Sex worker Julie Grant says Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti’s idea of creating a red-light district on Toronto Island is out of touch and unreasonable.
“To take a ferry to an island away from everybody is inconvenient for us because we work on call,” Grant said. “I don’t think a red light district is a good idea either, in most places you have no idea it’s happening.”
Mammoliti, councillor for Ward 7, chair of the community development and recreation committee and member of Mayor Rob Ford’s circle, renewed his pitch for a red-light district on a local radio show earlier this week. He says a district with a casino and brothels would bring in millions of dollars in tax revenue.
Staff in Mammoliti’s office said the councillor is no longer giving interviews on the topic.
Grant says Mammoliti is creating the proposal without some kind of input from sex workers so the whole thing “utterly ridiculous.”
As an escort, Grant lives under the radar. She says making a red light district would create a congregation of people. The location on the island isn’t the biggest problem, she says, but rather it’s the segregation and isolation of the workers.
“I work in family communities all the time but I’m an individual visiting,” she said. “(Mammoliti) clearly is clueless on how things work, it’s not the reality of our work. We’re invisible.”
An active Facebook user, Grant has over 1,000 friends from the international sex trade. She says there is a large international sex work network. There are a lot of problems in legalized brothels, including a set number of hours one has to work.
There are some exceptions to the set amount of hours based on the type of work that the individual does. For example, the type of work at a massage parlour is mostly external, unlike an escort service. The amount of hours a sex worker works has to be up to the individual to decide, Grant said.
Island resident Bill Freeman agrees that the community is no place for a red-light district.
“I think it’s totally inappropriate,” Freeman said. “What Mammoliti really wants is a big casino. So, a gambling whore house.”