nerable person another chance. It is an answer to their earlier
prayer for “more light in people’s lives, more flickers of hope.”
They love the prostituted women and men they meet,
and pray that God would give them “a desire for greater
and mightier thoughts.” They ask God to “put their feet on
the right path,” and to “let them know they are valuable.
They are diamonds.” –Doug Koop
Vancouver. Hornby and Dunsmuir
streets. 8:30pm. Sept. 9.
When I joined them, they were huddled together in a dimly lit doorway. Eleven or 12 of them, they spoke together, offering furtive glances as men got out of
slowing cabs to head inside and upstairs. Passing scraps of
bread and a single cup, the group’s voices lift above the din
of a nearby restaurant, singing, “Hosanna in the highest, let
our king be lifted up, hosanna in the highest.”
This is a communion service like none I’ve ever seen, in a
place like few I have been. We are in front of Brandi’s Exotic
Show Lounge around the corner from the prestigious Van-
couver Club, overshadowed by sky-scraping bank towers,
and surrounded by a plethora of boutique shops. Brandi’s
has its own version of power-filled excess.
Brandi’s does not fit as easily into the caricatures of Van-
couver prostitution often perpetuated by the news media
and rock music. For good or ill, whenever discussing Van-
couver’s prostitution scene, my mind inevitably strays to
the stark image presented by Canadian rockers Billy Talent
on their debut album:
Standing in the rain
Milk carton mug-shot baby
Missing since 1983
Standing in the rain
20 years of dirty needles
Raindrops runnin’ through my veins.
A body broken
But this is far from that. In the heart of the city, on a warm
clear night, REED (Resist Exploitation, Embrace Dignity,
www.embracedignity.org) will show me another side of
Vancouver’s sex trade. They will also show me a brand new
response. “This is the body of Christ, broken for you,” says
the young woman next to me as she tears bread from the loaf.
Michelle Miller, REED’s executive director, is invited
often to speak about the end of trafficking. As a Christian
abolitionist in the tradition of Josephine Butler, Miller is a
determined voice in the movement to put an end to prostitution. And while REED offers advocacy for and assistance to prostituted women, REED’s work also focuses on
abolishing the systems that lead to oppression in the first
place. This is why they are strong advocates for adapting
the Nordic Model to Canada.
“For years,” Miller relates, “it was mostly women who
came up to me after a talk.” But speaking at churches and
college and university campuses in recent years, Miller
noticed a growing number of young men who want to be
involved. More often than not, they’re wanting the rescue
side, busting down brothel doors.
Miller bristles, “They say, ‘I want this to be my career. I
want to go kick some ass,’ but when we suggest that they
start a men against rape group on their campus, they in-
evitably leave.” Asked to speculate on why they don’t stick
around, Miller says, “It asks something really different of
them. It demands their vulnerability.”
Miller and others in the abolitionist movement know
the roots of prostitution run deep into a patriarchal cul-
Introducing the Nordic model
By Julia Beazley, Policy Analyst, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
Over the past few years, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) has been working in partnership with other organiza- tions in pursuit of reforming Canada’s prostitution laws. We
are calling on the Federal Government to amend the Criminal Code
to implement laws based on the legal and social framework of what
is known as the Nordic Model of prostitution Law.
This model, first enacted in Sweden, recognizes the vast majority
of prostituted persons are not engaged in prostitution freely and
willingly, and therefore focuses the punitive powers of the law on the
purchasers and purveyors of sexual services – the johns, pimps and
traffickers – while decriminalizing those who are being sold.
The sex trade operates according to simple market principles
of supply and demand. As long as there is a demand for purchasing
women’s bodies, there will be pimps, traffickers and organized crime
ready and willing to guarantee a supply.
Sweden recognized that to abolish prostitution, they would need
to focus their efforts on eliminating the demand for purchasing sexual services. They also understood prostitution and human trafficking are intrinsically linked, with trafficking rings established to feed
the demand for paid sex.
Under this model of law, individuals who pay for sex are subject to
steep fines and possible imprisonment. Those who are being prostitut-
ed are not charged, which facilitates their moving on from prostitution.
Along with the change in law, the Swedish government put in
place a national strategy emphasizing social structures and systems
to ensure that women who want to exit prostitution have the resour-
ces and supports available to them to make this possible. They also
initiated a broad public awareness campaign to affirm that the pur-
chase of sex is not just illegal in Sweden, but is considered violence
against women and a direct affront to equality between the sexes.
The Swedish model is one of the most coherent and successful
prostitution policy models ever developed. This model has proven
quite successful in dramatically reducing prostitution and traffick-
ing, and has been replicated in Norway, Iceland, and is in various
stages of consideration in France, Israel and Ireland.
The Nordic model isn’t perfect, but the countries that have implemented it are committed to constant evaluation and improvement
with the aim of ending sexual exploitation. In Canada, because of our
constitutional division of powers between the Federal and provincial
governments, there will be some unique challenges to its implementation, but it is both doable and the most effective, most just model
developed to date.
The EFC is currently preparing a framework report to suggest what
a Canadian version of the Nordic model might look like. FT