It is extremely disappointing and concerning that Richmond city Councillor Kash Heed has brought a motion to the community safety committee to use city bylaws to close down massage parlours.
This is a dangerous step backwards that will harm marginalized workers.
Criminological and health research has well established that prohibition and criminalization leave sex workers vulnerable, operating in unsafe shadow conditions, while also dissuading them from accessing necessary services for fear of legal consequences.
It is worth noting that Councillor Heed, who is largely behind this criminalization drive, built a long career as a police officer, including as Chief of Police in West Vancouver.
We must ask if this is clouding his perspective and trumping concerns for sex workers’ well-being.
Kit Rothschild of PACE Society is correct: “Sex workers are members of the community at large whether or not you approve of the work they do. Sex work isn’t a moral or ethical issue to be debated or outlawed, it’s a labour issue and should be treated as such.”
Richmond council needs to act on this basis—not on outmoded frameworks of criminalization that threaten people’s lives and livelihoods.
Sex workers themselves should be at the centre of their deliberations on this matter.
A recent project in New Westminster shows a way—working collaboratively with sex workers to address their health and safety concerns.
Dr. Jeff Shantz
Department of Criminology
Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Richmond and Surrey