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.

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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


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


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


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


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


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


Students for Queer Liberation

Sudbury Workers Education and Advocacy Centre

Sustainable Mississauga

SWAN Waterloo Region

SWAP Hamilton


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


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