We are SHOP, the Safe Harbour Outreach Project, and we exist to advocate for the human rights of women who do sex work. We provide confidential supportive services, outreach and advocacy around sex work in St. John’s. Over the past two years of operation, we have worked hard to tackle stigma and build relationships between police and women who do sex work; we want sex workers to be able to avail of the same protections afforded to all members of society. The nature of our relationship with police involves two female liaison officers, who are available to speak with women who may have been victims of crime while working in the sex industry.
Last week, we learned the RNC and RCMP conducted an undercover sting operation with sex workers in St. John’s and Mount Pearl as a part of a national project, called “Northern Spotlight”, to increase awareness on human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Canada. When news broke of the “Northern Spotlight” project, we were surprised to see SHOP’s name included because we knew nothing about this investigation, were not involved in any way, nor do we condone it. SHOP has trained RNC officers on reducing stigma, and how to be better allies to sex workers, but our training was not in preparation for this investigation, nor was it to teach officers “how to interact with sex workers” during undercover operations. We work to build trusting relationships with sex workers in our communities and the confidential nature of our work is of the utmost importance.
The Safe Harbour Outreach Project is here to support the human rights of sex workers first and foremost, and we look forward to our continued engagement in positive policing partnerships to help relationship building around this work.