Sex Workers in Canada Need Your Support! Our online work and livelihoods are at risk!
The Canadian Parliamentary Committee, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, is currently holding a series of hearings on the “Protection and Privacy of Reputation on Platforms such as Pornhub”. https://www.ourcommons.ca/Committees/en/ETHI?parl=43&session=2) This process threatens to introduce more regulation and surveillance on the sex industry without considering the rights or safety of sex workers.
The committee is refusing to hear from sex workers and people most impact by changes and regulations to the online site like PornHub. They are only hearing from “young people that have never provided their consent.” The committees claims,
“The focus of the study is the protection of privacy and reputation as it relates to Child Sexual Exploitation Material (CSAM) and other illegal content on platforms such as Pornhub. This refers to images or videos that have been uploaded without the consent or knowledge of the person depicted in them. The Committee is not questioning the legality of pornography in Canada nor does it seek to end such activity where it involves consenting adults.”
The myopic nature of these hearings is excluding the very real and deleterious effects that internet regulation has on people working in the sex industry. Limiting the hearings to victims that have been harmed by PornHub and anti-sex work groups, has so far resulted in suggestions for more stringent conditions and a lack of privacy rights for internet users, more surveillance of sex workers and clients, and a lack of recognition of the agency and labour of sex workers. The conflation of sex work and porn with exploitation has biased the committee and created a context where committee members refuse to recognize the impacts of regulations on the health and safety of people working in the sex industry. Sex workers fear that recommendations will result that ultimately push sex workers to creating more underground and less safe workspaces on the internet, where exploitation can flourish.
The committee so far is biasing the hearings with an onslaught of hyperbole and recommendations from people whose end goal is to abolish the industry through increased regulation and surveillance, making it impossible for sex workers to work in safe conditions. In the 3rd ETHI hearing on Feb 19th, 2021, Laila Mickelwait and ‘victims of PH’ successfully tore down representatives of Pornhub with financial accusations, and lack of protection & accountability of those who have been harmed. Another hearing on February 22, 2021 heard from members of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, as well as a few members of law enforcement. Mickelwait and all of the people who have so far been witnesses before the committee made it very clear that the end goal is to ban all online porn – and not only is the Canadian government listening to them, but they have not challenged or critically engaged with Laila’s religious agenda, data or ethics.
Things are moving FAST, and more of our voices need to be heard, TODAY!
1. WRITE TO THE COMMITTEE AND ASK TO BE A WITNESS:
Below is a list of all committee members and their emails. It is IMPERATIVE that members of the sex working community email them as many times as it takes until at least a decent representation of sex workers and sex worker rights groups are invited to take a seat at the table to represent our community, who is constantly struggling to be heard.
You DO NOT need to be Canadian to participate, although if you are, you should highlight that in your request. Be sure to cc: firstname.lastname@example.org and the committee clerk Miriam at email@example.com.
Be sure in your email to explain:
· A short bio of yourself or organization
· You can attach publications to your recommendation for witnesses (though there is no guarantee they will be read by the committee)
· Explanation of what you bring as an expert to the discussion
· Contact information for you or organization
· Also include:
o why it is important to hear from sex workers;
o why sex workers are concerned about additional regulations of the internet;
o the impact of increased regulation on sex workers; and
o If you want to remain anonymous during these hearings, be sure to state this in your email.
2. WRITE A BRIEF AND SUBMIT IT TO THE COMMITTEE:
You can submit a written brief and also ask to be a witness at the hearings.
· Briefs should be about 5-10 pages in English or French – they should be translated for all committee members to read
· The brief should speak directly to the impacts of regulations, surveillance, and privacy rights
· In the (quite likely) event that you find the implications of regulation being proposed to be negative, you can then give the committee an idea of the kinds of provisions or amendments that would be preferable
Here is a link to writing a Brief for the House of Commons Justice Committee:
3. EMAILS TO SEND REQUEST AND BRIEFS:
Send your request to the primary email for the Committee at: firstname.lastname@example.org, and all other committee members listed below.
Chris Warkentin, Chair, Conservative: email@example.com
Brenda Shanahan, Vice Chair, Liberal: Brenda.Shanahan@parl.gc.ca
Marie-Helene Gaudreau, Vice Chair, Bloq Quebecois: MH.Gaudreau@parl.gc.ca
Charlie Angus, Member, NDP: firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Barrett, Member, Conservative: Michael.Barrett@parl.gc.ca
Colin Carrie, Member, Conservative: email@example.com
Han Dong, Member, Liberal: Han.Dong@parl.gc.ca
Greg Fergus, Member, Liberal: Greg.Fergus@parl.gc.ca
Jacques Gourde, Member, Conservative: firstname.lastname@example.org
Patricia Lattanzio, Member, Liberal: Patricia.Lattanzio@parl.gc.ca
Francesco Sorbara, Member, Liberal: Francesco.Sorbara@parl.gc.ca
4. Email email@example.com to let them know if you have requested a seat at the table or submitted a brief. This is not the first time that sex workers have been shut out of parliamentary processes that discuss regulations that will impact on our lives and we need to keep track of how we are left out of discussions.