The Week — Dec. 22

The Grinch who stole parking, stand under my red Umbrella, just like Tiny tim said

Red Umbrella Day gave everyone a chance to stand up for sex workers who face violence and stigmas without a voice — during the holidays, and every day.

The Grinch who stole parking

While holiday shoppers meander blissfully through the mall this week, selecting the last of their Christmas treasures, that employee ringing up the items is not-so-blissfully thinking about the long march home — at least if she works at Mayfair Mall.

With the crush of shoppers inundating Mayfair’s parking lot, management sent out a note to employees earlier this month stating that anyone driving to work must park off-site or face getting towed.

While the request isn’t unusual around this time of year, the news came as a shock to employee Anna Parker, who drives to work daily due to distance.

“Unlike downtown, there is really nowhere to park in the area; the roads alongside the mall are full of cars by 9 a.m., and all the surrounding businesses charge money for the use of their lots,” she says. “As a student with limited time and money, this is not affordable for me … and I am wondering why the spirit of Christmas that Mayfair markets so strongly is not extended to people who work there year-round.”

Parker is often faced with closing shifts, and says she was concerned for her safety when walking the longer distance to her car, alone, after hours. When she attempted to make use of the offered security walk, she discovered yet another caveat: the walk must be “within reasonable distance,” and within “reasonable hours” as the notice states. “The impact for me has been one of constantly feeling unsafe,” says Parker. “My car is usually the only one left [where I park], and I have wondered a couple times if anyone could hear me in the event anything happened.”

Mayfair General Manager Ken Hoang says the move is essential to make shopping easier for customers. “At the end of the day, that’s who we are here for, and we know nothing is more frustrating to our customers than being unable to find parking — that’s why people come to Mayfair instead of downtown,” says Hoang. “We have 400 to 500 employees who work here over the holidays, so you can imagine that could be a lot of spaces taken away from our customers.”

Hoang says the rule has been in effect for at least five years now and notes, before that, Mayfair did receive complaints from customers unable to find parking in the lots or in surrounding areas. He says the mall is offering employees a discount of $10 off the regular $82.50 monthly transit pass. When asked about complaints he has had from employees about the restrictions, Hoang replied, “What I have heard, is that our customers are very happy.”

Meanwhile, Parker says bussing isn’t an option for her, and she has spent over $70 in parking since the rule struck Dec. 1. It will be removed Dec. 27.

“My main point of contention is that there is no recourse,” says Parker. “West Edmonton Mall, for example, often provides employees with a sufficient amount of bus tickets … everyone has the same right to safety.”

Stand under my red Umbrella

If you wondered how so many people managed to coordinate the colour of their umbrellas at the legislature last Saturday, it will come as little surprise that Dec. 17 marked International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, commonly know as Red Umbrella Day — the day people around the world draw attention to some of our most marginalized and stigmatized community members. In Victoria, hundreds gathered to do the same.

“According to research, street sex workers are 60 to 120 times more likely to be assaulted, mutilated or murdered than the general population in Canada,” says PEERS Victoria Executive Director Marion Little.

Little adds that, because sex workers are both criminalized and stigmatized, they are often afraid to report the violence committed against them. But while the day largely focuses on women, Little says it’s really about extending the UN Declaration of Human Rights to all sex workers — male, female and transgender. To learn more, visit peers.bc.ca.

Just like Tiny tim said

As over 1,000 people gathered on Tuesday, Dec. 20, to feast at Our Place’s annual Christmas dinner, and as Rainbow Kitchen prepares to serve its last meal to those in-need on Dec. 23, the Vancouver Island Crisis Line wants to remind everyone it’s a good time to think about ways you can reach out — or be reached.

“For some, the reality is that they will not be waking up to presents or a hot meal,” says Heather Owen, VCL community relations coordinator. “What do you do if you are all alone, broke and every day is a struggle — no matter what day it is on the calendar?”

Owen urges anyone struggling this holiday season to reach out. The crisis line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-888-494-3888. M

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