Calgary prostitution laws that require escorts to pay the city for licenses but deny them benefits are being called contradictory and confusing.
"There is that really confusing, contradictory law that says, 'yes, you can engage in prostitution. You just can't do it in a public place or spend your money,'" said Rosaline Carter, who helped start an organization, called SHIFT, that works with prostitutes.
There are currently 155 licensed escorts in Calgary, which is up from 121 in 2006.
Carter said another contradictory feature of Calgary's prostitution laws is that the money paid to the city by sex workers does not benefit them.
"We have a system set up where we will take [escort's] tax money, registration and licensing fees but we are not willing to give the benefits any other employer would give," said Carter, citing unemployment benefits and workers' compensation as examples.
Calgary lawyer Charlie Steward said the city benefits substantially by licensing sex workers.
"[The city is] making lots of money on the escorts," said Steward. "They require them to be licensed, and charge them huge fees to be licensed."
But according to Marc Halat, manager of business licenses for the city, escorts are regulated so that officials can be sure they are not operating in residential zones, that they're over 18 years of age and that they don't have criminal records.
"It's about public safety," said Halat.