Recognizing rights of sex trade workers in Calgary

During the recent trial of serial killer Robert William Picton, families of murdered women emphasized something vitally important -- that their lost sisters and daughters should be remembered as real people, not as sterotypical sex trade workers and drug addicts. By stressing this the families were recognizing that when we treat people as anything other than full citizens we render them vulnerable. The municipal government\'s decision to remove images compiled by sex trade workers from public view should be immediately reversed. Such decisions marginalize these workers and perpetuate their vulnerability. This petition demands an apology and reversal of a behind-the-doors decision that denies sex trade workers their rights, dismisses their attempt to share something of their lives, and tells them that they cannot count on processes other people use to take part in Calgary\'s civic life. Calgarians like to think we are a generous and engaged community: we value fairness, transparency and a welcoming spirit. To our municipal governors, however, it seems these values are there to benefit some citizens but not others. Women in the city\'s sex trade worked with University of Calgary faculty members to document the realities of their lives on our streets. Experience has taught them not to expect recognition or protection of their rights to equity and justice. Still,they took the risk of trying something different. They created an exhibit that would give the rest of us a chance to learn something of what their lives are like. They photographed their world and selected,for display, images that were honest but not offensive by any reasonable standard. Then, they went through established channels and received permission to display those images in a public space. Within hours their exhibit was removed, with no explanation and no recourse. Marginalization is not only wrong and painful; it is also dangerous -- marginalized people are vulnerable in ways that the rest of us do not fully understand. The women who put their time, energy and trust into creating something different were effectively told their work was not suitable viewing by more privileged people --- this is marginalization in action. Here is what may reverse the damage: (1) an apology from the mayor (2) restoration of the photo exhibit (3) a posted statement introducing the exhibit and including recognition of it as a powerful statement about the issues it addresses.

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This petition is sponsored by an ad hoc group of concerned citizens.

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