Today on the blog, we’re shining the spotlight on a group of grade 10 students at Selwyn House School who are working hard to support other youth in our community!
After doing their Youth in Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) school project on Head & Hands, they decided to get further involved and hold their own fundraiser. Through their YPI project and creative fundraising efforts at their school, they have directly supported our programs and helped us spread the word about Head & Hands in their school community.
We caught up with Yiwen, Matthew, Kyriakos, and Guillermo to learn more about their experience!
H&H: Why did you choose to get involved with Head & Hands?
We got involved with Head & Hands because we felt we were part of the charity already. Since we ourselves fall into the category of people the charity offers services to, we felt obligated to lend a hand and engage to help our community become a better place.
H&H: What has been your favorite part, or the most rewarding part, of your work so far? Have you faced any difficulties?
The project helped us to open our eyes and see our community in different eyes. As we were introduced to the severity of certain social issues, we became engaged to help build a more compassionate community. To us, this was the most important aspect of our project, as well as the most rewarding part.
One difficulty we had was brainstorming a way we could present our ideas to help others understand the impact of Head & Hands. We spent numerous hours creating presentations, videos, and scripts to find the most creative way we could capture the attention of other students, teachers, and the judges.
H&H: What is one key thing you have learned through your YPI and fundraising experience?
Our project has definitely taught us many things: working as a team, interacting with people, and articulating our ideas. The one key thing we have learned from the project as well as our fundraising experience was ultimately learning to be able to give back to our community.
Following the Bedford v. Canada decision to strike the three provisions that regulate and criminalize sex work from the Criminal Code, the Canadian government has called a public consultation on sex work. We’re sharing our responses in hopes that they will inspire you to create your own! You can get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to see recommendations from sex workers and sex workers’ advocacy organizations compiled by Stella. Please use these recommendations and our responses as inspiration to create your own unique response, so that the government sees many individual voices in support of sex workers’ human and labour rights! You can add your voice in solidarity with sex workers any time before March 17th by clicking here.
1. Do you think that purchasing sexual services from an adult should be a criminal offence? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.
No, the purchase of sexual services from an adult should not be a criminal offense, with no exception. The Nordic/Swedish model of criminalizing those who purchase sexual services from adults has been demonstrated to reproduce many of the harmful conditions for sex workers that the Bedford ruling aimed to end. In this way, criminalizing the purchase of sexual services from an adult would be both unconstitutional and regressive.
These harmful conditions often result from aggressive policing and fear of arrest or incarceration. They include:
decreased ability to negotiate safer sex and boundaries with clients,
client reluctance to share personal information that helps sex workers screen them for safety,
reluctance to report witnessed violence against sex workers,
further stigmatization and marginalization of sex work and sex workers.
Criminalization drives the sex industry underground, which makes it more difficult for sex workers to access social benefits and services (including legal advocacy and health services), as well as to pay taxes, since their income relies on criminalized transactions.
Head & Hands supports the right of sex workers to do their work in safety and with dignity; criminalizing those who employ sex workers is an infringement on that right.
2. Do you think that selling sexual services by an adult should be a criminal offence? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.
No, selling sexual services by an adult should not be a criminal offense, with no exception.
Head & Hands supports the full decriminalization of sex work, and believes that adults who sell sexual services should never be threatened with criminal charges.
The criminalization of those who sell sexual services creates dangerous working conditions and infringes on sex workers’ right to safety. Sex workers must be able to report abuses without fear of arrest or incarceration. Criminalization puts sex workers at higher risk of violence, because predators know that sex workers are made vulnerable and considered less valuable due to the stigma associated with their work. Sex workers must be able to take time to communicate clearly with their clients without fearing arrest or incarceration. They must be able to do their work in safe places, without constantly being displaced to more isolated areas. Criminalization also contributes to stigma and discrimination that prevents sex workers from accessing basic and necessary social services, including health care and legal advice.
3. If you support allowing the sale or purchase of sexual services, what limitations should there be, if any, on where or how this can be conducted? Please explain.
Any regulations or limitations on sex work should be created under the leadership of sex workers themselves. There should be no further limitations placed on the freedoms or civil liberties of sex workers, including immigration and anti-trafficking laws. Sex work should not be subject to more restrictive or invasive laws than the regulations for other forms of work, and legislation should be driven by civil rights and liberties. Any future regulations or limitations on sex work should consider sex workers of all genders and sex workers in all sectors of the industry. Canada should rely on existing Criminal Code provisions that address violence and abuse to protect sex workers from assault, harassment, and threats.
4. Do you think that it should be a criminal offence for a person to benefit economically from the prostitution of an adult? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.
Criminal laws targeting those who benefit economically from sex work done by adults isolate sex workers and thus endanger them, infringing on their right to safety. Third parties involved with sex workers are necessary to their livelihood and well-being. Sex workers are professionals who must be able to practice in groups, just as lawyers and health workers do. Sex workers must be able to hire security guards, drivers, receptionists, bookkeepers, and other people who make their work safer and easier. Sex workers must be able to rent or buy homes. Sex workers’ families, friends, roommates, and partners should not be criminalized by the work of their loved ones. Such restrictions further isolate sex workers—people who deserve love, family, and community, just as we all do.
5. Are there any other comments you wish to offer to inform the Government’s response to the Bedford decision?
Head & Hands fully supports the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Bedford v. Canada to strike down the three major provisions on sex work.
Those provisions prevented those engaged in legal activities from taking steps to protect themselves from the risks associated with those activities. Head & Hands encourages the creation of a “made-in-Canada” model that is based on the leadership of sex workers and sex work advocacy organizations based in this country, and that respects and protects sex workers’ human and labour rights.
Last October, we re-launched our Street Work program after a 2-year hiatus, restoring this essential service to our community. Since then, Sara, our Street Worker, has been back on the streets of NDG, bringing our harm-reductive services outside the Head & Hands office and straight to the young people who need her support. We’re excited to share with you some exciting updates about Street Work’s first 4 months back in action!
Sara has been busy giving on-the-spot support, clean needles, crack kits, condoms, and safer-sex and drug use information to youth in NDG. So far, she has already met with 230 new clients, and has provided 1,425 clean needles 2,151 condoms, and 37 crack kits. From just 4 months of work on the streets, it is clear to us that Street Work is addressing a serious need in our community that would not otherwise be met.
During these cold winter months, Sara has kept busy visiting neighborhood schools and group homes, dropping by to say hi, meet youth, and distribute condoms and information. Sara has also given several harm-reduction and drug workshops to youth in schools and group homes. She wants youth to leave her workshops drug-savvy, and tells participants that she wants them to “be that friend in your friend group” that folks can come to for information.
In the coming months, Sara is looking forward to giving workshops at Jeunesse 2000, our teen drop-in center, and visiting more community centers and teen drop-in spaces in the neighborhood. She is also looking forward to the warmer months, where she will be able to meet more youth in parks and outdoor spaces!
Visit Street Work’s brand-new page on our website to learn more about the services Sara offers, check out other resources on harm-reduction, and learn how you can support Street Work and help keep the program alive!
We believe that Black history is everyone’s history, and every day is Black history day. With that in mind, we want to share some ways you can get involved in the interesting cultural, musical, and other events that mark Black History Month!
Dream Defenders, an organization of diverse youth fighting for a more equitable and just society, are celebrating “Blacked Out History Month.” Visit their website daily for new artwork and history to think and reflect on the history lessons we didn’t learn in school.
Here at Head & Hands, we’re celebrating Black History Month with special activities at Jeunesse 2000 (J2K) and the Young Parents Program (YPP). Pharaoh Freeman is leading a discussion with J2K youth to encourage self-reflection through the lens of Black History Month. Ralph, our legal coordinator, is giving a talk on Black inventors throughout history. Other programming includes traditional drum circles and hip-hop dance classes to celebrate contemporary culture. At YPP, this month’s community kitchen will celebrate Jamaican cuisine, and the folks from J2K will join YPP participants in cooking, discussions, and a film screening of Hidden Colors.
We’ll also be celebrating next week at Reel Activism’s 5th screening, an official event of Black History Month in Quebec offered in collaboration with the FRO Foundation! We’ll be watching two films: Finally Got the News and I Am Somebody. David Austen, author of Fear of a Black Nation, will be joining us to introduce the films. Copies of his book will be on sale and if you ask nicely, he may sign the book for you! Come join us on February 11th, 7 pm at the Georges-Vanier Cultural Center!