May 20, 2009 / 9:36 PM / 10 years ago

Canadian prostitutes get training for the Olympics

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Athletes, coaches and organizers aren’t the only people getting ready for next year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver, with training also underway for the city’s prostitutes.

A Canadian agency that provides support services for the city’s sex workers is preparing a brochure and training to inform prostitutes about their rights and how to deal with the international media when they descend on the city to cover the Winter Olympic Games from February 12-28.

“It is a supportive tool that we are offering,” said Natasia Wright, of the Prostitution Alternatives Counselling and Education Society (PACE).

“What we are doing is putting together a brochure for our members on their rights to do with the media in general in preparation for the Olympics,” she added in a telephone interview.

The brochure will contain information and guidelines about how to handle requests for photographs and interviews. It will also be accompanied by a discussion session, according to PACE, which is located in Vancouver’s poor Downtown Eastside area.

It will inform sex workers about where they can be photographed, how to handle media aggressiveness, and that they can refuse to do an interview and can ask for questions in advance if they do, according to Wright.

The agency, which deals with about 60-100 sex workers each month, wants prostitutes to feel safe, confident and not intimidated. It hopes the tool will be a model for other cities and organizations to follow.

“All people should know their rights with the media and if they don’t, then they should be informed,” said Wright, adding that sex workers have previously been asked impertinent questions and have had to deal with rude and aggressive behavior from the media.

PACE provided a similar service, in cooperation with the Vancouver police and other organizations, before the start of the 2007 trial of Robert Pickton, a Canadian pig farmer who was convicted of murdering six women.

“It was very well received by our members,” said Wright.

“Our members were happy to be told this because it was a problem in their everyday life and this was a solution for it.”

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