Thursday, April 8 - 14, 1999

Kevin Wilson

p. 24.

Sun screws hookers and takes their cash

Paper in lather over StreetCity hooking but it lives off the avails

Give the Toronto Sun credit for getting lots of mileage out of a sordid sex tale. After breaking a story about prostitution and drug dealing at StreetCity, a city-funded housing project on the 400 block of Front East ("City gives $850,000 to hookers haven," the headline screamed). the trash tab ran at least five more stories, including an unsigned editorial printed the following day.

"Close it down," the editorial harrumphed (is there such a word?). That characteristically snarky tone gave the impression of a paper and editorial board that's not getting any.

Actually, the Sun gets plenty. Flip to its classified section on any given day and you'll see a bevy of adult entertainers purchasing space there. Three pages' worth. The Toronto Sun is the only paper in the mega-city that even comes close to matching NOW's escort section. Whether it's massages, pay per call, or "priv. adult entertainment.," the Sun has no compunctions whatsoever about taking money from the men and women who ply the world's oldest profession.

No hypocrite

This space doesn't come cheaply, either. A single line in the adult entertainers section will set you back $5.48 on weekdays and Saturdays, $7.92 on Sunday. That represents a seven-figure annual revenue from those ads alone.

Don't worry, though. The folks on King East aren't a bunch of hypocrites or anything. Columnist Heather Bird, one of two Sun writers who broke the story, admits she wasn't exactly "shocked" by the fact that prostitution and drug use are taking place in a community of marginally housed individuals.

Nevertheless, she says, "it raises all kinds of issues because it (StreetCity) is supposedly an organization where there are other people who are housed in there. There are safety issues. I think if the criminal element becomes the predominant force within people's homes, then you have issues you need to look at."

For the record, Bird supports the decriminalization of prostitution.

Sun managing editor Mark Strobel felt it was necessary to speak out strongly about the misuse of taxpayer dollars. He sure did. In fact, Strobel used the word "taxpayer" 10 times during an eight-minute interview. "It's a taxpayer" — there's that word! — "funded prostitution and drug house, really."

Customer squeals

The issue of his paper's ads is a non sequitur. "They're perfectly legal," he points out.

Indeed. And the johns who were using StreetCity to get their rocks off were no doubt taxpayers, too. No one knows for sure whether any of them read the Sun, though Bird says she was tipped off about the situation by "one of the customers."

Anastasia Kuzyk doesn't advertise in the Sun. The spokesperson for the Sex Workers Alliance of Toronto lets on that the topic of an ad boycott of the Sun has been discussed before in SWAT circles, and will probably be discussed again.

"It's very possible, because there are so many other publications out there," she says. "It would be very interesting to see if the independents (escorts) would pull their ads. I would suggest to them that they do, because of the hypocritical nature of the Sun.

"(The Sun) has no problem living off the avails of prostitution." Kuzyk says. "They let prostitutes advertise in the back of their paper. They're extremely hypocritical."

For all the Sun's tut-tutting about taxpayer-funded sex and dope dens, Kuzyk finds it even more infuriating that no one seems to be addressing the serious legal and social problems facing her constituency.

"They complain if we have our johns on the street," she says. "Then they complain if we bring them into our homes."

Kuzyk also points out that prostitutes have been getting assaulted and killed at an alarming rate in Toronto. That might explain why they've been taken clients to places where they feel a little safer. One unfortunate victim's body was found right behind StreetCity, according to Kuzyk.

"We're victimizing the wrong people here," she says.

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Created: March 28, 2000
Last modified: January 19, 2001
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