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).

Sex Workers in Canada Need the Support of our Allies and other Sex Workers!!

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: charlie.angus@parl.gc.ca and the committee clerk Miriam at ethi@parl.gc.ca.

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:

http://www.parl.gc.ca/About/House/WitnessesGuides/guide-brief-E.htm

3. EMAILS TO SEND REQUEST AND BRIEFS:

Send your request to the primary email for the Committee at: ethi@parl.gc.ca, and all other committee members listed below.

Chris Warkentin, Chair, Conservative: chris.warkentin@parl.gc.ca

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: charlie.angus@parl.gc.ca

Michael Barrett, Member, Conservative: Michael.Barrett@parl.gc.ca

Colin Carrie, Member, Conservative: colin.carrie@parl.gc.ca

Han Dong, Member, Liberal: Han.Dong@parl.gc.ca

Greg Fergus, Member, Liberal: Greg.Fergus@parl.gc.ca

Jacques Gourde, Member, Conservative: jacques.gourde@parl.gc.ca

Patricia Lattanzio, Member, Liberal: Patricia.Lattanzio@parl.gc.ca

Francesco Sorbara, Member, Liberal: Francesco.Sorbara@parl.gc.ca

4. Email contact@sexworklawreform.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.

Media Release from Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights: 150 Canadian Social Justice Organizations Demand Sex Work Decriminalization this Election

150 Canadian Social Justice Organizations Demand Sex Work Decriminalization this Election

Monday, September 30, 2019 – Over 150 organizations across Canada are asking the next government of Canada to support sex workers’ rights, including the full decriminalization of sex work as a first step.

In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that criminalizing sex work promotes violence and violates sex workers’ human rights. Yet no action has been taken to repeal the laws and regulations that place sex workers at risk every day. The statement demonstrates unprecedented and widespread support for sex workers’ rights from social justice-seeking organizations across Canada.

On the federal level, both criminal and immigration laws contravene the safety of sex workers safety and create a hostile context with law enforcement. Since the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act came into force in 2014, sex workers have reported increased antagonism with law enforcement, targeted violence and fear of reporting, unwanted and unsolicited police interactions, and targeting of Indigenous, Black, trans, and migrant sex workers, as well as sex workers who use drugs.

Criminalization has increased surveillance of sex workers, clients, and third parties, and resulted in the same human rights violations underscored in the Bedford decision. Much of this enforcement is also due to the conflation of sex work and human trafficking, and the law enforcement responses to both.

“Every aspect of sex work is criminalized, which means that sex workers are unable to access social, legal, and health supports, should they need them,” says Sandeep Prasad, Executive Director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights. Adding that, “sex workers have made clear that they can’t and won’t report violence against them when they risk continued surveillance, arrest, detainment, deportation, and discrimination.”

“The conflation of sex work and human trafficking has emboldened law enforcement to misuse and overuse human trafficking laws to target sex workers, clients, and third parties,” says Jenn Clamen, National Coordinator of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform. “This creates a context where sex workers experience unwanted contact with law enforcement and are isolated as a result. This isolation contributes to targeted violence and lack of access to important services.”

Over 150 organizations have signed onto the statement of solidarity asking the federal government of Canada to take measures towards a first step in a process of decriminalizing sex work—a commitment to the repeal of Criminal Code and Immigration Law provisions (IRPA) that threaten sex workers’ health and safety, as well as a push to center sex workers in related policy and law reform processes.

“Ultimately, decriminalization is a first step to ensuring sex workers’ safety and dignity, which means creating spaces where they can work in a way that they feel safe and not isolated,” says Prasad.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

 

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Solidarity Statement for Sex Workers’ Rights

Sex workers—people who exchange sexual services for money or goods—are criminalized, disproportionately surveilled, overpoliced, and denied their fundamental rights. Sex workers who live intersecting discriminations due to poverty, their visible presence in public spaces, their racial and social positioning, and their gender identity are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement and institutional, legal and societal violence. Much of this treatment results from the stigmatization of sex work itself and a lack of recognition for the agency that sex workers exercise in their daily lives.

Various human rights organizations, UN bodies and courts have concluded that criminalization of the sex industry creates conditions for exploitation and violates sex workers’ human rights. In 2014, a landmark legal challenge (Attorney General v Bedford) found that the laws in Canada that address sex work violate sex workers constitutional right to safety and all such laws were struck down. However, in spite of this, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) was enacted in 2014. The PCEPA defines all sex work as exploitation and frames all sex workers as victims and all clients and third parties as criminals. A primary objective of the legislation is to eradicate prostitution. The new laws include provisions that directly criminalize sex workers, as well as provisions that criminalize virtually all elements of the sex industry.

Since PCEPA came into force, sex workers have reported increased antagonism with law enforcement, targeted violence and fear of reporting, unwanted and unsolicited law enforcement of Indigenous, Black, trans, migrant, drug using sex workers, and detainment and deportations of Asian and migrant sex workers. Police misuse and overuse human trafficking laws to target sex workers and clients, creating increasingly unsafe and marginalized conditions for sex workers.

Protecting and respecting the human rights of sex workers requires a holistic response. Decriminalization—the removal of criminal and immigration sex work specific laws—is a first and necessary step. A holistic plan for sex work law reform includes concrete measures to address discrimination and inequality in all forms: poverty, inadequate housing, inadequate healthcare, lack of access to safe transportation, inadequate access to legal aid, over-criminalization and overincarceration, and ongoing problems with youth protection systems. This further includes access to basic labour and occupational safety protections.

STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY

We are opposed to federal, provincial and municipal laws that disproportionately regulate and criminalize bodily autonomy, sexuality and sexual and reproductive health and rights.

We call upon the government of Canada for the total decriminalization of sex work as a first step to protecting and respecting the human rights of all sex workers—this begins with the removal of criminal and immigration laws that criminalize sex work.

We call for the recognition of sex work as meaningful and valuable work that provides economic opportunity for people selling and trading sex.

We call for equal and non-discriminatory access to health, education, occupation, housing, and economic opportunities and rights.

We affirm that sex workers are not criminals to be stigmatized, but rather members of an often exploited and under-protected working class.

We stand in solidarity with sex workers demanding rights, the recognition of sex workers’ agency and decision-making capacity and safe working conditions.

We, the undersigned organizations, pledge to promote the rights of sex workers and to create spaces for sex workers to take leadership and be centered in sex work law reform discussions.


National
Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada
Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
Alberta Society for the Promotion of Sexual Health
Amnesty International Canada
Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
Canadian AIDS Society
Canadian Association of People who Use Drugs (CAPUD)
Canadian Association of Social Workers
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Canadian Treatment Action Council
Families of Sisters in Spirit
FIRST Decriminalize Sex Work
i2i Peer Support
Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development
International Human Rights Program, University of Toronto Faculty of Law
Marie Stopes International
Migrant Workers Alliance for Change
Radical Access Mapping Project
Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC)
The Naked Truth
Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights
Adult sex work

Alberta
HIV Community Link
Prostitutes Involved Empowered Cogent Edmonton (PIECE)
Shift, HIV Community Link

British Columbia
Afro-Canadian Positive Network of BC
Anti-Violence Project
BC Coalition of Experiential Communities
Coalition Against Trans Antagonism
Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre
Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence Society (SWUAV)
HUSTLE at Health Initiative for Men
Law Students for Decriminalization and Harm Reduction
Organize BC
Pacific AIDS Network Society
PEERS
Pivot Legal Society
Pride
Providing Alternatives, Counselling and Education (PACE) Society
Saige Community Food Bank
SFSS Women’s Centre
SOLID Outreach Society
Supporting Women’s Alternatives Network (SWAN)
UVic Gender Empowerment Centre
Victoria Sexual Assault Centre
WAVAW Rape Crisis Center
West Coast Cooperative of Sex Industry Professionals (WCCSIP)
WISH Drop-In Centre Society
YouthCO HIV & Hep C Society

Manitoba
Manitoba Harm Reduction Network
Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition

Newfoundland and Labrador
Bay St. George Status of Women Council
Corner Brook Status of Women Council
Planned Parenthood Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Health Centre
Safe Harbour Outreach Project (S.H.O.P.)
St. John’s Status of Women’s Council/Women’s Centre
St. John’s Womxn in Music

Nova Scotia
Sexual Health Centre Lunenburg County
South House
Stepping Stone Association
The South House Sexual and Gender Resource Centre

Ontario
AIDS Committee of Ottawa
AIDS Committee of Windsor
Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention
Angel’s Angels
Barton Village Business Improvement Area
Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Network
Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter
CUPE Local 3906
CUPE4600
DUAL-Drug User Advocacy League/OICH
Gender Studies & Feminist Research Program, McMaster University
Guelph Resource Centre for Gender Empowerment and Diversity
Hamilton Anvil
Hamilton Burlesque Society
HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario
Industrial Workers of the World – Hamilton GMB
LGBT YouthLine
Maggie’s Indigenous Sex Workers Drum Group
Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project
Marit Collective
Migrant Sex Workers Project
No One Is Illegal-Toronto
Parkdale Community Legal Services
Planned Parenthood Toronto
POWER (Prostitutes of Ottawa-Gatineau Work, Educate and Resist)
Pride Hamilton
Safer Gigs Hamilton
SafeSpace
Sex Workers Advisory Network of Sudbury (SWANS)
Sex Workers’ Action Network of Waterloo Region
Sex Workers’ Action Program of Hamilton
SHORE Centre
Showing Up for Racial Justice Toronto (SURJ TO)
Street Health
TransParent Hamilton-Niagara
Willow’s Drop-In – Ottawa-Vanier
Women & HIV / AIDS Initiative
Women and Gender Equity Network
Women’s and Gender Equity Centre at University Toronto-Mississauga
Work Safe Twerk Safe
Workers’ Action Centre
YWCA Kitchener-Waterloo

Québec
Action Santé Travesties et Transexuel(le)s du Québec (ASTTeQ)
Agir
AlterHéros
CACTUS Montreal
Centre for Gender Advocacy
Clinique Droits Devant
Coalition des organismes communautaires québécois de lutte contre le sida (COCQ-SIDA)
Coalition LGBTQ youth groups
Conseil québécois LGBT
Dopamine
École de travail social UQAM
Émissaire
Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ)
GIAP
Les Hébergements de l’Envol
L’R des centres de femmes du Québec
Native Women’s Shelter
PACT de rue
Plein Milieu
Project 10
Projet d’intervention auprès des mineur.e.s prostitué.e.s (PIaMP)
Projet Lune
RÉZO
Sidalys
Solidarity Across Borders- Montreal
Spectre de rue Inc.
Stella, l’amie de Maimie
The Open Door / La Porte Ouverte Montréal
TOMS Table des organismes communautaires montréalais de lutte contre le VIH/sida

Saskatchewan
Saskatoon Sexual Health