VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Website not about selling sex
CANOE - CNEWS
Fri, January 28, 2005
She's part Xaviera Hollander, Howard Stern and Norma Rae, all rolled into one. Carol-Lynn Strachan, Edmonton's most notorious prostitute and cringe-inducingly outspoken citizen, is challenging the establishment's sensibilities again.
And this time, she's going national.
Strachan, as you may recall, fought Edmonton's deeply flawed escort bylaw in court last year by accusing city hall of living off the avails of prostitution through its exorbitant licensing fees.
She lost the case, but remains unbowed. As far as Strachan's concerned, the bylaw, which sets out $3,600 annual business-licence fees for escort agencies - compared to $45 for a grocery store or $85 for a bathhouse, for example - discriminates against a perfectly legal enterprise.
And worse, she argues, the bylaw's draconian stipulations and restrictions are actually putting prostitutes' lives at risk.
For example, sex-trade workers who have been charged with public soliciting are disqualified from getting a $100 individual licence, so they end up working the streets where it's far more dangerous.
"Even if they want to come inside and work legally, they can't," she said.
Strachan finds it profoundly frustrating that while prostitution is legal in Canada (soliciting on the streets is not), city hall treats prostitutes like a dirty little secret that everyone wishes would just go away. At the same time, she says, it's the businessmen, professionals and other so-called leaders and decision makers who provide prostitutes with their livelihood and then go home to their families.
"Don't call me an escort," she says. "In all the years I've been in this business, I've only once been asked to go to the opera. And even he expected me to put out at the end of the evening. I'm a prostitute and so are all the other licensed escorts. The city should just be honest with itself - they're licensing prostitutes."
Strachan's latest effort to bring the sex trade out of the shadows is a new website, sextradeworkersofcanada.com, which is designed to help prostitutes.
"Our goal," it says on the home page, "is to provide you with useful information about how to protect yourself and others as well as supply the public with information and awareness of the industry."
It contains tips for personal safety, a so-called "bad dates" list that warns prostitutes of dangerous johns, updates on project KARE, the RCMP investigation into prostitute murders on the Prairies, and links to legal, health and other relevant websites.
Soon she'll add features like an instructional video on safer-sex practices and legal advice on prostitutes' rights and responsibilities.
The site isn't selling sex. There is absolutely no contact information for hiring an escort, and no links to any escort's personal website.
The website was launched on Jan. 23, and within the first 24 hours the webmaster reported more than 10,000 hits from across the country. This, Strachan said, proves how much need there is.
And in a typical Strachan-esque jab at political hypocrisy over the sex trade, each page on the website is emblazoned with Canada's official coat of arms.
"Yeah, the website has a kind of 'government look' to it," she admits with a laugh. "But that's because the government should be doing this. If they're going to license and regulate us, then they should be putting some of the money they make off of our backs into programs to help us."
She pointed to a recent Edmonton Sun article that said the city of Edmonton alone made $500,000 in business-licensing fees from the "sindustry," including tobacco merchants, alcohol venders and the sex trade.
"Women are dying out there," she says, "We need some kind of resource, somewhere to go with their questions. The government should be doing this, but I certainly wasn't going to sit around waiting for them to come through for us."
Updated: August 21, 2016