Vancouver in the 1980s was undergoing restructuring necessary to reorient the city towards a global economy in the midst of a national recession. In Vancouver’s West End, the number of people selling sex on the streets had been steadily increasing since the mid-1970s. In 1981 some residents, in order to secure their “right to peace and quiet” and guarantee the “livability” of their neighbourhood, formed a group called CROWE (Concerned Residents of the West End) with the singular objective of driving sex workers from the residential streets of the West End. The legal changes that decriminalized the status of being a prostitute in 1972 had been fought for and won by feminists and civil libertarians in the context of a more progressive political climate and a degree of economic prosperity. In the shifting political and economic tides of the early 1980s, these feminist legal gains were fought against by CROWE’s organizational offshoot Shame the Johns, the mayor, and the police force in a successful push for new laws to more heavily criminalize street prostitution. This thesis examines the new politics that emerged at the grassroots level in the fight against street prostitution and highlights the local role in federal policymaking. This local struggle culminated in the introduction into the Criminal Code of a new law criminalizing street prostitution in 1985. As some gay men, seniors, and straight West Enders joined forces in their successful fight for the streets, their new coalition redefined neighbourhood belonging, ideal urbanism, and community safety through an exclusionary and punitive lens.
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Thesis advisor: Ferguson, Karen
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