Montreal Borough Wants Help For Its Sex Workers

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The mayor of Montreal's Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough says the city and province need to provide more resources for sex workers in his neighbourhood (Pictured in file photo). (CP File PHOTO/Paul Chiasson)
The mayor of Montreal's Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough says the city and province need to provide more resources for sex workers in his neighbourhood (Pictured in file photo). (CP File PHOTO/Paul Chiasson)

The mayor of Montreal's Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough says the city and province need to provide more resources for sex workers in his neighbourhood.

Réal Ménard told journalists at a news conference Sunday that the dozens of sex workers plying the streets in the area shouldn't be treated as criminals but as people in need of support.

He released figures from the local police station that estimate half those women have some kind of mental distress and the majority are addicted to drugs, typically hard ones like crack and heroin.

Working closely with the women, instead of having police try to stamp out prostitution, will make the borough safer for everyone, Ménard said.

"We want to have an emergency team where the nurses, the social workers, the police officers and the street workers are involving together and planning… interventions," the former Bloc Québécois MP for the area said.

It's not the first time Ménard has appealed for a different approach toward sex work in his part of the city. In June, he and the other councillors for Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve put forward a proposal to create what would amount to a red-light district — what they called a "zone of tolerance" — within the borough.

At the time, he said allowing brothels to open up, and potentially taxing them, would be a better approach to the problems that arise from street prostitution.

Polling research released Sunday by Ménard and fellow Vision Montreal city councillor Laurent Blanchard suggests a majority of residents and businesses in their borough are amenable to establishing a zone for sex work. The survey, conducted by Léger Marketing for the borough, found that a similar number of respondents would be OK with allowing brothels.

The sample size for the survey was too small, however, to draw significant conclusions.

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