Members of Synod split over whether the diocese should oppose the legalization of prostitution and the establishment of brothels.

In the end the majority (128 votes) agreed with the Rev. of St. Margaret’s, Cedar Cottage, Vancouver, that the Diocesan Council should explore the possibility of uniting with other churches and faiths and tell the Vancouver City Council and Provincial Government “institutionalization of violence towards women and children through legalization of prostitution and brothels” was wrong.

But a strong minority (77) argued that some sex trade workers felt the regulation that would come with legal brothels could make their lives safer.


Laurel Dykstra, a postulate for ordination, makes her points during debate while the Rev. Scott Gould of St. Andrew's, Langley, waits to speak.
“The status quo is awful,” agreed Bill Pearson of St. George, Maple Ridge, but the situation is very complicated. “We should not stick our oar in until we talk to the people directly affected,” he said.

In Canada, prostitution has never been an offense under the federal Criminal Code, but many activities surrounding prostitution are-communicating for the purposes of prostitution, soliciting, procuring, and living off the avails of prostitution. Keeping a "common bawdy house" - a brothel, is also illegal. 

In December of 2007, a group of sex trade workers proposed setting up a co-op brothel in time for the 2010 Olympics. Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson opposed the idea; Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan said he had an "open mind" regarding the proposal.

Woehrle and Marquardt, who brought the motion, agreed that some prostitutes favoured brothels, but said that experience in other countries shows that legalization doesn’t work. “It begins by trying to make the situation more human for sex trade workers,” said Marquardt, “but it ends up making things worse and not protecting women.”

Laurel Dykstra, a postulate for ordination who lives and works on ’s poverty-stricken Downtown East Side, said that what prostitutes need is real help and pastoral care, not legalization. “Letters are a poor substitute for action,” she said.

The Rev. Scott Gould of St. Andrew’s said the issue was broad and deep—and he was surprised to find a parishioner in his suburban congregation who was trying to escape a life of prostitution. “It’s not just happening on the Downtown East Side,” he said. The issue was “complex, broad, and deep—and I feel I have to abstain.”