There is a high prevalence of Aboriginal women in prostitution in some parts of Canada. In Winnipeg, for example, city councillor Harry Lazarenko and the police service estimates that they make up 70% of street prostitutes. Winnipeg is not the only city where that is the case. In most large Canadian cities, a disproportionately large number of Aboriginal women are involved in street prostitution.
Compared to other women involved in prostitution, Aboriginal women are more likely to be dealing with drug problems and extreme poverty. In addition, an Amnesty International Canada report points out that at least a third of the more than 70 women who disappeared from Vancouver Downtown Eastside were Aboriginal. The Subcommittee heard that Aboriginal women also face special problems, including racial profiling and excessive police intervention. This is what Cheryl Hotchkiss, a human rights campaigner for Amnesty International Canada, had to say about Aboriginal women involved in prostitution in Canada:The isolation and social marginalization that increases the risk of violence faced by women in the sex trade is often particularly acute for indigenous women.
Some witnesses stressed the importance of recognizing the special needs and problems of Aboriginal women and girls involved in prostitution. Pamela Downe, a professor in the Department of Women and Gender Studies at the University of Saskatchewan, noted in her testimony that intervention on their behalf must take into account the fact that colonial history actually does lead to a very further that it is wrong-headed [for society] to attempt to disentangle their personal unique and distinct experience for Canada’s Aboriginal women. She noted experience from the history of their people.
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