Click the link above to see the full video of witness testimony. Susan’s testimony starts at 16:32
The following were my speakers notes;
To: The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Re: Bill S-203 – An Act to restrict young persons’ online access to sexually explicit material
May 26, 2021
Susan Davis BCCEC Director
Thank you for taking the time to hear from sex workers today;
We would like to take this time to acknowledge we are testifying today from
the unseeded traditional territories of the
Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh nations.
My name is Susan Davis and I am here today to represent Canadian sex workers as the Director of the BC Coalition of Experiential Communities.
I want to start today by stating I am not an Academic. I am a sex worker actively working in the sex industry as an independent escort for 35 years. I have broad experience in many areas of the industry as many sex industry workers do. I migrated across the industry and this country with the availability of work. I have worked in micro brothels, businesses run from residential spaces, escort agencies, massage parlors,adult film and on the street in Halifax, Moncton, Montreal, Toronto, Surrey, New Westminster, Burnaby, and Vancouver; I have spent time in prison, survived numerous assaults and several attempts on my life, battled cocaine and heroine addiction and survived 4 overdoses.
I also note I am the only Canadian witness here today.
I am not a representative of a minority of sex workers in Canada. I am a representative of the majority. My experiences with criminalization, violence and the outcomes of biased laws have lead to my 19 years in advocacy for the rights and safety of Canadian sex workers.
My greatest achievement has been the adoption of the “Lowest Level of Enforcement” policy by the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Police which has now been adopted by all 45 police services and the E-Division of the RCMP in British Columbia.
The net result of these sex worker safety centered policies is a tremendous success with safer indoor work spaces stabilized and no murders of sex workers in the City of Vancouver for 12 years and counting.
I am here today to represent the interests of my community and to draw attention to the many flaws and impacts Bill S-203 could have on our lives and safety;
Biased and Flawed Data – is being used as the foundation of this Bill with no regard for the Rules set out to govern research involving human beings in this country.
The Current Context – of sex workers making difficult choices during the COVID-19 Pandemic and significant migration from in person sex work to on-line and adult film sex work. Further restricting peoples options for survival will have negative outcomes.
Facial Recognition/ Age verification technology – a flawed and experimental technology which has been shown in several recent studies to be bias, racist and sexist in platforms where they have been implemented. The use of both “age verification” and “age estimation” as terms describing these technologies reveals these flaws and potential for bias or algorithm mistakes.
Privacy – Protected storage of this kind of data by tech companies has been proven to be impossible. Breeches are happening daily and given the intimate nature of this data, the risk is unacceptable. Stigma faced by sex workers and the potential for weaponizing this data using that stigma and fear are real and predictable.
UN Charter of Human Rights – prohibits the use of the rights of one group to destroy the rights of another. Sex workers rights and safety are not a reasonable casualty in the experiment proposed by this Bill.
Missed Opportunities – Exclusion of the people with the most experience in this area and who will be directly impacted by this Bill will lead to negative outcomes.
Impartiality – statements made by committee members in support of this Bill before your work is complete demonstrates the lack of impartiality being shown to sex workers who are citizens of Canada with rights. The Standing Orders Act and other Codes of Codes of Conduct which govern your work require impartiality.
Anti Sex Wok Lobby – this is an attack on our community and ability to feed and house ourselves and our families. All sex workers post sexually explicit images on the internet and would be impacted by this Bill.
We would like to acknowledge how difficult it can be to hear the stories of tragedy and the most extreme cases being presented. These stories and assertions are meant to impact you emotionally.
No one is trying to dismiss the stories of those impacted by exploitation, non-consensual image sharing or those negatively impacted by consuming pornography.
We are asking however that you try to understand the political agenda of the anti sex work lobby.
They want you to feel offended, they want you to feel repulsed…. they want to abolish our community and choices. They make biased, emotional and ideological arguments against our ability to feed and house ourselves with no consideration for the impact on our lives.
We appeal to you for impartial and rational attention to these issues and for understanding that the extreme examples being given are not a reflection of our Industry. That the majority of people working or operating businesses in our industry are ethical and share the same concerns about exploitation and the proliferation of violent sexual images.
This Bill is flat with no strategy or funding proposed for the obvious remedy to issues with young people viewing sexually explicit material, sex education. There is no planning for this critical aspect, providing information and support for youth who are exploring their sexuality.
Last, we are people….. who have families who love us. Our lives and safety depend on your decisions here. This cannot be overstated given the current context of sex workers choices in Canada.
We hope to see a more balanced and impartial approach to these issues moving forward which respects sex workers lives and safety as citizens of this country.
That the Committee take the time to scrutinize all research and data presented for consideration in decisions regarding this Bill to ensure ethics and meeting the test of the Tri-Council Policy Statement.
That the Committee reach out to adult film business operators to draw on their expertise and experience with age verification.
That the Committee seriously consider the risks to the lives and safety of sex workers when making decisions about this Bill
That the Committee remember it’s commitment to impartiality and try to refrain from emotional responses to this Bill
That the Committee remember the difficult situation faced by Canadian sex workers during this incredible time and work to not further narrow people’s choices for housing and feeding themselves.
That the Committee recognize the reasons why other countries have abandoned the idea of facial recognition/ age verification/ age estimation technology.
That the Committee reject Bill S-203 in it’s entirety based on the clear and predictable threat it poses to sex workers and the privacy of all Canadians.