REPORTING · 18th March 2013
The public got a chance to speak to the District of Kitimat on the proposed bylaw changes regarding the Business Licensing an Escort Service in Kitimat on Thursday, March 14th. Deputy CAO Warren Waycheshen, Deputy Treasurer Lyle McNish and Sergeant Norm Striker were there to explain the bylaw and answer questions relating to their field of expertise.
Also present were Councillors Edwin Empinado, Mario Feldhoff, Mary Murphy, Phil Germuth and Rob Goffinet. Mayor Joanne Monaghan was also in attendance.
“The main reason we’ve gone with this format is we want to get it out there so everybody could hear what we have to say because there is quite a bit of background on this,” said Waycheshen. “We know this is a contentious item and it stirs a lot of emotions in [people].”
He explained the goal was to get the comments and suggestions from the people of Kitimat, no matter whether it was good or bad. They wanted people to suggest things they did not consider. After the meeting, the District will compile all the information and see what they can and cannot do. Then they will bring it back to Council to decide what they will do.
“What’s happened at this time, we have an inquiry right now from somebody looking at setting up an escort service in the District of Kitimat. We haven’t had an application. I know there is some talk right now about certain companies. We haven’t had anything official on it,” said Waycheshen.
At the moment, Kitimat does not have a business license for escort service covered by a bylaw. He explained they have to work within their legislation and according to the Community Charter, there are no restrictions or prohibitions on Escort Services. Other municipalities have been taken to court and lost.
McNish explained they have to determine what an escort agency does. They act as an agency which supplies a date between a client and a contractor. Rarely, the person working for them is not an employee, they are a contractor. The agency provides a client with a contractor. What they do is between the two of them: it could be a date or it could be prostitution.
“Is it legal? Prostitution is not illegal in Canada. An escort agency is not illegal,” said McNish.
He moved on to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He stated they cannot place an unreasonable restriction on an Escort Service because it would violate their rights and freedoms. Municipalities usually lose in a blanket prohibition. McNish explained they can only look at reasonable restrictions for safety for the workers and the public.
One of the restrictions which the District is proposing is a registry which is a record of all contractors and the agency. This information would be available to the police and to the license inspector. Another restriction they are looking at is for hours of operations.
McNish stated a reasonable restriction is for the age of escorts: 19 and over. The reason for this is the escorts cannot enter a liquor establishment. A criminal record check is another restriction which they are looking into. The final issue is health and safety, but the topic was danced around because they do not know if they can do it.
He explained the Bylaw and the definitions within the bylaw. McNish suggested fees of $1000 for an agency and $250 for the escorts on an annual basis. He pointed out this is a difficult subject and difficult licensing. They found municipalities may have a bylaw in place and the escorts may not have a business license. Finally, he added there were already two escort services operating out of Kitimat.
“All I’m suggesting is we as a community put the bylaw into place and we will attempt to enforce this bylaw,” concluded McNish.
The floor was opened up to the speakers from the community. The first to speak was Jim Johnstone who expressed before becoming a Christian, he worked in the streets of Detroit and Windsor illegally. He had an associate who was involved in prostitution. Then, he was a social worker, councillor and pastor.
“So my opinion on bringing an escort service to Kitimat is experienced from both sides of the tracks. My opinion is this: Escort services legalize abuse of women and legalize gender discrimination, because causes teens and men to have a dim view of how to treat women. It makes women into a legitimate commodity, making them into second class citizens. Women’s bodies and emotions belong to them alone, they must not be enslaved and sold,” said Johnstone.
He explained how women under the age of 25 are targeted to get into the trade and a certain portion of each generation of women is lost. The money might look attractive at first but when they become old and sick, they are thrown to the gutter. He added it affects the body and the mind and those who emerge are ill, traumatized and often poorer than when they started.
“Legalization will only benefit traffickers and pimps and compromise individual women,” said Johnstone. He asked how this will affect marriages, the health system, the court system, the RCMP and the nightlife in Kitimat, calling the latter a joke.
Michelle Martins from Tamitik Status of Women (TSW) was next. She explained what TSW was about before stating that TSW would not take a stance on the licensing of an escort agency, but want to make sure safety, quality and accessibility to all TSW services are available to all women.
“TSW firmly believes all women, including sex industry workers, have the basic human right to live and work in an environment that it is free from hate, violence and exploitation. TSW also recognizes the right of all sex industry workers to be treated as equal members of society, in equal protection and benefit of the law, and not be subject to stigma, discrimination and social alienation,” said Martins.
She agreed with a minimum age and identification. This way, adult workers are able to make informed decisions and ensure ethical sex industry practices exist. She expressed worry that if the license was denied, the escort service would be pushed further underground exposing women to more dangerous practices without protection or advocacy and women would be further marginalized.
“Because of stereotypes, discrimination and wildly accepted misinformation, the Canadian sex industry has become very secretive and workers are often unwilling to report assault or unjust treatment to police fearing repercussions from the reactions of the mainstream society,” said Martins.
She stated it is a false assumption that a sex industry leads to sex trafficking. They recognize the seriousness of human trafficking but there is no evidence that licensed and lawful escort agencies promote sex trafficking. It is largely sensationalized by the media who puts the number of sex trade workers into the number of sex trafficking victims.
“It’s also necessary to remember that not all trafficked people are exploited in the sex trade. Exploitation of victims also occurs in textile sweatshops, factory work, domestic work, farming, the food industry and construction,” said Martins.
“By adhering to the misled attitude that all sex workers are victims rather than participating in the sex trade by choice, the experiences of actual victims of human trafficking are lessened. A better approach is to make sure that those that are trafficked have access to appropriate support and legal resources to deal with these crimes. Furthermore, sex trade workers should be recognized as allies in the fight against human trafficking. Arguing the idea that sex work is the same as human trafficking is potentially alienating a huge group of sex workers who would be helpful in raising awareness about human trafficking as well as providing first hand accurate information about the sex trade industry.”
She explained how RCMP once arrested 100 people based on suspicion of human trafficking. 70 of those who were arrested were all proven to be legally in Canada or permanent residents. It happened because someone confused sex work with sex trafficking. They risked confusing anti trafficking measures with anti-prostitution measures.
“There are serious consequences for sex workers and their clients such as increased stigma, alienation from their community and compromising their essential human rights, as well as diverting attention from the actual realms from which traffickers operate,” concluded Martins.
She stated TSW does not deny the existence of exploitation but intervention needs to be based on evidence and interventions rather than fears and assumptions about women in escort services, many of whom are not the victims of trafficking. Prostitution is not the same thing as trafficking. Being an escort means consensual exchange of sex for money, while trafficking is force coercion.
The next speaker wanted to let people know it is probably going to pass, so is the pipeline. However, neither is right and if Kitimat agrees to it, then the people are responsible for the misery to come.
The next speaker spoke against it because she went to school in Kelowna, volunteered and found this service creates a horrible throwaway society. Kitimat’s services are already taxed and these people will need a lot of help to get past the hurting. The people who become escorts have already been damaged. She wondered what will happen when the doors are closed and added no one is going to report abuse. She wanted to see an end to the abuse and hurt.
The next speaker said Terrace turned down the escort services. Now the escorts operating out of Terrace were using the hotels there as a toilet, leaving behind drug paraphernalia. All of the escorts were known to the police. He said, as a hotel owner, he would kick out the escorts and throw their bags out during the afternoon.
Deloris Pollard and Marilan Furlan from the Haisla Nation said this is an emotional topic for her. She expressed no one can see the reality of what would happen to her people. “How is this community currently feeling with the walk of shame, at the current construction that is happening in this community. Are you even aware of that walk of shame. Is this community aware that we are a port community, the drugs flow freely,” said Pollard.
She stated people do not know if the business people around them are snorting cocaine, as it is a protected secret. She stated the rent increase is going to put a lot of pressure on families because it is outrageous. She asked who is going to speak for single moms and single dads who have to pay a lot of money for a two bedroom apartment.
She said the agency could prey on young men the same way it preys on young women.
The next person, a hospital employee spoke to the number of people who have been admitted with venereal disease since the 80s. She said this is because of the drugs in the community. She reminded people there were young people in the community; the community wants them to pursue an education.
Art Lucier, a local pastor stated he does not want this to happen and have it go underground. He deals with people who are broken all the time and this is one of the causes. He said this is shameful and takes down a city.
The next speaker simply wanted to know how enforceable a bylaw would be. He was told it would be difficult for the RCMP to do an investigation at the moment because they are not getting those complaints. It would give the RCMP a mechanism to start an investigation. However, they were not there to endorse the bylaw, just to keep a finger on the pulse of the community.
Not for the first time that evening, the District of Kitimat Administration stated they were not the ones who brought this forward, they have an inquiry and now they are trying to figure it out.
“As far as I’m concerned, the escort services are all a front for prostitution,” said the next speaker. “When the escort agency makes 4 times what the escort gets, that’s exploitation. We don’t need an escort service in this town, this is a clean town and there are people out there who want to make money out of people’s misery. They’ll attract the wrong types of people in here, they’ll attract prostitutes, they’ll attract the desperate, they’ll attract people who have nowhere else to turn to an escort agency and make some money. We’re a clean town and we don’t need them. We don’t need this exploitation, this town, we’re a clean town. We don’t need a homeless shelter either. This is all I’ve got to say.”
The speaker after stated this will bring no good to anyone and will harm children, families and it is not a good thing for our community. He said the women may not have options to turn to but the key issue is whether or not it will be a good thing for the community of Kitimat. He told the Council if they do not have the ability to say no, then they should make it as uncomfortable as possible.
The next speaker, identified himself as Liam, wanted Kitimat Council to take a stand on the escort issue. He said they should be helping these people rather than covering them up. However, Kitimat does not have the ability to take care of the drug problems in the towns.
The next speaker referred to the escorts as glorified prostitutes. He did not want to see the ‘garbage’ in the town and it would not be good for the town. He wanted to know who the clients would be and assumed the clients were living in trailer parks. He wanted to know how it would impact the family units. What guarantee did the community have that the escorts would not spread STDs and how the escorts would not be linked to organized crime. He accused the escorts of being brought in by organized crime. He wanted to know who would be accountable if someone contracts an STD.
He wanted to know how it would be guaranteed that the sex trade workers were not going to recruit children, destroy property values and properly dispose of their needles so children do not get a hold of them. He wanted restrictions to keep the escort service workers away from schools or places where there would be children. He was applauded.
Ken Cook stated democracy is by the people for the people. He wanted to know why the people of Canada are pressuring people in cities and towns to have things which they do not want in their cities and towns. “Where is the power of the people,” said Cook.
He suggested the Council put forward a referendum so the people of Kitimat can decide, yes or no, should the escort service come into Kitimat. Present it to the Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Court of Canada.
Johnstone returned and said Canada is too polite. He accused the Supreme Court Judges of making the laws where they see fit and Canada is no longer a democracy. He said the people have not done anything. He said the churches need to pray for warfare.
He said he lived with a prostitute for 4 years. He wanted to get her and her children out of it so he moved from Windsor to Toronto. They were found and attacked. Eventually, she returned and died of a drug overdose. Her 12 year old daughter was recruited and she committed suicide.
The people who were present were reminded if they were too strict, the District of Kitimat could be taken to court for discrimination. They do not have a timeline for this project yet.
Lucier suggested the District was afraid of being taken to court rather than stand up for what the people believe in. He suggested they stand up.
Someone thanked all the men for speaking out for women that night. She stated children do not say they want to be an escort, prostitute or want to sell themselves for money when they grow up. She wanted anyone who thought it was ok to know that it is wrong.
Pastor Don Reed representing the Kitimat Ministerial Association provided facts and research into escort services. His facts came from a 4 year study on human trafficking in Canada done by the RCMP which was released in 2010. He shared quotes from the report. He explained young girls are recruited to being trafficked from fronts including escort agencies and brothels using drug addictions to exploit them.
He explained more than 60% of the women involved in prostitution were injured, raped and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder.
Reed provided quote after quote from the RCMP, from active women in opposition of this particular service, one of whom has held leading positions in the Status of Women organization, taking time to question the neutrality of the Tamitik Status of Women.
He provided an argument that prostitution stems from poverty, homelessness and 86% come from the ranks of the homeless.
“Our First Nations Women are at the greatest risk. 52% of the prostitutes in Vancouver are First Nations Woman which is an over representation of this group of people which is 1.7%-1% of the population of Vancouver are First Nations People, something is wrong,” said Reed.
He quoted Unicef statistics which say: indigenous women are on the bottom of a ‘brutal race’ and class hierarchy which is at the bottom of race / class hierarchies of all the other walks of life. He quoted The Aboriginal Woman’s Action Network spoke out to state how First Nations Prostitutes were forced into this position by colonization.
He said the average age at which women are recruited for prostitution is 14. “Aboriginal Girls are hunted down and prostituted, and the predators go uncharged with sexual assault and child rape,” said Reed.
He asked Mayor and Council to listen to the facts and do something for the most marginalized people in Canada. He asked them to join hands and stand with the oppressed, poor and hungry. He asked them to take up the cause of women as escort services are a threat to the community, linked to organized crime, underage prostitution and trafficking of women.
“May we as a community have the courage to say no to outsiders that wish to come to Kitimat to use and traffic our children and our neighbours children for the purpose of monetary gain,” said Reed.
Marilyn Furlan stated she did not want Council to approve this service. She asked them to hit the escort service agency in the wallet. She wanted the District taken to court by the escort service and block it until the community is no longer booming.
The next speaker suggested taking pictures of the escorts standing on the street corners so their clients will not approach them and drive them out of town poor and destitute. His tactics received laughter and applause.
Waycheshen thanked everyone, said there was a long way to go on this bylaw.
Brothel/ Bawdy house
Comment by TheGal on 20th March 2013
Brothel / Bawdy house would be the right description considering the men go in, then they come out. Women very rarely do out calls from what I'm told. Its run on one of the streets here in Nechako. I know but I wont disclose where. Are that many people in this town left in the dark? I suppose? You still have guys running around from last year assaulting, attempting rape and rape. RCMP reports confirm it. So, if we have two escort agencies already running for a year now (almost) why is there an increase in sexual assaults and
rape? Its not changing the violent
crime against women in this town
so why approve it to begin with?
More effort should be put into low
income housing, residential rezoning, building and building a
PROPER service industry not the service of guys in this town getting a piece of ass or not. We need affordable housing and economic influx, not organized crime, their drug and std infected whores. Saying it like it is...
Re: Sandra Capezzuto's comment to me
Comment by Concerned Kitimat Resident on 19th March 2013
Yes Sandra, I saw that we already have escort services here. I really don't think we need another but that is only my opinion of course. Something I hear from various people is that it will come anyway whether we want it or not. Don't wish to stray off topic but will mention I have heard that same thing when people chat about other hot topics such as pipeline to Kitimat, Refinery by Mr. Black work camp in town and so on. Point I wish to make is that I think it is time the people of our area speak out on these proposed things coming to our town. I don't want anyone to think I am opposed to things coming to town but let's make smart choices and hopefully see things happening here that will enhance our community as a whole.
Comment by Apocalypse Now on 19th March 2013
Why are we even discussing this if there already 2 escort services operating in town? Did anyone know except council. Who and where are they?
Comment by Sandra Capezzuto on 19th March 2013
Did our concerned citizen note that there was already 2 escort agencies running here? How long have they been in operation for?
I am inclined to agree with Michelle Martins's point of view.
Why all the fuss if the following is true?
Comment by bill franklin on 18th March 2013
It states in the above report..."Finally, he added there were already two escort services operating out of Kitimat."
It's like closing the barn door after the horse escaped.
Comment by a long-term resident on 18th March 2013
What is an escort service in Kitimat needed for? Ah yes, ballroom dancing...The men can't find a woman willing to dance with them. Very seriously, a 13 year old could figure out what the services would really be for.
Please...Not here, not now, not ever!
Concerned Kitimat Resident
Comment by Let's vote on this issue on 18th March 2013
I would first like to say that there were many good points made by everyone at the meeting. I lean strongly towards one idea as it makes good sense to all of us who are permanent residents in Kitimat and also Kitimaat Village. Let's have an official vote on whether or not to have a escort service in our town. It is time for the people to speak up instead of leaving the decision with council. No disrespect for council but I strongly feel we the people need to take charge. This is a beautiful clean town and I hope it stays that way. We need to make this happen and soon to clear this issue up once and for all.