VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Cell Phones for Safety
Friday, May 14, 1999
VANCOUVER -- Amid fears that a serial killer is preying on Vancouver's prostitutes,
B.C. agreed yesterday to provide cellphones to women plying the sex trade in a depressed
BC Government Defends Phones For Prostitutes
TORONTO (Reuters) - The British Columbia government says it will go ahead with its plan to provide Vancouver prostitutes with cell phones despite the whirlwind of controversy it has created.
The government's announcement that it will donate $3,000 toward a program to provide cell phones to prostitutes in Vancouver's downtown Eastside has been met with a wall of disapproval.
``More than 90 percent were opposed to the idea,'' said Loren Smith, city editor of the Vancouver Province, which ran a page of mostly angry letters to the editor in its Monday paper.
But Terry Harrison, of the Ministry of Women's Equality, is not worried about the backlash, saying that once people have all the facts, their reaction will change.
``We're dealing with a group in society who are not socially accepted and so anything that will help these individuals will obviously raise a few eyebrows,'' said Harrison.
She added the phones will all be second-hand analog phones, programmed to make 911 calls only.
She said the initiative is an important one, amid fears that a serial killer is preying on Vancouver's prostitutes.
More than 20 prostitutes have disappeared without a trace from an area in the city's Eastside -- one of Canada's poorest neighborhoods -- since 1995.
``They're under siege right now,'' Morrison said of the prostitute disappearances.
The program will be administered by ``Grandma's House,'' a drop-in center for prostitutes, which has already begun a small-scale pilot program a few months ago.
LETTER OF THE DAY SUE HAMMELL, Minister of Women's Equality, Victoria
Prostitutes deserve the protection of cell phones
As for the recent coverage of my ministry's emergency cellphone initiative in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, I would like to say that this is about the safety of women at a time when 21 women have disappeared and are presumed to have died violent deaths.
It is not about prostitutes getting free cell phones.
These phones are not high technology or deluxe. They are previously owned and adapted so that they can only be used to call 911. The user presses a single button and the phone automatically dials 911. There are no airtime costs or monthly fees. The phones themselves have almost no "street-value" and pawnshops are unlikely to take them.
The phones will be the property of Grandma's House, a front-line service agency that provides support to sex-trade workers. They will coordinate the use of the phones by lending them out. The phones will not be the property of any single person.
The cost of this community initiative is $3,000. The grant will help Grandma's House expand its existing and successful phone-lending program, which was developed to respond to the fear this community is experiencing.
The pilot project involved 10 phones, none of which has been pawned or stolen. If this expanded program prevents just one woman from being assaulted it will have paid for itself many times over.
Grandma's House has found that just having the cell phones visible is a strong deterrent to someone looking to do one of these women harm and may aid in catching a killer.
This effort supports other work to address the multitude of issues that keep people stuck in a cycle of abuse, addictions and poverty.
The comments that cause me the most concern are those that suggest that because women in question are prostitutes they just don't matter. The lives of these mothers, daughters, sisters and friends are not disposable.
I reject any suggestion that these women are not deserving of our care.
Updated: August 21, 2016