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Catholic Vancouver Nov 5, 2016

New campaign brings attention to not-so-new law

By Agnieszka Krawczynski

Activists hope Vancouver police and locals will do more to enforce Bill C-36 and end prostitution

The B.C. Catholic

Seventeen new black-and-white billboards are raising awareness about a law that advocates say is not publicized enough.

"In 2014, Canada criminalized the buying of sex. I am not sure the average citizen knows that," said Trisha Baptie, a member of Formerly Exploited Voices now Educating (EVE).

Paying for sex has been illegal since Bill C-36 came into effect in December 2014.

Baptie, at a press conference at the intersection of Joyce Street and Kingsway in Vancouver Oct. 18, said that law "is not only a step forward in keeping women and girls safe, but it is also a step forward in women's and girls' equality."

EVE joined several other groups to form traffickedhuman.org, an organization to educate the public about prostitution and to urge police to enforce the law.

The organization placed 17 billboards across Vancouver and Surrey with the words "Buying sex is a crime" and the phone number for Crime Stoppers.

"The law has been in place for almost two years," said Gwendoline Allison, a lawyer and a member of traffickedhuman.org.

"The clear statement from Parliament is that girls, youth, and women are not for sale, that they are whole human beings, with dignity and human rights. The act makes buying commercial sex, receiving a material benefit from prostitution, and advertising criminal offences."

No arrests under this law have been made in B.C., though it has been enforced elsewhere: 22 buyers were arrested a year ago in York, Ont., and 27 men face charges in Sydney, N.S.

"If little Sydney, N.S., can do it, Vancouver, B.C., can do it," said Mary-Lee Bouma of Resist Exploitation Embrace Dignity.

"Most people, in my experience, in Vancouver do not know about this law. We are calling on the city to implement the law."

Deacon Rennie Nahanee, the First Nations Ministry coordinator for the Archdiocese of Vancouver, is in favour of the law and the billboard campaign.

"Because of the disproportionate number of aboriginal women who end up in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, and with the murdered and missing women inquiry, we need to let people know that buying sex is a crime," he said.

Twelve groups, including the Archdiocese of Vancouver, Hope for the Sold, and Mothers Against Trafficking Humans, are officially behind the campaign.

Others, including St. Mary's Parish Street Ministry and the Catholic Women's League, also showed their support at the press conference.

"We had a resolution in 2012 advocating the Nordic model of law for prostitution," said Barbara Renaud, a CWL member.

"We've working towards this for quite a long time. Now, with the law in place, exactly what we hoped for, work goes on."

The billboards will be up until the end of October.

Allison said after the signs come down, the group plans to continue its educational efforts and putting pressure on the Vancouver police department.