News
1 min

Police arrest 14 sex workers on eve of hooker organizing

Plans for rights group in Ottawa marred by cop street squad

MEAN STREETS. Advocates of sex workers say street sweeps are dehumanizing and counterproductive. Credit: John Crossen

Just four days before a planned meeting between Ottawa sex workers and a Montreal hooker’s rights group, Ottawa Police announced it had arrested 14 prostitutes.

The Feb 14 notice outlined street sweeps in the Centretown, Byward Market, Vanier and Hintonburg neighbourhoods resulting in 47 people being charged. Offenses included drug and property crimes and prostitution.

The sweep was conducted by Ottawa’s newly-minted Street Crime Unit, a project that started in Nov 2007 with a one-year mandate.

Meanwhile, as part of Snowblower, the AIDS Committee of Ottawa has invited activists from Stella, a Montreal group run by and for sex workers, to speak in Ottawa. Everything you Wanted to Know About Sex Workers will run at noon on Feb 17, with a closed session for current and former prostitutes starting at 3pm.

In the wake of the sweeps, ACO is distributing legal information, trying to reach those who have been charged.

“We urge everyone to be aware of their rights and to pass the information on to people who are directly affected,” says Adam Graham in a release Feb 14.

He points people to a small card produced by the Pivot Legal Society, which details some of the things you can say if you are being harassed by the police. It offers a detachable portion which can be given to police officers which reads, in part:

“Officer, if I am under arrest or being detained, please tell me so. If I am free to go, please tell me so. If I am not free to go, please tell me why. I wish to exercise all my legal rights including my right to silence and my right to speak to a lawyer before I say anything to you. I do not consent to be searched. I wish to be released without delay. Please do not ask me questions, because I will not willingly talk to you until I speak to a lawyer. Thank you for respecting my rights.”

In December, the police announced 65 street-level charges were laid — include drug possession, drug trafficking, breach of conditions, robbery and communication for the purposes of prostitution — just one day before International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, when a public protest in Ottawa was planned.

Read more about the rights of sex workers here:
Eight ways to revolutionize the sex trade.