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Montrealer installs plaque in memory of murdered sex workers

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Montreal activist Marc-Boris St-Maurice unveiled a plaque in the Mile-End neighbourhood Sunday in memory of slain escorts across Canada.

"In memory of murdered sex workers," reads the small plaque in both French and English.

It was placed there without city approval.

"Nobody cares about a dead sex worker and that's something that needs to change," said St-Maurice.

He says taboo and legislation push escorts into dangerous situations on the job.

The plaque was installed on the sidewalk in front of Montreal's iconic Fairmount Bagel bakery, a location St-Maurice argues is symbolic.

Montreal police (SPVM) have said they have reason to believe Daniel Shlafman, 31, the son of the bakery's owner, killed a 25-year-old woman before dying by suicide.

The victim of the 2021 murder was never publically identified but was widely reported to be a sex worker.

St-Maurice believes her death could have been prevented.

"The current prohibition of sex work is responsible for the murders of women," he said.

Under current legislation, selling sex is legal, but purchasing sex is illegal.

The law protects sex workers from criminal liability, but clients and employers face arrest and prosecution.

Sex workers advocacy group Stella says that's why many sex workers don't feel comfortable calling the police.

"If we have a violent client and we contact the police, chances are that the investigation will focus not on the violence but on the sex work itself," said Stella Executive Director Sandra Wesley.

Advocates and legal experts say the law exposes workers to potentially dangerous situations, and all aspects of sex work should be de-criminalized.

"It has been around since day one, and it will outlast us all. It should simply be regulated in the interest of public safety and those involved," said Eric Sutton, a criminal defence attorney.

While local authorities did not approve St-Maurice's plaque before he installed it, he says, "if the City of Montreal is willing to put a sanctioned official memorial up, I'll gladly remove this one and work with them to put it somewhere." 

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