I found out too late that yesterday was the 25th anniversary celebration of the documentary film, Hookers on Davie, made by the tandem of Janis Cole and Holly Dale in the heyday of the hooker wars in Vancouver`s West End.
I wrote a book on the history of prostitution in Vancouver (Red Light Neon, Subway Books, 2006) but I was never able to get hold of a copy of the film so I have never seen it and am disappointed to have missed it yet again. It documents a wild, unflattering chapter in the history of the city.
Anyone living in Vancouver in the 1980s will recall the so-called open air sex bazaar that flourished in the Davie Street-West End neighbourhood from the late 1970s until the 1984 provincial court injunction banning street prostitutes from the area west of Granville. Hookers on Davie offers a sympathetic look at the sex workers but residents were decidedly more hostile and local politicians were at their wits end what to do about the issue.
Most observers feel that the problem on the streets in the West End originated with the police raid on the Penthouse cabaret and other night clubs at Christmas 1975. Indoor prostitution had been tolerated at these venues for years. Then the raids flushed hundreds of sex workers out onto the streets, contributing to the growing problem in other parts of the city.
Likewise many observers believe that the eviction of sex workers from the West End in 1984 led to their dispersal to other, less salubrious parts of town where they more easily fell victim to deviant predators like Robert Pickton.
Whatever the exact chain of events and whoever you blame, the fact remains that Vancouver has never figured out a way to deal honestly and safely with its street prostitutes.