers to work in Canada and receive as much protection from the police as any other citizen,” says Laliberté.
Vancouver Sun: Vancouver police policy on prostitution laws called a model for the country (with video)