Press Release: Sex Workers Denied Day in Court: The Injustice of Litigating Sex Work Law Without Sex Workers

May 28, 2024 – For immediate release – The Supreme Court of Canada has rejected sex workers’ request to intervene and participate in Kloubakov v Canada, a case concerning the constitutionality of sex work laws based on sex workers’ Charter rights. The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform (CASWLR) is a coalition of 23 leading sex workers’ rights organizations across Canada, the majority of which are led by and for sex workers. This decision highlights the ways the Supreme Court excludes those most directly affected — and whose Charter rights underpin all the legal questions before the Court — in its consideration of important constitutional issues.

Members of our coalition have been collectively litigating the constitutionality of criminal sex work laws for many years. Our member groups are led by and serve sex workers, including migrant sex workers, Indigenous sex workers, trans sex workers, Black sex workers, sex workers who use drugs, and sex workers living with HIV. Sex workers represented in our coalition have diverse identities, experiences and locations, including experiences of violence, coercion and other abuse — who can attest firsthand to the impacts of the sex work offences. This means the only organization representing those most immediately impacted by these provisions has been barred from bringing this unique and essential perspective before the Court.

While an appeal of our own 2021 constitutional challenge is pending, Kloubakov is a separate constitutional challenge brought by non-sex worker third parties engaging only two of the sex work offences in the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act. CASWLR, along with many other organizations, sought leave to intervene. In our intervention application, we referred to our litigation as well as our law reform efforts, which ground our expertise in precisely the issues at stake. Yet, we have been denied leave to intervene on the basis that our involvement would “have the effect of expanding the case,” despite our deep and extensive experience with the challenged provisions.

The constitutional arguments being advanced by the accused in Kloubakov — who are not themselves sex workers —are grounded in how the sex work offences violate sex workers’ Charter rights. Once again, the Supreme Court will hear from people speaking about and for sex workers, without sex workers’ voices actually being present.

The Alliance represents, by far, the largest group of sex workers in Canada, with longstanding, collective knowledge of constitutional issues related to the sex work offences. Sex workers bear the most immediate, harmful and numerous impacts of these laws, yet the Supreme Court is silencing the very intervener that is in the best position to assist it in determining their constitutionality.

Also denied leave were the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, and Pivot Legal Society — who were highlighting the interests of Indigenous, racialized and migrant sex workers currently working under criminal sex work laws.

We are appalled that our lives and realities are being determined by third parties who are not sex workers debating sex workers’ Charter rights. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will recognize this grave error and reverse its decision by granting us leave.

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Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform
514.916.2598
contact@sexworklawreform.com

Media Release: Sex workers are deeply disappointed with the Ontario Superior Court decision dismissing systemic harms experienced

Monday, September 18, 2023 — Today, the Ontario Superior Court released its decision in CASWLR v Attorney General (Canada), a case that sought to strike down harmful provisions of the Protection of Communities and Exploited People Act (PCEPA) on the grounds that they violate sex workers’ Charter rights. Sex workers across Canada are devastated to learn that the Ontario Superior Court has upheld all the provisions that cause grave harm to all sex workers. The decision is incredibly dismissive of sex workers’ concerns, knowledge, and intersecting realities, and we are deeply disappointed.

Sex workers and our colleagues will continue to be at risk of criminalization, social and racial profiling, and targeted violence.

Despite all the evidence confirming the gravity of these many harms, the court discounted and rejected evidence from sex workers and relied heavily on evidence from law enforcement to find that “there is a considerable body of evidence that many sex workers are manipulated or coerced into sex work or trafficked while in it.”

Troublingly, the Court also concluded that sex workers misunderstand the law. This patronizing conclusion ignores the extensive evidence submitted describing how sex workers and non-exploitative third parties, and particularly migrant and Black sex workers, are being arrested for third-party tasks. The Court also denied the evidence detailing how criminalization causes stigma, which leads to violence against our communities, claiming “a lack of empirical evidence.”

“Sex workers deserve a decision that recognizes the human rights violations faced every day from a criminal law that systematically discriminates, over polices, and under protects all sex workers, particularly those who are most marginalized by that same criminal law,” said Jenn Clamen, national coordinator of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform.

“Sex workers who are Indigenous, Black, migrant, and trans experience the most harmful impacts of the criminalization of sex work, as we are communities that are already overpoliced and under protected,” added Monica Forrester, one of the individual applicants in the case. “We need sex work laws removed from the Criminal Code so there is at least one less tool law enforcement can use against us.”

The systemic inequalities that are exacerbated by the criminalization of sex work cannot be ignored. These violations will not end until sex workers’ rights are recognized, and sex work is fully decriminalized through the removal of all criminal provisions introduced through the PCEPA.

Our Alliance member groups are grateful to all our allies who have stood with us in solidarity in this this case. We know this is not the end of the fight for sex workers’ rights and we are prepared to defend them all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

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

Alliance member organizations include: Action santé travesti(e)s et transsexuel(le)s du Québec (ASTT(e)Q); ANSWER Society; BC Coalition of Experiential Communities (BCCEC); Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Work Support Network; 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; SWANS Sudbury; and SWAP Yukon.

Petition: Stop Bill S-224 : Stop harmful amendments to the human trafficking offence

We are individuals, academics, and organizations coming together to express our opposition to Bill S-224. Its proposed amendments to the human trafficking offence will intensify the criminalization of sex workers, racialized people, and migrants under the guise of fighting human trafficking. It also has damaging, wide-reaching implications that extend to workers beyond the sex industry.

You can still sign on here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfpZen_ggdhzmpe5yiUL37n1Llba3Sm8AOZjzuc5UM5kEIo7A/viewform

In the last few decades, groups that are anti-sex work, racist, and anti-migrant have weaponized anti-human trafficking campaigns and policies to promote their agenda. While claiming to combat human trafficking, they advocate for the criminalization of all sex work, including increased policing and prosecution of Black, Indigenous, racialized, migrants, sex workers, and their communities. Bill S-224 is another example of this criminalization that functions to further erase and silence sex workers speaking to their experiences.

When anti-sex work groups, policymakers, and law enforcement wrongly equate sex work with sexual exploitation and human trafficking, sex workers — particularly Black, Indigenous, racialized and migrants — become the targets. Raids of sex industry workplaces have ballooned with increases in anti-human trafficking funding, initiatives, and policies. In the last two years, thousands of sex workers in Canada have been harassed, investigated, racially profiled, evicted, detained, deported, and incarcerated by law enforcement in the name of anti-human trafficking initiatives. Instead of being protected, their privacy, rights, autonomy, and safety are violated and under the false guise of “protection” sex workers are cast as victims, their voices and experiences erased.

Bill S-224 will make it easier for courts to convict people without evidence of exploitation and without proving a “threat to safety”. This will exacerbate the conflation of sex work and sexual exploitation, casting the net of criminalization far too wide and further endangering sex workers and their support networks. While Bill S-224 further erases the experiences and perspectives of sex workers by conflating sex work with sexual exploitation and human trafficking, it will also lead to the further criminalization of Black sex workers, who are already disproportionately targeted, policed and identified as perpetrators of violence, traffickers and aggressors through racist policing strategies. Third parties associated with sex workers — such as family members or employers who advertise services, translate, or screen clients for safety — are already criminalized under current laws. If Bill S-224 passes, these essential support figures will risk human trafficking charges and up to 14 years in prison. Without their networks, sex workers will be pushed underground into dangerous and vulnerable conditions.

Many other industries will feel the effects of this Bill as well. By drastically expanding the definition of exploitation, many situations could lead to a trafficking charge. Meaningfully addressing labour exploitation and abuse requires a clearer understanding of the underlying issues. These harms are rooted in unfair labour, gender, and class relations and a web of discriminatory laws and policies, and should be addressed through labour protections — not by casting the net of criminalization even wider.

We urge the government to reject Bill S-224 and adopt a human rights-based approach to the violence and exploitation faced by the communities that centres labour rights, migrant rights, and sex workers’ rights. Effective strategies must address structural barriers that lead to exploitation and abuse, including poverty, precarious immigration status, and lack of access to affordable housing, healthcare, and social services- particularly the barriers racialized communities, migrants and LGBTQ2s+ communities experience in accessing these vital resources.

We urgent the federal government to:

  • Reject Bill S-224 in its entirety.
  • Fully decriminalize sex work by removing all sex work specific criminal offences.
  • Remove immigration regulations prohibiting migrants from working in the sex industry.
  • Stop surveillance, raids, detention, and deportations of all sex workers, including the disproportionate targeting of queer and trans, Black, Indigenous, racialized and migrant sex workers.
  • Support non-carceral forms of safety such as decent work, healthcare, and housing for all.
  • Ensure full and permanent immigration status for all in Canada, without exception.
  • Invest in grassroots communities so they can support each other.

The following organizations have signed the statement as well as committed to stand in solidarity and fight against Bill S-224:

Aangen: A Community Service Organization

AESHA Project – University of British Columbia

Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights

Action Santé Travesti(e)s et Transsexuel(le)s du Québec

AIDS Committee of Ottawa

ANSWER Society

Asian Canadian Labour Alliance

Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS)

AWCCA Program at George Brown College

Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic

BC Civil Liberties Association

Bureau Of Power And Light

Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network)

BWSS Battered Women’s Support Services

Canadian Labour Congress

Canadian Women’s Foundation

Centre for Gender and Sexual Health Equity – University of British Columbia

Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples

Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic

Coalition des organismes communautaires québécois de lutte contre le sida

Collaborative Community Solutions

COCQ-SIDA

Cooperativo Da Vida

Decent Work and Health Network

DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada||Réseau d’action des femmes handicapées du Canada

Downsview Community Legal Services

Egale Canada

Elizabeth Fry Toronto

Embrave: Agency to End Violence

Émissaire

Eri Maestro/Migrante Canada

Family Service Toronto

Filipinas of HamOnt

Friends of Chinatown Toronto

Hamilton Asian Alliance

Hamilton Social Medicine Response Team (HAMSMaRT)

Healing For Everybody

HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO)

HIV Legal Network

Hope 24/7

IAVGO Community Legal Clinic

Independent Jewish Voices – Toronto and York Region Chapter

International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific

Jane Finch Action Against Poverty

Justice fo Migrant Workers (J4MW)

Justice for Workers

Justice for Workers Guelph

JusticeTrans

Kareem Ibrahim Law

La Dauphine

Legal Clinic of Guelph and Wellington

Maggie’s SWAP

Migrant Sex Workers Project

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

Mississauga Community Legal Services

Muslim alliance for sexual and gender diversity MASGD

No Pride in Policing Coalition

No More Silence

OCASI | Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC)

OPIRG Toronto

PACE society

Parkdale Community Legal Services

Peterborough AIDS Resource Network

Pivot Legal Society

Policing-Free Schools

Pozitive Pathways Community Service

Queer Ontario

Red Umbrella Sweden

RÉZO

S4 Collective

Safe Harbour Outreach Project (SHOP)

Safe Works Access Program (SWAP) – St. John’s

Sex Professionals of Canada

Sex Work Population Project

Sex Workers Advisory Network of Sudbury

Sex Workers’ Action Network of Waterloo Region

Shift (SafeLink Alberta)

Showing Up for Racial Justice – Toronto

Showing Up for Racial Justice Saskatoon – Treaty Six

SJSWC Margaurites Place

Society of Queer Momentum

South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario

South Asian Women’s Centre

SRHR Hubs

St. John’s Status of Women Council

Safe Harbour Outreach Project

St. John’s Women’s Centre

Social Planning Toronto

Stella, l’amie de Maimie

Stepping Stone Association

Streetworks

Students for Queer Liberation

Sudbury Workers Education and Advocacy Centre

Sustainable Mississauga

SWAN Waterloo Region

SWAP Hamilton

SWAPY Yukon

Table des organismes communautaires montréalais de lutte contre le VIH/sida (TOMS)

The 519

The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies

Transnational Law and Racial Justice Network

Trellis HIV & Community Care

University of British Columbia – Division of Social Medicine

Vivimos Juntxs, Comemos Juntxs

West Coast LEAF

Wisdom2Action

Women’s Centre for Social Justice, o/a WomenatthecentrE

Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)

Women’s Shelters Canada | Hébergement femmes Canada

Work Safe Twerk Safe

Workers’ Action Centre

York University Critical Trafficking and Sex Work Studies Cluster

Yukon Status of Women Council

YWCA Toronto

Media Statement: Amendments to the Expungement Act: Liberals Once Again Pay Lip Service to Equality

Media Statement:

Amendments to the Expungement Act: Liberals Once Again Pay Lip Service to Equality

March 8, 2023 – On the day before International Women’s Day, this government yet again failed to recognize this country’s most marginalized women working in the sex industry. Yesterday, Public Safety Canada announced that it was making amendments to the Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act, which came into force in 2018 and created a procedure for the expungement (permanent destruction) of historically unjust records of convictions. The Schedule to the Act was expanded to include abortion-related, bawdy house, and related indecency-based offences as eligible for expungement. As the government claimed, this move is an “important step towards righting historical wrongs.”

However, the amendments explicitly exclude people charged with these laws in the context of prostitution and the exchange of sex for money, even though the bawdy house laws for the purposes of prostitution (then section 210 of the Criminal Code) was struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2013. These prostitution offences disproportionately impact women.

The exclusion of sex workers from this equality-seeking remedy is a direct contradiction to the concern that this government feigns for sex workers. The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCPEA) is based on claims that sex workers are victims, and that these laws shelter sex workers from the effects of criminalization, including the harmful impacts of having a criminal record. Current and past governments have acknowledged the harms of having a criminal record, including the inability to obtain employment, restrictions on mobility, keeping women in poverty, and, they claim, in prostitution. Yet, this move to exclude women with prostitution-related charges from expunging their criminal records is the exact thing that continues to limit mobility and economic and employment options for sex workers.

2SLGBTQ organizers agree. Long-time queer activist and author of the Canadian War on Queers, Gary Kinsman states, “This is a major discriminatory exclusion against all sex workers and people accused of or associated with sex work in terms of bawdy house charges. It is an attack on sex workers and an attempt to break the major coalitions between queer and trans activists and sex workers!”

Historian and researcher Tom Hooper adds, “The Liberals went out of their way to exclude sex workers, and in the process, they excluded all the men arrested in the bath raids. None of them will qualify for record expungement. Sex work was part of the allegations police made in the baths.”

This government needs to get its story straight: either they are concerned about sex workers’ ability for social and economic mobility, or they simply want to find every opportunity to curb and disrespect sex workers’ human rights.

Cherry-picking which communities are entitled to record expungements is a classic Liberal move to maintain certain communities in disadvantage. Blatantly excluding sex workers from this effort to free people from the discrimination that results from criminal charges attached to these laws – laws deemed unjust by the country’s highest court itself – highlights the hypocrisy of this government when they claim they want to protect and liberate people working in the sex industry.

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For comment contact@sexworklawreform.com or 514-916-2598

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.