Sex trade workers in high demand in N.L.
Influx of escorts travelling to province, as business shifts from streets to web
Business is booming for the sex trade in Newfoundland and Labrador, as workers in the industry move from walking the streets to posting online.
Iris is a high-class escort or "service provider" who works in and around the St. John's area. She agreed to speak with CBC News on the condition of anonymity.
Iris said the sex industry in this province has exploded.
"The local girls that have decided to take it up as a profession, the clientele — everything has boomed in the last 16 months," she said.
"When I first started, I was in competition with maybe five other ladies. Now, I'm in competition with probably 30 or 40."
Iris said the public wouldn't believe who avails of local escort services.
"They would be shocked to see what kind of people are coming to see us," she said.
"We wouldn't be doing this well if your husbands and boyfriends and friends weren't coming to see us. It's that simple."
‘Very well educated’
Iris, who has been working on and off as an escort for the past 13 years, said she got into the sex trade because of the lifestyle and comfort it provides.
"I have a college education; I'm very well educated," she said. "Every member of my family, all my siblings, are all university educated. My family is a good family. There's no alcoholism, there's no abuse, there's no, nothing of that sort.
"I chose to do what I do for a living because it affords me a lifestyle that I prefer to have."
She charges a minimum of $300 an hour for her services, and has regular clientele willing to plunk down that cash.
Iris said it's all because of the state of the local economy.
"I would say with the growth of Muskrat Falls, and IOC, and [you've] got Long Harbour — that's booming — and everything else, the guys coming back from Fort Mac …. [It's] just like with any city: it's going to happen, and with that type of growth, there's women like me. It's just the way that it is."
In fact, word has spread to other service providers across Canada about the high demand, and many are now scheduling Newfoundland stops on their prostitution tours.
CBC Investigates has found escorts travelling from as far away as Vancouver to visit the island — and they're not just landing in the capital city.
In addition to St. John's, they are also making trips to Deer Lake, Gander, Clarenville, and Corner Brook.
Iris's friend, a travelling escort from Vancouver, recently came to visit her in St. John's for three weeks. During that time, the escort worked for about three or four days a week, and made a whopping $28,000.
"Girls are hearing about it," Iris said. "[My friend] went back, told a couple other girls, [and] within a month, there [were] two girls that she knew that came down. So it's word of mouth. Girls pass around, 'You go there and you're going to do very well.'"
Local ads, local website
Iris uses a local site called NL Adult Classifieds to advertise her services.
The web domain was registered by Norm Lush last summer. The site went online in October, and has been gaining traffic ever since.
It now features about 10 ads from local escorts and agencies, as well as dozens of daily posts from the public seeking out sexual services.
Lush denied repeated requests for a formal interview.
But he did stress to CBC News that he is not in the prostitution business, and he started the website because local escorts were being harassed on other sites.
Lush said his website sees about 2,000 hits a day.
He's also growing his business. In January and February, Lush registered the domain names for similar sites almost right across Canada.
Currently, websites for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia are up and running.
Many ads that are posted on NL Adult Classifieds are men searching for the sexual services of female students in exchange for money. There are also businesses targeting those students for their talents.
They have titles like: "$truggling university or college student" and "ANY GIRL $TUDENT$ LOOKING FOR CASH."
CBC Investigates created a fictitious character to see who is recruiting — and who is buying — these services. "Kayla" is in her early 20s, attends Memorial University and is strapped for cash.
She applied to an ad for Enchanting Temptations, a Toronto-based escort agency that recently set up shop in St. John's.
The ad promised a flexible schedule and "incredibly high earning potential" for unspecified services — up to $150 an hour. It also stated that experience is not necessary, and students are always welcome.
The agency's detailed response lauded Kayla's initiative: "We are also highly supportive of the fact that you are a student and applaud your goal of using this job as a stepping stone to further your future."
"Kayla" also decided to post her own ad on NL Adult Classifieds to see who would be interested in her services.
The sparse, text-only ad gave a brief physical description, and stated that she was a student looking for quick cash.
The ad was posted around 5 p.m. on a Monday. Within 24 hours, there were close to 50 responses.
The men said they ranged in age from 19 to 47, to "mature professionals," and are single, "attached," or married.
Iris said many of the clients she sees are married.
"They're well-to-do men; they make a good living; most of them have families like anybody else," she said.
"And just like anybody else, sometimes they want companionship and they [want] some time with somebody and what have you.
"Don't demonize it too much, because it could be your best friend lying next to one of us."
With files from Adam Walsh