Interesting Vancouver Presents: Where Are They Now? Susan Davis, IV10

“I think we need to take a step back, and look at how we exclude people from our society.”

In celebration of Interesting Vancouver’s 10th anniversary, we’ve been reconnecting with one speaker from each year of our annual event to find out where they are now.

This week we’re featuring Susan Davis who challenged us in her 2010 talk to reconsider our perception of sex workers. Working in the sex trade herself for the last 24 years, she asked us to reflect on our treatment of sex workers, and of those who decide to purchase these types of services.

Susan is a member of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform, and is working towards decriminalization at the federal level. She continues to work as a sex worker today.

In the seven years since we last saw her, sex workers won in the Supreme Court of Canada. At the end of 2013, they successfully argued that our prostitution laws were unconstitutional, and parliament was given a year to come up with new legislation.

Celebrations were short-lived.

In 2015, the conservative government introduced Bill C-36 which re-criminalized prostitution, while still neglecting to offer actionable countermeasures to human trafficking, which it was acknowledged would go on regardless.

At the subsequent parliamentary hearings, Susan shares that her cohorts were mocked and belittled, with one member of parliament even referring to a friend of hers as a whore.

“I guess [we’ve learned] how much the government, and by default society at large, do not care about sex workers. Ideology first; people’s lives and stability, second.”  

Notably different from the rest of Canada, Vancouver does not enforce Bill C-36. The City of Vancouver is working with the Vancouver Police Department to ensure the safety and security of sex workers in our community.

In the midst of all of this, in 2012 Susan was given the opportunity to purchase a butcher shop in Vancouver’s Kensington-Cedar Cottage area. Her family now lives in the apartment above. Open for the last 5 ½ years, Calabria Meat Market has allowed her to begin lifting her family out of poverty. Cicco, the elderly Italian gentleman who sold her the property “gave us an amazing gift,” she tells us.

Operating the market has taught Susan a lot about the challenges small growers and farmers face in Canada. It has also provided her with skills in running a traditional business. Despite the long hours (7 days a week, 16 hours a day) they work, she’s enjoying it immensely.

For her full IV 2009 talk about the history and legality of sex work in Vancouver, check out the video below:

*Feature photo by Trevor Jansen

The 10th anniversary for Interesting Vancouver event is happening on November 10th. Who you would like to see speak at this year’s event? Share your ideas with us by sending an email to info(at)interestingvancouver(dot)com