The borough of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve wants sex workers on its territory to operate freely on a stretch of Ste-Catherine Street East.
The idea is to create a "zone of tolerance" in a less residential stretch of the street, between Moreau and Alphonse D. Roy streets, where prostitutes could work without police interference.
The borough says a lot of business owners and residents have complained for years about the presence of sex-trade workers on the streets of the city's east end.
It says as many as 75 prostitutes work at all times of the day on Sainte Catherine in its jurisdiction--near homes, schools and businesses – and it creates tensions.
Hochelaga-Maisonneuve Mayor Réal Ménard and five borough councillors unanimously endorsed the proposal. But without approval from city council and an agreement with police to relax enforcement in the zone, the plan can't move forward.
Ménard said the borough officials have already been in contact with police about the proposal.
"What I have requested is two things: move the girls and be more tolerant in this area in a way that moves it out of the residential areas," he said. "I am aware it is a delicate situation for the SPVM and our commander."
However, as soon as the plan became public, the city was quick to condemn it, citing the illegality of prostitution.
"Creating a zone of tolerance is unacceptable as a solution for both the city and police," said Jocelyn-Ann Campbell, the city's head of social development.
The riding's MNA, Carole Poirier, has also voiced her opposition to the idea of a tolerance-zone.
She said more effort should be focused on helping women and men leave the sex trade.
Daniel Durocher, a caterer who works near the proposed tolerance zone, said he doubts simply asking prostitutes to move along will persuade them to move to an industrial area.
"It will always exist," he said. "You're better to legalize it, to control it a little. Make some taxes off it and have brothels."