Advocacy

Review of Sex Work Laws – Susie in Parliament

Parliament is reviewing the current prostitution laws in the Justice Committee right now! Follow this link to see the hearings and my speaking notes are copied below;

https://parlvu.parl.gc.ca/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20220401/-1/36755?Embedded=true&globalstreamId=20&viewMode=3 

Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights

RE: REVIEW OF THE PROTECTION OF COMMUNITIES AND EXPLOITED PERSONS ACT

April 01, 2022

For thousands of years, the Coast Salish peoples have flourished in the land that is now Vancouver. We would like to acknowledge and honor the three great Nations whose land this is: Squamish Nation, Musqueam Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation

Members of the Committee ;

Thank you for taking the time to consider sex worker concerns today.

For the purpose of this testimony, I represent the BC Coalition of Experiential Communities a sex worker lead advocacy and research group.

I will start by assuming that you have read my brief and understand that some of the information you have been receiving as evidence in the committee is false, would not qualify as evidence in a court of law and would not meet the test of the Tri Council Policy Statement. I am happy to answer any questions you have in that regard.

I will instead focus today on recommendations that could ensure your work is complete and can achieve the best outcomes in supporting health, safety and choices for adult consensual sex workers in Canada.

First…

Health

The Canadian Government report to UNAIDS in 2016 clearly identifies the need to remove laws which criminalize sex work;

https://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/CAN_narrative_report_2016.pdf

Canada also has international obligations to address the criminalization of people who are vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.

https://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/2022_ZeroDiscrimination_Brochure_en.pdf

And I quote; Laws—such as laws on sex work, —may discriminate by criminalizing conduct or identity.

States have a moral and legal obligation to remove discriminatory laws and to enact laws that protect people from discrimination.

This committee has heard from Justice Canada about arrest numbers and difficulties experienced by police and prosecutors in targeting exploitation.

This committee must also hear from the Minister of Health, Public Health Agency of Canada, Corrections Canada, International Affairs and those responsible for the Federal Initiative to address HIV/AIDS in Canada.

The impacts of criminalization on the health of sex workers and Canada’s international commitments at the UN are critical to your work.

Now The Law

Canadians and witnesses here are all in agreement that sex workers should not be criminalized.

Police and prosecutors have expressed confusion in how to fight exploitation. They state that human trafficking laws are insufficient and often risk a victim’s safety. Use of the prostitution laws has become the default in absence effective human trafficking legislation.

You have heard about exploitation of youth and children. The stigma carried by sex work also extends to youth who experience paid sexual exploitation. A child whose exploiter is charged under prostitution laws will be subjected to the “prostitute” stigma for the entirety of their lives.

People im/migrating to Canada fleeing climate change or war also face risks if they engage in sex work. They could be deemed “inadmissible” and subject to deportation if they are discovered. This makes it impossible for im/migrant sex workers to report violence when they experience it or to access health services without fear.

Inspite of misrepresentation and false information given to this committee, the most successful example of protecting sex worker health and safety is in places which have decriminalized sex work.

Part of the New Zealand “Prostitution Reform Act”purpose is protecting sex workers and children from exploitation in relation to prostitution.

On the 22nd of February, just over 1 month ago, the State of Victoria, Australia decriminalized sex work also for the rights and safety of sex workers and preventing exploitation.

Canada must meet it’s international obligations and address these issues by;

  • Repealing PCEPA in it’s entirety

  • Repealing IRPR sections 183 (1) (b.1) and 196.1(a)

  • Making additions to Section 279.01 of the Criminal Code such as “communication for the purpose” and “advertising for the purpose” of the exploitation/ human trafficking of a person.

  • Ensuring revisions are based in fact and written in consultation with all stakeholders

  • Implementing a National Policing Policy and Guidelines highlighting sex workers rights and the changes to the Criminal Code.

The truth is, we are working class people. Citizens and new comers who are simply trying to feed and house ourselves and our families. Comments made in support of laws against being near churches, schools and parks are hurtful and discriminatory. We have families, our children go to school and we are diverse in our spiritual beliefs.

Children are not “prostitutes”.

We should not be subjected to the narrow ideology of a very vocal few.

Sex workers who are fleeing war should not be deemed inadmissible.

Police needs effective tools to fight exploitation.

Please, work with us to meet Canada’s obligations to sex workers.

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