New Legislation will have Serious Negative Effects on Sex Workers

Alisha OstbergBlog, sex work

Statement by HIV Community Link

Calgary, Alberta June 5th, 2014 – Yesterday Justice Minister Peter MacKay introduced a new bill the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act that will reform Canada’s prostitution laws. The Government of Canada’s comprehensive and “made-in-Canada” approach will criminalize the purchase of sex, communicating for the purpose of selling sex, gaining material benefit from sex work, and advertising sexual services.    

“At Shift we are reeling with disappointment following the announcement of the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act,” says Susan Cress, Executive Director of HIV Community Link which houses the Shift program which provides support services to adults currently and formerly working in the sex industry. “This new legislation does not resolve the problems found by the Court in Bedford to be unconstitutional rather it imposes more danger, more criminalization and fewer safe options for sex workers.”

This bill would make it illegal to communicate sexual services in a public place that is or is next to a place where anyone under the age of 18 could “reasonably be expected to be present.” This will displace sex workers into dangerous and isolated parts of the city where they are more likely to work alone in order to avoid police detection. Sex workers will not be able to screen clients and negotiate the terms of the transaction, resulting in a much greater risk of harm that the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional back in December.

This Canadian approach is an unconstitutional variation that will lead to more violence against sex workers in Canada. At HIV Community Link, we support decriminalization of sex work which has been extremely successful in New Zealand. This model has shown no growth of the sex industry, no increase in the numbers of sex workers and no increase in trafficking. Decriminalization has improved the overall employment conditions and a decrease in violence against sex workers. Improved relationships with police means sex workers are able to report violence and expect and receive police protection.