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Students hope to see New Westminster strip club shut down

Students at Charles Best secondary prepare signs for a protest in New Westminster this Saturday. - Contributed photo
Students at Charles Best secondary prepare signs for a protest in New Westminster this Saturday.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Two Coquitlam high school classes are starting a petition to shut down the Paramount Gentlemen's Club on Columbia Street in New Westminster.

The Social Justice 12 classes taught by Ken Ipe at Dr. Charles Best secondary have been discussing the sexualization and objectification of women for the last month. For their final project, the 60 students are required to take some action on a topic they feel passionate about, which Ipe said in the seven years he's been teaching the course has normally revolved around international issues such as genocide or famine. But this time the students proposed to go local, and to go after the Paramount.

"It's a tougher one to do. Anything local you affect locally. Sometimes if it's a faraway issue there's less chance of biting you in the future," said Ipe of his students' bold decision.

The plan is for them to be at Sixth Avenue and Sixth Street in New West on Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m., to make their case to the public and to collect signatures for their petition.

"Men can go in there and treat women as objects and it isn't fair to them," said student Ryan Leppert, who doesn't buy the argument women have a right to choose to be strippers, prostitutes or porn stars. "We don't believe it is [their choice], we believe it is a desperate attempt to get money or a lot of them have been forced into it."

Leppert said girls are targeted from a young age with dolls like Barbie and Bratz that glorify the sexualization of women.

"I have a younger cousin who is about three years old right now and I don't want her growing up in an environment where it's sexualized," said Leppert. "I know I used to joke about strip clubs, they were just kind of funny, but after learning everything that goes on in them I don't find it funny at all. It's a serious matter."

Ipe said sexualization has become part of the culture for girls from a young age, and youth have come to accept pornography as normal. He said the average age for children to start seeing pornography is eight, and from 11 to 18 they are surrounded by it.

"It's almost like the frog in the pot—they don't know they're being boiled. They can't see it after a while," said Ipe.

He said the current controversy over a radio interviewer questioning Premier Christy Clark on whether she prefers being called a cougar or a MILF is a clear example. "That would never have been asked of (U.S. President) Barack Obama, but it's asked of Christy Clark."

He noted the students chose the Paramount over picketing a porn store on the Barnet Highway because some students from the school who are 18 have visited the strip club, which does not serve liquor.

"The goal is to present it to city council in New Westminster and also the goal is to—I know it sounds radical—but for council not to renew its business licence as a stepping stone to ending sexism in culture," said Ipe.

At first they considered picketing the Paramount, but since it doesn't open until the evening it was considered unsafe for the students, so they went with a petition instead. They also decided to do it in Uptown New West because there is little foot traffic along Columbia Street.

Ipe said Coquitlam Coun. Selina Robinson has agreed to show up, and has spoken to New West councillors Jaimie McEvoy, Chuck Puchmayr and Lorrie Williams about joining her. In addition, Social Justice 12 classes at Port Moody and New Westminster secondary schools have been approached to participate.

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