An EPS sign that used to be on 95 Street. The number for the report-a-john hotline is still the same - just put area code 780 in front of it. Supplied
Some who read this article will remember 25 years ago when there were many girls and women standing on the corners, bumper-to-bumper cars circling and picking them up, and used condoms on streets and playgrounds. Schoolgirls were asked if they were “working girls” as they walked to McCauley and Sacred Heart schools. Women on their way to the Italian Centre or waiting at bus stops were harassed for sexual services. There was a network of fortified drug houses called the “ring of fire” in Boyle Street and McCauley.
McCauley Community League leaders organized collaboration with other impacted neighbourhoods and formed CFCP, Communities for Controlled Prostitution, which later evolved into Communities for Changing Prostitution, when women who had survived sexual exploitation joined the group.
“Edmonton: We Have a Problem”, and it’s not “just an inner city problem”. CFCP members met with police, who counted 250 underage girls being exploited and 750 women over the age of 18. They met with City officials and requested a traffic count to document the impact of the prostitution-related traffic. There were over 3700 cars circling 107 Avenue past McCauley School, the majority at night. These men came from all over the city and beyond. That’s why there are double one-ways to this day, like a scar, to remind us of those terrible years.
Three hundred angry people attended a Police Commission Meeting at Sacred Heart gym, demanding action. The Mayor convened the Action Group on Prostitution and the Police Chief declared 1992 “the year of the john.”
CFCP advocated with the City and the Province to educate the men and hold them accountable for the harm. This advocacy created the Prostitution Offender Program. The Minister of Justice declared the men would be charged the equivalent of a fine and these fees would be given to the community to help heal the harm. This resulted in the formation of PAAFE in 1997, the Prostitution Awareness and Action Foundation of Edmonton, which later became CEASE: Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation.
The first priorities for the funds were poverty relief, bursaries, counselling, and public awareness. These priorities continue through three CEASE strategies: Heal the Harm, Build for the Future, and Inspire Positive Social Justice Change. Since 1997, over $480,000 has been invested in bursaries, supporting 250 formerly exploited women, men and transgender persons to achieve educational dreams. Over 3000 men have attended “john school.”
However, harsh, sad realities remain. There are still exploited women trading sex for survival needs. EPS still arrests men, primarily first-time offenders. There are still residents and businesses who are affected. While CEASE is celebrating twenty years of advocacy and support, the call to continual action to address root causes remains.
Learn more about CEASE at: www.ceasenow.org
Kate Quinn is the Executive Director of CEASE and a long-time McCauley resident.