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 email@example.com 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.