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And prostitution is overt, complete with an identifiable stroll. Some do their business in the willows of nearby Muskoseepi Park, where drug deals dominate the skate zone and overnighters bed down among the trees. In a province where cities have grown at up to five times the national average rate, grande Prairie is far from alone in this regard.
And not only women—boys as well. University of Alberta professor Sara Dorow discovered this in June, when she visited Fort McMurray with a class studying the impacts of the oil boom. What does that mean to our social fabric?
When some of us have way too much money and others have too little, those are the issues that brew. Not that it will disappear when the boom sputters. But, as in other aspects of life in Alberta, the speed of the in- flux has left communities across Alberta scrambling to cope. The consequences of prostitution range from severe to fatal. Gonorrhea rates across Alberta doubled between and , to per , among First Nations people and Not only are First Nations Albertans seven times more likely to have gonorrhea, but 68 per cent of those infected are female.
Tellingly, the preponderance flips among other Albertans: 75 per cent of those with gonorrhea are male. Prostitutes are also vulnerable to murder. In Grande Prairie, Constable Hagarty is all too aware of the 26 bodies unearthed on the Robert Pickton farm 13 hours west in BC—and of the strikingly similar number of women in high-risk lifestyles missing or killed less than five hours southeast in greater Edmonton.
Having talked with Grande Prairie Regional College students who carve out study time by working one night a week at escort wages rather than six nights a week in a restaurant, Hagarty knows the lure of quick money, particularly in a town with boom-inflated cost of living. Are they going to be sucked into the drug culture? Become a victim of violence? A needs assessment conducted on behalf of the prostitution committee reinforces those fears.