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Cancer claims Vancouver sex workers advocate Jamie Lee Hamilton


Jamie Lee Hamilton, a longtime advocate for transgender and sex workers in Vancouver, died Monday following a lengthy battle with cancer.


Ben Nelms / National Post

Jamie Lee Hamilton, a longtime advocate for transgender and sex workers in Vancouver, died Monday following a lengthy battle with cancer.

She was 64.

In a Facebook post, friend David C. Jones, a Vancouver entertainer and writer, said Hamilton died at 1:36 a.m. at the Cottage Hospice, where she had been receiving care since Dec. 9.

“On Saturday, many friends and family gathered by her bedside as she was baptized and we all sang Amazing Grace by her request. A picture of her mother Alice Hamilton was on her window sill at the hospice looking over her,” wrote Jones. “A tireless advocate and activist she fought for this city and particular for sex workers.”

Hamilton established and operated Grandma’s House on Pandora Street as a safe haven in the Downtown Eastside for sex workers in 1997, at the height of serial killer fears. It was later closed as a “common bawdy house” by police in 2000.

‘That wasn’t the sole purpose of the house,” Hamilton told the Vancouver Sun in 2000, adding that it was also a refuge where prostitutes could get a meal, clothing and access to street nurses.

”Obviously, the police have a different take on that.”

In 2016, Hamilton spearheaded, along with University of B.C. sociology professor Becki Ross, the construction of Canada’s first Sex Workers Memorial outside Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Anglican Church, at the West End intersection of Jervis and Pendrell.

The memorial, a retro lamp-post with a red bulb, honours sex workers who frequented the neighbourhood until the early 1980s, when they were driven away by city hall, police and the provincial government.

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