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A step in the right direction

Tuesday certainly was a banner day for the town's vulnerable women and those endeavouring to help them.

Tuesday certainly was a banner day for the town's vulnerable women and those endeavouring to help them. In a double-whammy announcement, Westmana Development stated in a press release that not only would they help fund the new women's centre, but that it would be located in a place notorious for exploiting despondent women - the Garden of Eden massage parlour/escort service on Third Ave. It's perfect timing that this announcement coincides with youth sexual exploitation awareness week, and the release of the women's centre survey showing 73 per cent of local youth have been offered drugs and alcohol in exchange for some adult's gratification. So many of the youth that fall victim to such predators are the same ones who grow up to work in places like the Garden of Eden.It seems many knew what the business was up to when it was first proposed in 2001. While some residents remained open-minded, many District of Squamish council members were not among them. Then mayor Corinne Lonsdale made no bones about her contempt when she said: "The type of business this business will attract to the community isn't the kind I want."Alarm bells started ringing even before the licence was issued when owner Steve Smith took exception to the bylaw clause stating the operator must "not permit any person engaged in providing a massage or other service to be in the premises unless such person is wearing clean, washable, non-transparent outer garments, covering the body between the neck and the top of the knee, the sleeves of which must reach the elbows."It may sound prudish, but these were the steps the district felt it must take to control what was believed would become a brothel.And once licenced, the business seemed to live up to these suspicions. Beyond the moral question of such a service, the fact is the business was visited numerous times by police in its few years of operation. And those calls weren't merely related to noise or bylaw infractions, but to hard criminal activity including violence and drugs. Now ask yourself, who took the brunt of these offences? Even those keeping an open mind with statements like "it's the oldest profession," couldn't defend the downword spiral taking place on Third Ave. When pondered long enough, it's both tragically and heart-buoyantly ironic that many women visiting the new centre could very well be former employees of the Garden of Eden or some other escort service. It perfectly encapsulates the steps in the right direction this community should be and is taking. Congratulations to the Women's Centre and to Westmana. You're doing a wonderful thing.

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