Social worker weighs in on Kitimat escort service proposal

The president of the Northwest Branch of the B.C. Association of Social Workers said he does have concerns for potential escort services.

The president of the Northwest Branch of the B.C. Association of Social Workers says his concern would be the vulnerability of potential employees of an escort service.

That’s from Robert Hart, who represents social workers over a wide swath of the province’s northwest, including Kitimat.

While he didn’t seek to cast a black line through the entirety of the escort service industry — he said some companies may provide legitimate social activities — he did say that some businesses do end up oppressing women through their operations.

He called the situation for some women in the trade as a “double tragedy.” By that he refers to the fact that a lot of people working in such business are usually from a hard home life.

“Oftentimes these are women who are fleeing abusive homes. Young kids, including young women, don’t leave home when it’s working for them,” he said.

“They do it because the home is a hurtful place.”

From there they may end up in undesirable occupations.

“Then in trying to support themselves they become systemically abused,” he said.

So from the perspective of a social worker, what needs to be done and what questions need to be asked?

“If I were an evaluating an escort service I’d certainly have a conversation with them on how they recruit people, what’s in the deal, is it a fair labour deal?” he said. “Those kinds of people are particularly vulnerable sometimes to labour relations.”

He points out that there are ways businesses and the community can attempt to curb the economic desirability of such a business operating locally.

“The town could work with the [industrial] companies to provide additional recreational resources, so young guys would have healthy outlets,” he said.

As an example he said companies working on projects in town could establish a bulk membership for the workforce to a club like the Snow Valley Nordic Ski Club to allow workers easy access to outdoor recreation.

Community groups, from public health to the RCMP, could also provide safety training to escort employees.

“There is expertise in the community that can be organized and focused for the young women who are employees of that company,” he said. “If the company were a good one, I’m thinking they’d really favour that.”

The bottom line for Hart, though, is his concern that the employees of such a business would be vulnerable due to their home life and lack of proper education.

“I’m concerned about the special vulnerability of that population and I’m further concerned that there’s no specific agency dedicated to keeping that population safe.”

Meanwhile the Tamitik Status of Women, Kitimat’s own women’s advocacy group, is still working on crafting an official position to the escort service proposal for town.

“We’re currently informing ourselves and that is including having conversations with women who are working in the trade and using a lens of health and safety for all women,” said Tamitik outreach worker Cheryl Rumley.