Greetings from Vancouver!!!!
During 2005 a group of sex workers had also come together in partnership with Simon Fraser University and began the History of Sex Work Project in the hopes of discovering the history of sex work, our history, in the City of Vancouver. How did sex workers contribute to its growth, character and its conception? In recent years, the sex workers civil rights movement has become an international effort and sex workers all over the world are demanding human rights and labor standards. As in all civil rights movements, we need to understand our history in order to understand our place in the community. The foundation for change is to have pride in ourselves and the accomplishments of the sex workers before us.
We wanted to understand the factors which came to bear on the quality of life for sex workers throughout the life of our city and how the situation had degraded into the disaster we see today in the downtown east side of Vancouver. We learned how from the 1920’s up until the early 70’s the sex industry had existed in what were called “Supper Clubs” where a gentleman could be entertained with a nice dinner, an escort to keep him company, and a Las Vegas style exotic dance performance. Dancers, escorts, cigarette girls, waitresses, cooks, bouncers and bartenders all worked together under the same roof. This was a community where everyone worked within their own personal boundaries and in relative safety, within a safe, supportive work environment.
The end results of the project were a book and a multi media museum installation which are owned by and created by the project participants. The Group discussed how the project could be expanded to include an historical walking tour and supper club style dinner and show that could provide employment opportunities for sex workers, empower sex workers through knowledge of our history, and support the creation of a number of co-operative enterprises.
The enterprises the team thought would support the expansion of the project were catering , publishing , consulting and, of course art (the History project is very artistic and as well, the team intends to develop a play).
During the project “Leading the Way” in 2006-07 Vancouver sex workers worked hard to create a framework for this co-operative and have finalized governance policies, decision making procedures, terms of reference, membership criteria, code of conduct, and conflict management procedures that will reflect what they envision as a community. We were officially incorporated in February, 2008 as the West Coast Co-operative of Sex Industry Professionals, Canada’s first sex worker cooperative.
This project will focus on the development of the catering/cafe enterprise;
Many organizations have formed catering companies or opened café’s as a way to generate funds, build community capacity and create alternative sources of income.
Sex workers exiting the industry explained that existing supports do not provide an opportunity for them to secure employment or to earn money. Food preparation is an accessible skill with which members are familiar. The integration of food preparation, serving, kitchen clean up and bartending positions into the co-op café’s various activities will involve learning about the food service industry and will give sex workers the skills and experience they need to work not only within the co-op but to compete for employment outside of the sex industry.
With support from ICPas per our attached proposal, we hope to create a in depth business plan and detailed construction plans for a physical location for this space within the first funding year, then using our plan to fundraise capitol costs to implement our plans in the second year and open/operate the cafe.
We were hoping to appeal to you all to support us by sending us a letter of support for our proposal. The dealine is July 31st and i know it’s short notice but we would appreciate any support we can muster!! Let’s start moving forward on canada’s first sex worker cooperative!
please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.
thankyou for your time.
cooperative development coordinator
West Coast Cooperative of Sex Industry Professionals