Response to Minister Lametti’s response to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights report entitled, Preventing Harm in the Canadian Sex Industry: A Review of the Protection of Communities and Exploited Act

November 24, 2022

RE: Response to government response to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights report entitled, Preventing Harm in the Canadian Sex Industry: A Review of the Protection of Communities and Exploited Act

Dear Minister Lametti:

We read, with surprise and deep disappointment, your response to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights report Preventing Harm in the Canadian Sex Industry: A Review of the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act.

While we hope it is unnecessary at this point to introduce ourselves and our member groups, it is important to remind you that we represent diverse sex workers with a wide range of experiences selling sexual services. The need to repeal the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) is a primary concern of the most marginalized among us, those who have few options besides sex work, those who have experienced violence or exploitation, those who are targeted by police and those who are living in poverty. Those are the sex workers you need to be accountable to first and foremost. It is deeply dehumanizing to read your response where those voices are ignored and replaced with the voices of those who want to eradicate and speak for sex workers.

Despite the testimony of numerous anti-sex work witnesses who had little or no experience working with sex workers, the Committee recommended that “the Government of Canada recognize that protecting the health and safety of those involved in sex work is made more difficult by the framework set by the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act and acknowledge that, in fact, the Act causes serious harm to those engaged in sex work by making the work more dangerous.” (Recommendation 2).

Yet, your response fails to respond to this and many of the report’s other recommendations that focus on the safety of sex workers. Rather, your government’s response erroneously claims that all sex workers are protected from prosecution for the sale of their own sexual services and fails to acknowledge any harms caused by PCEPA, including those fueled by the prohibitions on purchasing, communicating, material benefit, procuring, and advertising. Additionally, it fails to recognize the ways in which these laws fuel and further stigma against sex workers which has direct consequences on sex workers’ safety and health.

The response also fails to recognize the role and responsibility of the Justice Minister to fulfill Recommendation 3, “That the Government of Canada amend the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act by introducing legislation to repeal sections 213 and 286.4 of the Criminal Code.” In fact, your response goes so far as to deny that the sale of sexual services is an offence under section 213, for which there is no immunity for prosecution, stating “selling sexual services is not an offence in Canada.” Moreover, the entirety of the letter ignores the context of criminalization in which sex workers are forced to work. Even in a context where sex workers in Canada may be immune in some circumstances to prosecution, there is an abundance of evidence, from sex workers, empirical researchers, social service providers, and others that demonstrates the impacts of working in a criminalized industry – evidence that was provided to the Parliamentary Committee that produced the report.

Assessing the impact of the existing legislative framework

To monitor the impact of sex work provisions in the PCEPA, you refer to a report by Juristat entitled Crime related to the sex trade: Before and after legislative changes in Canada, a Justice Canada report A Review of the Measure to Address Prostitution Initiative (MAPI), and an upcoming contracted report with Voice Found, an organization that addresses “child sex abuse and sex trafficking.” Each of these monitoring mechanisms are not merely problematic at their core but they disregard the evidence and testimony of the sex workers before the Standing Committee and of the Alliance members who have met with Justice Canada over the years: that sex work and acts of violence and other abuse (e.g., sexual assault, human trafficking, extortion) are not the same thing. It is concerning to see this conflation in this way in 2022, especially by the institution responsible for the laws that criminalize these acts as separate offences.

The Juristat article uses Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data as explained on the first page: “This Juristat article uses data from the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey and the Integrated Criminal Court Survey (ICCS) to examine crimes related to the sex trade before and after the PCEPA legislative changes came into force in December of 2014.” The UCR Survey that Justice Canada continues to monitor and rely on can be a helpful tool to understand crime; however, these data alone cannot provide a complete picture of crime rates and the effects of law, a fact that is well documented in the criminological literature. UCR data does not provide a comprehensive overview of crime rates and the effects of laws because it only includes police-reported crimes. We know that the effects of laws and policing go far beyond police-reported crimes. For example, the 2019 Perils of Protection report (https://www.hivlegalnetwork.ca/site/the-perils-of-protection/?lang=en) demonstrates an increase in visits to sex workers by police but this is not captured in UCR data. An increase in police harassment without commensurate increase in arrests should be a very concerning red flag for human rights abuses. Sex workers have reported very disturbing interactions with police which will never be counted in any Juristat report. Additionally, other critiques of UCR data commonly mounted by criminologists relate to:

Reporting practices: Many serious crimes are not reported by victims to the police and do not become part of the UCR which means that they are “report sensitive.” Criminologists often look to self-reported victimization surveys to measure crimes not reported to police. Crimes of a sexual and/or violent nature are among the least reported (i.e. the Juristat report cites that 5% of sexual assault victims report to police, and 26% of women who were physically assaulted report), while property crimes are the most frequently reported. Sex workers may be concerned that they will not be taken seriously by police, or that they may themselves be subject to increased surveillance, and in some cases arrested. In a criminalized context, reporting violence to police can lead to losing one’s income, shutting down or being evicted from one’s work place, or seeing one’s colleagues arrested. In a recent study of 200 sex workers in five Canadian cities, 31% reported “being unable to call 911 if they or another sex trade worker were in a safety emergency due to fear of police detection of themselves, their colleagues or management.” (Crago et al. 2021) For these reasons, it is important to underscore that the data presented in the Juristat article are limited to crimes reported to and by police, which do not reflect the scope or number of human rights violations inflicted upon people who sell sexual services.

Law enforcement practices: Some crimes are “police sensitive.” This means the ways in which police departments enforce and record criminal activity also affect the validity of UCR statistics. There are many criminological studies which show that factors such as a police department wanting to improve its public image or how police interpret the definition of a crime can. impact police-reported incidents of crime. The ways in which police enforce the laws also affects crime rates. If police have massive resources to investigate alleged cases of human trafficking and fewer resources to investigate harms faced by sex workers, there will be more documented cases of human trafficking and fewer documented cases of offences against sex workers.

  • Methodological problems: Methodological issues also raise concerns about the validity of UCR statistics. According to the Juristat report, there was a change to reporting practices in 2018. What were previously considered unfounded incidents could be considered to be founded. This methodological change (and not PCEPA) was responsible for 42% of the increase in accused between 2018-2019.

The MAPI report is biased, methodologically flawed and fails to provide a picture of the experiences of people selling sexual services in a criminalized context under PCEPA. In particular:

  • The report acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy: the objective of the funding is to exit people from prostitution, so the measure is exit from prostitution. This means the questions from which the analysis is conducted are focused on exiting, rather than other priorities and needs for people selling sexual services.

 

  • The report does not recognize that people accessing services may not be there to “exit”, thereby making assumptions about reasons for accessing services. The questions do not focus on WHY people are accessing services, which may be for reasons other than exit. “Exit” is the measure for the project, but it is not necessarily the goal of the person seeking services. This bias can be demonstrated in the criteria for evaluating the funding goals found at page 30 of the report, regarding “reason for seeking help to exit prostitution.” This measure alone is a skewed and therefore flawed way of understanding why people have come to these services. People may not access the services because they want to exit prostitution, despite the funding objective or the organizational objective being “exit”. To explain further, at least two of our Alliance members (PACE and ASTTeQ) received this same MAPI funding from Justice Canada and would not describe their interactions with sex workers as “people accessing their services to exit prostitution.” This same measure, therefore, would look different depending on the questions asked of the funding recipients.
  • The report does not provide a full picture of funding recipients and their services, nor does it provide any details of the funding recipients that are included. On page 6, the report indicates that the funding was allocated to 23 organizations, but this report is based on results from 13 organizations. It is important to know all the funding recipients and their objectives. If their objectives are to exit those working in prostitution, then this requires close scrutiny and challenge about how they present their findings, what they are seeing on the ground, and the framework from which they work.

 

  • The report attempts to draw false conclusions. One example of a misleading analysis of the data is an attempt to draw conclusions about MAPI recipients based on only a portion of MAPI recipients, as 10 of 23 recipients were not included, e.g. “Many (67%) of the MAPI clients had been physically and/or psychologically coerced by others into providing sexual services.”
  • The report reflects findings from organizations that need to justify the use of the funds in order to access more funds in the future. This is the nature of government funding, and organizations need to demonstrate that their funds were used in accordance with their objectives, despite what the results may be. These types of reports are usually completed with a strict template based on the objectives of the agreement (e.g. “exiting” sex workers) and the organization has no room to deviate from it. The funder then prepares their own report to justify further funding and to show the public that money is being spent wisely. While such reports have some value as internal documents to evaluate funding, it is inaccurate and inappropriate to cite them as data on the sex industry or on the impacts of the law.

The contract that has been established with Voice Found is deeply disconcerting. For this government to provide funds to an organization whose mandate is to address “child sex abuse and sex trafficking” to “undertake qualitative research with a number of former and current sexual service providers to develop a better understanding of their lived experiences” starts the analysis off on the wrong foot. “Child sex abuse” and “sex trafficking” are distinct from sex work and the conduct captured by the sex work provisions (PCEPA) which do not require any element of exploitation. To pretend that this provides insights into the impacts of laws established to eradicate sex work is manipulative and disingenuous, at best. Additionally, organizations such as Voice Found, that are not deeply rooted in communities of people working in the sex industry, will not have access to people currently working in the sex industry. How then could this study possibly capture the experiences of sexual service providers who continue to work within a criminalized context? Sex workers have a voice and do not need anti-sex work ideologues finding it for us. We need you to listen to sex workers directly.

“Strengthening the criminal laws’ response to violence and exploitation”:

Your response refers to Bills C-452 and S-224 as ways to strengthen laws on trafficking in persons and to “[s]trengthen the criminal law’s response to violence and exploitation.” But Bill S-224 is deeply problematic in its attempt to remove the one measure (fear of safety for failing to provide a service) that distinguishes between people exercising agency in deciding to sell sexual services, from those that are experiencing human trafficking. This Bill defines trafficking in overly broad terms that makes it more likely to capture non-exploitative behaviour and further exposes those who bear the brunt of criminalization, such as migrant sex workers and those who support them, to more risk.

“Supporting sexual service providers”

Despite the Parliamentary Committee report’s emphasis on the safety of sex workers, and your reference to the importance of “supporting sexual service providers,” you only refer to a series of government-funded projects that solely focus on “exiting” people from sex work, or funding law enforcement to create an environment so dangerous that they think it will encourage people to stop selling sex regardless of their preferences, circumstances or needs. Sex workers, sex worker rights organizations, and sex worker support services all spoke to the Parliamentary Committee about the ways in which the government could meaningfully support sex workers and yet, you have not acknowledged any of that expert knowledge.

Minister Lametti, we believe you and your colleagues in the Ministry of Justice are keenly aware of the division between anti-sex work activists, including those who rely on anti-trafficking discourse, and sex worker rights organizations. Yet your response erases the realities of those who are directly affected by the PCEPA. This government knows very well that many people working in the sex industry will continue to work in the sex industry, and the evidence is clear that the current legislative framework contributes to risks of exploitation and violence. Yet, the only measure that this government provides as examples of support are organizations and funding that specifically support people to exit or stop sex work. This leaves sex workers who continue to work in a context of criminalization (and are consequently denied access to employment and occupational health and safety protections) without supports.

In 2014, members of the Liberal party voted against PCEPA and stated in 2015 that they recognized the harms of PCEPA, yet this government has done nothing but support the Conservative agenda to erase sex workers and our realities from the conversation and continue forcing sex workers to live and work under what you know to be harmful and dangerous laws. Your response to the Parliamentary Committee report omits the needs and realities of people continuing to work in the sex industry, who experience the dangers of doing so in a criminalized context. The voiced needs of people working in the sex industry were presented in abundance to the Parliamentary Subcommittee and many times in the past. This government needs to do better than pretend we do not exist.

We request a direct meeting with you, Minister Lametti, to discuss our above concerns. The fact that the PCEPA is before the courts does not preclude you from meeting with us, to discuss the clearly-demonstrated harms of PCEPA – which the Parliamentary Committee acknowledged. We welcome also meeting you with your staff, but urge you not to send them in your absence, as has been the case in the past.

We look forward to hearing from you to schedule a date.

On behalf of our 26 member groups: Alliance member organizations include: Action santé travesti(e)s et transsexuel(le)s du Québec (ASTT(e)Q); ANSWERS Society; BC Coalition of Experiential Communities (BCCEW); Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Work Support Nework; HIV Legal Network; Émissaire; Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers’ Action Project; Maggie’s Indigenous Sex Work Drum Group; PEERS Victoria; Projet L.U.N.E.; Prostitutes Involved Empowered Cogent Edmonton (PIECE); PACE Society; Rézo, projet travailleurs du sexe; Safe Harbour Outreach Project (S.H.O.P); SafeSpace London; Sex Workers’ Action Program Hamilton (SWAPH); Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC); Sex Workers’ Action Network of Waterloo Region (SWAN Waterloo); Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition (SWWAC); Sex Workers United Against Violence (SWUAV); Shift Calgary, HIV Community Link; Stella, l’amie de Maimie; Stepping Stone Halifax, SWANS Sudbury; SWAN Vancouver; and SWAP Yukon.

Media Release: GOVERNMENT FAILURE TO RESPECT SEX WORKERS’ HUMAN RIGHTS FORCES SEX WORKERS BACK TO COURT

Sex Worker Legal Media Briefing: Monday, October 3, 2022, 1pm, 330 University Avenue (Ontario Superior Court)

For interviews or a recording of the press conference, please contact Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform, contact@sexworklawreform.com, 514.916.2598

September 29, 2022 – The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform — an alliance of 25 sex worker led groups representing thousands of sex workers across the country — along with several individual applicants, is going back to court to challenge sex work laws next week. The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) introduced in 2014 has failed to protect sex workers and has caused grave human rights violation. In 2014, the Liberal government promised to repeal PCEPA; 7 years later they have failed to act and sex workers have been forced to work in the context of criminalization causes harm to their lives.

“Taken individually and together, the PCEPA provisions reproduce harms of the criminal laws struck down in Canada v. Bedford and causes new harms to all sex workers,” says Jenn Clamen, National Coordinator of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform (CASWLR) speaking at a media briefing this morning. “We don’t want to be going to court again, it is a waste of precious community resources and time. This government can put an end to this by proposing a Bill for total decriminalization of sex work that would save lives and protect sex workers’ human rights. The harms of these provisions are extensively documented in our evidentiary record, which includes academic and community research on the experiences of Indigenous, Black, racialized, trans, and migrant sex workers across the country, many of whom work in some of the most difficult conditions.”

Sex worker rights organizations are seeking to strike down criminal prohibitions on sex work arguing they violate sex workers’ human rights to dignity, health, equality, security, autonomy, and safety of people who work in the sex industry, which includes their right to safe working conditions.

Before PCEPA became law, sex workers warned of the dangers of criminalization; the Liberal, NDP, and Green Party rejected the PCEPA as it moved its way through the House of Commons. Once passed, however, there has only been government inaction and many expected harms to sex workers’ lives.

The most marginalized sex workers working in public space feel the brunt of PCEPA. Monica Forrester, a 2Spirit Black and Indigenous sex worker explains, “Clients fear detection by police, which impacts my ability to communicate with them, and make my work riskier. I cannot negotiate prices and services with clients, especially in public spaces, because the police might show up. The fear of police makes me rush and I’m not able to do the screening I need to. PCEPA puts me at risk every day, it must be repealed, let us work safely.”

PCEPA criminalizes communicating to sell sexual services in public, communicating to purchase sexual services in any context, facilitating or receiving a benefit related to the purchase of someone else’s sexual services, and advertising sexual services.

“Black sex workers are isolated and criminalized by PCEPA, these racist laws must be repealed” added Ellie Ade Kur. “Black sex workers are often required to rely on existing networks of other Black sex workers for help and support, but due to anti-Black racism, Black sex workers are often characterized as “pimps” when working together, for example, by sharing space, sharing supports, and splitting costs for services like drivers, booking, and screening support. As a result, Black sex workers have reported that they are afraid that helping one another will result in arrest and prosecution for third party offences.”

Sex workers face risk child apprehension, loss of life and life supports, detention and deportation, experience targeted violence, lack of access to health, legal, and social sercices experience human rights abuses as sex workers try to avoid detection by law enforcement, live and work in precarious and unsafe conditions, and do not seek help or report crimes against them.

“Unlike other industries, the criminalization of sex work gives police the power to investigate sex workers’ workplaces, and the impact of their decision touch on all aspects of sex worker lives. This is especially true for Asian and migrant sex workers, these laws must be repealed”, added Elene Lam, founder of Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Worker Support Network explains, “Sex workers are less likely to get help when they need it and the vast majority of Butterfly participants who have been injured in the workplace have not reported the injuries or sought compensation. Both sex workers and managers have indicated that they are afraid of disclosing their involvement in the sex industry, because it threatens their livelihood, and they may lose their immigration status and face deportation.”

“The Crown and anti-sex work advocates intervening in the case continue to ignore the realities of the most marginalized sex workers working in the most difficult conditions. This law, that fundamentally denies sex workers’ constitutional rights, needs to be struck down,” says Sandra Ka Hon Chu, co-director of the HIV Legal Network, member of CASWLR.

This is the first constitutional challenge to PCEPA provisions initiated by sex workers, and the first to challenge all the provisions individually and together arguing they violate sex workers’ human rights to dignity, health, equality, security, autonomy and safety of people who work in the sex industry, which includes their right to safe working conditions. Public hearings at Superior Court begin on October 3rd and continue throughout the week.

For more information about the case: http://sexworklawreform.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Infosheet-ENG.pdf

Media Release: Failure to Act: National Sex Workers’ Rights Groups Respond to Parliamentary Report on Sex Work Laws

June 27, 2022 – Last week, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights tabled its report Preventing Harm in the Sex Industry: A Review of the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA). The Committee was mandated by Parliament to conduct a review of PCEPA five years after its implementation in 2014. Seven years after receiving this mandate, the Committee finally held a series of hearings inviting to the table some sex workers, some allies, as well as those ideologically dedicated to the eradication of sex work and who do not work with sex workers. While certain recommendations in the report address issues of concern to sex workers, the report has serious and dangerous shortcomings: namely its failure to break from Canada’s ongoing use of criminalization as the primary tool for addressing sex work at the expense of sex workers’ safety, autonomy and equality. The report falls short of recommending action to end the profound harms of criminalizing sex work and the ways that ongoing criminalization encourages law enforcement presence in the lives of those most marginalized. The Committee’s focus on creating even more criminal laws will only maintain this law enforcement presence, rather than addressing the issues that cause violence and exploitation against sex workers.

We commend the Committee for “recognizing that the health and safety of those involved in sex work is made more difficult by the framework set out by PCEPA” and “acknowledging that…the Act causes serious harm to those engaged in sex work by making the work more dangerous” (Recommendation 2, Committee report). We are equally pleased to see the Committee recommend the repeal of sections 213 and 286.4 of the Criminal Code (criminalizing public communication and advertising sexual services, Recommendation 3, Committee report) as well as prohibitions on sex work in sections 183 (1)(b.1), 196.1(A), 200(3)(G.1) and 203(2)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, which put migrant sex workers at elevated risk of violence and other danger by preventing them from reporting these incidents without fear of deportation (Recommendation 10, Committee Report). Lastly, we commend the Committee for recognizing the important role of sex worker-led organizations in “providing non-judgemental and trauma-informed services” to our communities, and recommending the provision of “additional services to sex workers” (Recommendation 16, Committee Report).

The report, however, falls short of recommending action to end the profound harms of criminalizing sex work and the ways that ongoing criminalization encourages law enforcement presence in the lives of those most marginalized. The Committee’s focus on creating even more criminal laws will only maintain this law enforcement presence, rather than addressing the issues that cause violence and exploitation against sex workers.

Exploitation in the sex industry flourishes when criminalization prevents sex workers from improving labour conditions, and reporting violence and exploitation. Requiring more criminalization to address exploitation before repealing the sex work offences (Recommendation 6 and 7) merely increases the risk of exploitation against sex workers. We reject the idea of new Criminal Code amendments as a solution; there are ample existing provisions that can be used to address violence and exploitation, including but not limited to criminal prohibitions against assault, sexual assault, theft, robbery, kidnapping and forcible confinement, extortion, intimidation, criminal harassment, and uttering threats of physical harm. Sex workers should not have to wait until tangentially related issues of coercive control and human trafficking, which happen primarily outside of the sex industry, are resolved before getting access to human rights protections.

Sex workers and sex worker rights groups across the country uniformly testified during the Committee hearings, that the criminal sanctions against sex work must be repealed in order to address exploitation in the sex industry. Alliance member groups Butterfly and SWAN Vancouver also provided insight into how to address exploitation experienced by migrant sex workers, and this Committee and the Government of Canada should take direction from those most affected by sex work prohibitions (Recommendation 11, Committee report).

The report fails to acknowledge the need to immediately remove law enforcement from the lives of the most marginalized sex workers. Police presence is antagonistic and far from helpful. Encouraging “best practices for building trust” (Recommendation 8) with police while simultaneously studying how to encourage “more consistent application” of PCEPA (Recommendation 9) is contradictory, and should not be a priority for this government. Rather, this government should prioritize removing police from sex workers’ lives due to the dangers police and their mandate of sex work eradication cause, as per sex workers and sex worker activists’ testimony before the hearing. Sex worker rights groups also presented clear evidence of the harms that police cause to sex workers when mandated to arrest clients and third parties.

Most glaringly, despite clearly recognizing that the laws are harmful and overbroad – and therefore violating our Charter rights – the report falls short of recognizing the urgency of full decriminalization of sex work. Troublingly, the Committee does not recommend the repeal of s. 286.1, which criminalizes the purchase of sexual services and is the provision upon which the PCEPA “end demand” framework lies. The Committee also fails to recommend the removal of s. 286.2 and s. 286.3, which criminalize third party involvement in the work of sex workers – which sex workers across the country testified as being part of the most harmful elements of criminalization. As long as any facet of sex work is criminalized, sex workers who are most marginalized are made vulnerable to violence and exploitation. Only by removing the entire criminal framework for sex work can law enforcement meaningfully identify and pursue exploitation against sex workers.

We look forward to the promise put forward by the first recommendation of this Committee to “extensively consult” people most impacted – people who are selling and exchanging sexual services – before any additional and harmful legislation is created that will cause further harms to sex workers across the country. These extensive consults must be truly meaningful and not reproduce the same harms we often see when sex workers are consulted. Sex workers have already published countless documents, and ample empirical evidence exists regarding the harms of the law and what is needed instead. Our Recommendations for Sex Work Law Reform in Canada are the result of extensive consultations with sex workers across the country and our ongoing constitutional challenge to the PCEPA already includes several thousand pages of evidence. We are far past the time to call for studies and consultation. Parliament now has access to all the necessary information required to fully repeal the PCEPA.

The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform is a group of 25 sex worker rights groups across the country working together for safer and healthier communities and sex workers’ rights. Many of our members testified to the harms of PCEPA before this Committee.

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For interviews with the Alliance or one of our member groups contact: Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform contact@sexworklawreform.com or 514.916.2598

Alliance member organizations include: Action santé travesti(e)s et transsexuel(le)s du Québec (ASTT(e)Q) (Montreal); ANSWERS Society (Edmonton); BC Coalition of Experiential Communities (BCCEW); Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Work Support Network (Toronto); HIV Legal Network; Émissaire (Longueuil); Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers’ Action Project; Maggie’s Indigenous Sex Work Drum Group; PEERS Victoria; Projet L.U.N.E. (Québec); Prostitutes Involved Empowered Cogent Edmonton (PIECE) (Edmonton); PACE Society (Vancouver); Rézo, projet travailleurs du sexe (Montreal); Safe Harbour Outreach Project (SHOP) (St John’s); SafeSpace (London); Sex Workers’ Action Program Hamilton (SWAPH); Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC); Sex Workers’ Action Network of Waterloo Region (SWAN Waterloo); Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition (SWWAC); Sex Workers United Against Violence (SWUAV) (Vancouver); Shift Calgary, HIV Community Link; Stella, l’amie de Maimie (Montreal); SWANS Sudbury; SWAN Vancouver; and SWAP Yukon (Whitehorse).

PARLIAMENT SET TO HEAR THE HUMAN RIGHS VIOLATIONS CAUSED BY CANADA’S SEX WORK LAWS

PARLIAMENT SET TO HEAR THE HUMAN RIGHS VIOLATIONS CAUSED BY CANADA’S SEX WORK LAWS
Parliamentary review getting underway was meant to be completed by 2019

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 7, 2022 – Ottawa, ON – The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform — an alliance of 25 sex worker rights groups and allies across the country — will detail the harms that sex workers across the country have endured since the Protection for Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) was passed in 2014. At that time, Parliament was tasked with a five-year review of the law, meant to be completed in 2019. Hearings for the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights now begin Tuesday, February 8th and are expected to last four weeks.

Sex workers and allies across the country are appealing to the Committee to centre sex workers in these discussions, as those most impacted by current, misguided sex work legislation. “We have been patiently waiting on the empty promises of parliamentarians to uphold the rights of sex workers who are increasingly experiencing the harmful impacts of these laws,” says Alliance National Coordinator Jenn Clamen. “This government has spent seven years paying lip service to human rights and to their version of feminism, and it’s time for them to publicly recognize the dangers of the current sex work legislation, and to hear it from the people bearing the brunt of these law — sex workers themselves.”

Despite its misleading title, PCEPA does not in fact protect communities and exploited persons. Instead, it has reproduced the Charter violations fueled by the previous sex work laws, which the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously declared unconstitutional in Canada v. Bedford. PCEPA has also added new offences that make sex workers more vulnerable to human rights violations. Individually and taken together, these laws have caused numerous harmful impacts to sex workers, notably by prohibiting sex workers from:
• communicating and negotiating conditions and establishing consent to sexual activity;
• obtaining relevant and identifiable information from clients and engaging in other screening practices that are vital to sex workers’ safety;
• working in secure and shard indoor workspaces; and
• establishing important working and safety relationships with managers, receptionists, drivers, interpreters, partners, peers, and security, and with other sex workers who join together to pool resources, services, and knowledge.

All of these provisions force sex workers to work a criminalized context, isolated from supports, made vulnerable to exploitation, eviction, and subpar working conditions, and targeted for violence. Migrant sex workers are also vulnerable to loss of immigration status and deportation.

Claims that PCEPA “decriminalizes sex workers but criminalizes clients” are lies; sex workers are directly and indirectly criminalized and experience constant fear, stigma, discrimination, and other disastrous consequences of criminalization that prevent access to health, social, and legal services. PCEPA has emboldened police to maintain a constant presence in the lives of sex workers — particularly for Black, Indigenous, migrant, and trans sex workers, and sex workers who use drugs, who are all regularly profiled and targeted. This presence has increased fear and mistrust, and increased isolation for sex workers.

Members of the Alliance are concerned that the committee hearings, like others before it on sex work, will simply air judgements and opinions about sex work itself, rather than fulfil its mandate of studying the impacts of PCEPA. The PCEPA hearings in 2014 were biased and derogatory towards sex workers, and included numerous witnesses who were merely opposed to sex work on ideological grounds. Clamen adds, “Meaningful participation in the review of law means centering the experiences of people most affected by those laws. We hope that this committee doesn’t waste its time with anti-sex work ideologues, rather than prioritizing the evidence of real-world impacts of these laws.”

Sex workers from all sectors of the industry have been asking for the full decriminalization of their work as a vital first step towards ending the stigma, violence and exploitation in their lives.

In 2021, the Alliance launched a constitutional challenge to sex work laws in Canada because they violate sex workers’ constitutional rights to security, personal autonomy, life, liberty, free expression, free association, and equality. That case is currently making its way through the courts. In the meantime, sex workers desperately need a commitment from the government to improve our safety and quality of life, and a recognition that criminalizing sex work has wreaked havoc and danger in sex workers’ lives and work.

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For interviews with the Alliance or one of our member groups contact:
Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform
contact@sexworklawreform.com, Tel : 514.916.2598

Alliance member organizations include: Action santé travesti(e)s et transsexuel(le)s du Québec (ASTT(e)Q) (Montreal); ANSWERS Society (Edmonton); BC Coalition of Experiential Communities (BCCEW); Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Work Support Network (Toronto); HIV Legal Network; Émissaire (Longueuil); Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers’ Action Project; Maggie’s Indigenous Sex Work Drum Group; PEERS Victoria; Projet L.U.N.E. (Québec); Prostitutes Involved Empowered Cogent Edmonton (PIECE) (Edmonton); PACE Society (Vancouver); Rézo, projet travailleurs du sexe (Montreal); Safe Harbour Outreach Project (SHOP) (St John’s); SafeSpace (London); Sex Workers’ Action Program Hamilton (SWAPH); Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC); Sex Workers’ Action Network of Waterloo Region (SWAN Waterloo); Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition (SWWAC); Sex Workers United Against Violence (SWUAV) (Vancouver); Shift Calgary, HIV Community Link; Stella, l’amie de Maimie (Montreal); SWANS Sudbury; SWAN Vancouver; and SWAP Yukon (Whitehorse).

NEWS!!! SEX WORKER HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS LAUNCH CONSTITUTIONAL CHALLENGE

March 30, 2021 – The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform — an alliance of 25 sex worker rights groups across the country led predominantly by and for sex workers — along with several individual applicants, have filed a Notice of Application seeking to strike down the sex work prohibitions against impeding traffic (s. 213(1)), public communication (s. 213(1.1)), purchasing (s.286.1(1)), materially benefiting (s. 286.2(1)), recruiting (s. 286.3(1)), and advertising (s. 286.4) in the Criminal Code, because they violate sex workers’ constitutional rights to security, personal autonomy, life, liberty, free expression, free association, and equality.

“We have been patiently waiting on the empty promises of parliamentarians to uphold the rights of sex workers who are increasingly experiencing the impacts of these laws, and the heavy hand of law enforcement,” says Alliance National Coordinator Jenn Clamen. “This government has spent five years paying lip service to human rights and to feminism, and it’s time for them to act.”

In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled three prostitution prohibitions in criminal law to be unconstitutional because they caused harm to sex workers and contravened sex workers’ rights to liberty and security. This was the federal government’s opportunity to recognize sex workers’ rights and well-being by decriminalizing sex work. Instead, the government of the day created a set of laws under the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) that reproduce those same harms.

Despite its title, PCEPA does anything but protect communities and exploited persons. It reproduces and legitimizes the harmful impacts of the previous sex work offences declared unconstitutional in Canada v. Bedford and adds new offences that make sex workers vulnerable to human rights violations. Individually and taken together, these laws cause numerous harmful impacts to sex workers, notably by prohibiting sex workers from:

· communicating and negotiating conditions and establishing consent to sexual activity;

· obtaining relevant and identifiable information from clients and engaging in other screening practices that are vital to sex workers’ safety;

· working in non-isolated, collective and indoor workspaces; and

· establishing important working and safety relationships with managers, receptionists, drivers, interpreters, partners, peers, and security, and with other sex workers who join together to pool resources, services, and knowledge.

All of these provisions force sex workers to work in a criminalized context where sex workers are isolated from supports, made vulnerable to exploitation, eviction, and subpar working conditions, and targeted for violence. Migrant sex workers are also vulnerable to loss of immigration status and deportation.

Claims that PCEPA “decriminalizes sex workers but criminalize clients” are false; sex workers are directly and indirectly criminalized and experience constant fear, stigma, discrimination, and other deleterious consequences of criminalization that prevent access to health, social, and legal services. The criminalization of all elements of sex work also invites unwanted and unsolicited police presence in the lives of sex workers – particularly for Black, Indigenous, migrant and trans sex workers, and sex workers who use drugs, who are regularly profiled and targeted.

As long as the criminal law regulates sex workers’ lives and working conditions, sex workers will continue to try to avoid detection by law enforcement, live and work in precarious conditions, not seek help or report crimes against us, and will remain surveilled, policed, and more vulnerable to targeted violence and exploitation.

As long as the government’s objective remains the elimination of sex work, sex workers will continue to be excluded from labour protections and social programs, and will continue to be targeted by aggressors with impunity.

“I’m tired of hiding and of running from the police,” one of the individual sex worker co-applicants expressed. “I hope that my participation in this challenge will show the world that we cannot keep condoning the violation of sex workers’ human rights.”

Sex workers from all sectors of the industry have been asking for the full decriminalization of sex work as a vital first step towards ending the stigma, violence and exploitation in our lives; we need the full protection of the Charter, and a commitment from the government to improve our safety and quality of life.

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For interviews with the Alliance or one of our member groups contact:

Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform

contact@sexworklawreform.com, Tel : 514.916.2598

Alliance member organizations include: Action santé travesti(e)s et transsexuel(le)s du Québec (ASTT(e)Q) (Montreal); ANSWERS Society (Edmonton); BC Coalition of Experiential Communities (BCCEC); Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Work Support Network (Toronto); HIV Legal Network; Émissaire (Longueuil); Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers’ Action Project; Maggie’s Indigenous Sex Work Drum Group; PEERS Victoria; Projet L.U.N.E. (Québec); Prostitutes Involved Empowered Cogent Edmonton (PIECE) (Edmonton); PACE Society (Vancouver); Rézo, projet travailleurs du sexe (Montreal); Safe Harbour Outreach Project (SHOP) (St John’s); SafeSpace (London); Sex Workers’ Action Program Hamilton (SWAPH); Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC); Sex Workers’ Action Network of Waterloo Region (SWAN Waterloo); Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition (SWWAC); Sex Workers United Against Violence (SWUAV) (Vancouver); Shift Calgary, HIV Community Link; Stella, l’amie de Maimie (Montreal); SWANS Sudbury; SWAN Vancouver; and SWAP Yukon (Whitehorse).

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GROUPES POUR LES DROITS HUMAINS DES TRAVAILLEUSE.EUR.S DU SEXE LANCENT UNE CONTESTATION CONSTITUTIONNELLE

Le 30 mars 2021 – L’Alliance canadienne pour la réforme des lois sur le travail du sexe – une alliance de 25 groupes de défense des droits des travailleuse.eur.s du sexe à travers le pays dirigée principalement par et pour les travailleuse.eur.s du sexe ont déposé, avec plusieurs demanderesses individuelles, un avis de demande qui exige l’invalidation des prohibitions sur le travail du sexe visant l’interférence à la circulation (art. 213(1)), la communication en public (art. 213 (1.1)), l’achat (art .286.1(1)), l’obtention d’un avantage matériel (art. 286.2(1)), le proxénétisme (art. 286.3(1)), et la publicité (art. 286.4) du Code criminel, parce qu’elles violent les droits constitutionnels des travailleuse.eur.s du sexe à la sécurité, à l’autonomie personnelle, à la vie, à la liberté, à la libre expression, à la liberté d’association, et à l’égalité.

« Nous attendons patiemment les promesses creuses des parlementaires de défendre les droits des travailleuse.eur.s du sexe qui subissent de plus en plus les effets de ces lois, et la sévérité des forces de l’ordre, » déclare la coordinatrice nationale de l’Alliance Jenn Clamen. « Ce gouvernement a passé cinq ans à lancer des paroles en l’air sur les droits humains et le féminisme, et il est temps pour eux d’agir. »

En 2013, la Cour suprême du Canada a déclaré que trois infractions criminelles liées à la prostitution étaient inconstitutionnelles parce qu’elles causaient du tort aux travailleuse.eur.s du sexe et enfreignaient les droits des travailleuse.eur.s du sexe à la liberté et à la sécurité. C’était l’occasion pour le gouvernement fédéral de reconnaître les droits et le bien-être des travailleuse.eur.s du sexe en décriminalisant le travail du sexe. Plutôt, le gouvernement de l’époque a créé un ensemble de lois en vertu de la Loi sur la protection des collectivités et des personnes victimes d’exploitation (LPCPVE) qui reproduisent ces mêmes torts.

Malgré son titre, la LPCPVE fait tout sauf protéger les communautés et les personnes exploitées. Elle reproduit et légitimise les effets néfastes des infractions précédentes sur le travail du sexe déclarées inconstitutionnelles dans Canada c. Bedford et ajoute de nouvelles infractions qui rendent les travailleuse.eur.s du sexe vulnérables aux violations de leurs droits humains. Individuellement et prises ensemble, ces lois ont de nombreux effets néfastes sur les travailleuse.eur.s du sexe, notamment en interdisant aux travailleuse.eur.s du sexe de :

· Communiquer et négocier les conditions et établir le consentement à l’activité sexuelle;

· Obtenir des informations pertinentes et identifiables des clients et s’engager dans d’autres pratiques d’évaluation préalable des clients qui sont vitales pour la sécurité des travailleuse.eur.s du sexe;

· Travailler dans des espaces non-isolés, collectifs et à l’intérieur; et

· Établir d’importantes relations de travail et de sécurité avec des gérant.e.s, réceptionnistes, chauffeurs, interprètes, partenaires, pair.e.s et agents de sécurité, et avec d’autres travailleuse.eur.s du sexe qui se réunissent pour mettre en commun des ressources, services et savoirs.

Toutes ces dispositions obligent les travailleuse.eur.s du sexe à travailler dans un contexte criminalisé où les travailleuse.eur.s du sexe sont isolé.e.s des soutiens, rendu.e.s vulnérables à l’exploitation, à l’expulsion et à des mauvaises conditions de travail, et ciblé.e.s par des agresseurs. Les travailleuse.eur.s du sexe migrant.e.s sont également vulnérables à la perte de leur statut d’immigration et à la déportation.

Les allégations selon lesquelles la LPCPVE « décriminalise les travailleuse.eur.s du sexe mais criminalise les clients » ne sont pas fondées – les travailleuse.eur.s du sexe sont directement et indirectement criminalisé.e.s et vivent constamment de la peur, la stigmatisation, de la discrimination, et autres conséquences délétères de la criminalisation qui empêchent l’accès aux institutions et aux services de santé, sociaux et légaux. De plus, la criminalisation du travail du sexe encourage une présence non désirée et non sollicitée de la part de la police dans la vie des travailleuse.eur.s du sexe, particulièrement celles.ceux qui sont Noir.e.s, autochtones, migrant.e.s, trans, ou qui consomment des drogues, qui sont déjà régulièrement surveillé.e.s et ciblé.e.s.

Tant que la vie et les conditions de travail des travailleuse.eur.s du sexe seront règlementées par des lois criminelles, les travailleuse.eur.s du sexe continuerons de devoir éviter d’être détecté.e.s par les forces de l’ordre, de vivre et de travailler dans des conditions précaires, ne chercherons pas d’aide ou ne signalerons pas les crimes contre nous, et resterons surveillé.e.s, contrôlé.e.s, et plus vulnérables à la violence ciblée et l’exploitation.

Tant que l’objectif du gouvernement demeure l’élimination du travail du sexe, les travailleuse.eur.s du sexe vont continuer d’être exclu.e.s des normes du travail et des programmes sociaux, et continueront d’être les cibles d’agresseurs avec impunité.

« Je suis fatiguée de me cacher et m’enfuir de la police » une travailleuse du sexe co-demanderesse individuelle a exprimé. « J’espère que ma participation dans cette contestation va montrer au monde que nous ne pouvons pas continuer à tolérer et faciliter les violations des droits humains des travailleuse.eur.s du sexe. »

Les travailleuse.eur.s du sexe de tous les secteurs de l’industrie demandent la décriminalisation totale du travail du sexe comme première étape essentielle pour mettre fin la stigmatisation, à la violence et à l’exploitation dans nos vies; nous avons besoin de la pleine protection de la Charte, et un engagement de la part du gouvernement pour améliorer notre sécurité et qualité de vie.

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Pour les entrevues avec l’Alliance ou un de nos groupes membres, contactez :

L’Alliance canadienne pour la réforme des lois sur le travail du sexe

contact@sexworklawreform.com, Tel : 514.916.2598

Les organismes membres de l’Alliance incluent : Action santé travesti(e)s et transsexuel(le)s du Québec (ASTT(e)Q) (Montreal); ANSWERS Society (Edmonton); BC Coalition of Experiential Communities (BCCEC); Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Work Support Network (Toronto); HIV Legal Network; Émissaire (Longueuil); Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers’ Action Project; Maggie’s Indigenous Sex Work Drum Group; PEERS Victoria; Projet L.U.N.E. (Québec); Prostitutes Involved Empowered Cogent Edmonton (PIECE) (Edmonton); PACE Society (Vancouver); Rézo, projet travailleurs du sexe (Montreal); Safe Harbour Outreach Project (SHOP) (St John’s); SafeSpace (London); Sex Workers’ Action Program Hamilton (SWAPH); Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC); Sex Workers’ Action Network of Waterloo Region (SWAN Waterloo); Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition (SWWAC); Sex Workers United Against Violence (SWUAV) (Vancouver); Shift Calgary, HIV Community Link; Stella, l’amie de Maimie (Montreal); SWANS Sudbury; SWAN Vancouver; and SWAP Yukon (Whitehorse).