Ottawa sex workers alerted to pattern of violence
Three unsolved murders in Ottawa-Gatineau region
Ottawa police Chief Vern White is warning sex-trade workers about a pattern of violence, asking them to be extra cautious over their safety.
White would not elaborate on the pattern as he made a joint public statement Friday morning regarding women's safety in Ottawa with the Minwaashin Lodge on Catherine Street, a centre for aboriginal women who have experienced abuse.
White said an investigation was in its early stages and the warning was not prompted by any new cases or trends, said White.
There have been a number of unsolved high-profile murders of sex-trade workers in the past few years.
Kelly Morrisseau, 27, was found dead in a parking lot near Gatineau Park in 2006. Morrisseau grew up on the Sagkeeng First Nation, north of Winnipeg, but was living in Ottawa's Vanier neighbourhood at the time of her slaying.
The body of Jennifer Stewart, 36, body turned up at a Vanier parking lot on 120 Alice Street in August, 2010.
And most recently, Leeann Lawson, 23, was found in September this year in a Lower Town parking lot.
Agencies that work with Ottawa's sex trade workers believe most people don't understand how dangerous the life is.
"There's always violence in the community of sex trade workers," said Gloria Savage with the Salvation Army. "This is not new to this community of people. I think that considering there have been some issues around violence that we need to address it."
Mary Montgomery, who does outreach for sex-trade workers through Minwaashin, said she is glad the issue is getting attention.
"I think the mainstream is just listening at this point. I think that there's always been a fear of violence. There's always been a fear of — their lives are at risk on a daily basis," said Montgomery.
Police will be canvassing alongside local sex trade support workers, White said, adding that sex workers should be aware, vigilant and stick with their regular customers.
White also asked workers to report "bad dates" to police and make use of resources available, such as support workers.
Police will also be patrolling areas frequented by sex-trade workers to ensure their safety.