Landing : Athabascau University

West End Sex Work History Project, 1975-1985

“The Expulsion of Sex Workers from Vancouver’s West End, 1975-1985: A Cautionary Tale”

Long reputed to be the “prostitution capital of Canada,” Vancouver, British Columbia has been at the centre of legal and political debate, policing, media analysis, and policy-making about sex work for more than a century. From 1975 to 1985, a heterogeneous, pimp-free community of male, female, and transsexual prostitutes lived and worked on-and-around Davie Street in the city’s West End. Their presence sparked a vigorous backlash, including vigilante action, from multiple stake-holders such as CROWE (Concerned Residents of the West End) intent on transforming the port town into a “world class city” and venerable host of “Expo 1986.” Indeed, “clean-up” and “renewal” agendas have re-surfaced in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Since 1975, more than 70 sex workers have been murdered in Vancouver. Our research project explores the economic, socio-legal, spatial, and political conditions that coalesced, more than 25 years ago, to normalize harassment, intimidation, and violence against prostitutes.

-The project is generously funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2007-2011), in conjunction with the University of British Columbia, Department of Sociology & Women’s and Gender Studies Program.


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