Oddly Enough

Vancouver sex trade group wins co-op status

The countdown clock for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games hits the exact two year mark in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia February 12, 2008. REUTERS/Andy Clark

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A group of Canadian sex trade workers hoping to set up a legal “co-op” brothel in time for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver said on Friday they have won approval to incorporate themselves.

The provincial government’s designation of the group as a business co-operative is the first step in what organizers say will create a safer working environment for sex trade workers in the Pacific Coast city.

“It defines a structure for us to work together as a community,” said Susan Davis, a development co-ordinator for what will be called the West Coast Co-operative of Sex Industry Professionals.

Brothels are illegal in Canada, but the country’s prostitution laws have recently been challenged in the court as unconstitutional. Prostitution itself is legal, however solicitation, procuring or living off the avails of prostitution can land you in jail.

The group hopes to win an exemption from Parliament by showing it would be safer to have prostitutes work in a single facility in Vancouver that they control, rather than plying their trade on the streets.

The Conservative federal government has warned it will oppose the effort, which critics have said will only perpetuate the idea that prostitution is acceptable.

It took the group six months to draft a business plan and bylaws for the organizations, but it had no trouble from the British Columbia provincial government getting incorporated, Davis said.

“The very nature of a co-operative is that it will not do anything illegal, so there was no reason for them to deny us,” Davis said, adding that getting incorporated will help show lawmakers that the group is serious.

Reporting Allan Dowd; Editing by Rob Wilson