Calgary, Alberta, April 11, 2023 – As a Rocky View County man faces charges for crimes targeting sex workers, SafeLink Alberta advocates that this arrest, while valiant, is only the tip of the iceberg in regards to the violence and stigma facing sex workers in Canada.
SafeLink Alberta stands in solidarity with the sex work community and advocates for the decriminalization of sex work. The organization offers individualized support to sex workers and believes it is critically important to center the voices of people with lived and living experience in these conversations.
“We applaud the courage and fortitude of the individuals who brought these incidents to the attention of the police,” says Katie Ayres, Executive Director, SafeLink Alberta. “Given current legislation and the stigma surrounding sex work, incidents are often not reported publicly and the individuals committing acts of violence are not held accountable. This is one of the many reasons why we support decriminalization of sex work.”
In Canada the selling of sex is currently legal, but most related activities, such as soliciting and communicating for the purposes of selling sex, are illegal under the Criminal Code. These laws make it difficult for sex workers to work safely and openly and can put them at risk of violence and exploitation.
There have been legal challenges to some of these laws in recent years. As recently as 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down these laws as unconstitutional. The government introduced the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act in 2014, which largely maintains the criminalization of sex work.
“Decriminalization would allow sex workers to operate openly and without fear of prosecution” says Ayres. “It would make it easier for them to negotiate safer working conditions, and report crimes committed against them without fear of being arrested themselves.”
In addition to removing the barriers preventing individuals from reporting crime towards sex workers, there are several other potential benefits to decriminalizing sex work in Canada. Decriminalization would help reduce the stigma associated with sex work and challenge negative stereotypes about sex workers. This could lead to better social and economic outcomes for sex workers, including greater access to housing and other services.
Decriminalization could also have economic benefits, as it would allow sex workers to operate more openly and more easily pay taxes on their income. This could generate revenue for the government and potentially reduce the costs associated with law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
“Decriminalization isn’t just a sex worker conversation, this is an issue of human rights, economic and public health, and a means to deter violence and create a safer community for us all,” says Ayres.
SafeLink Alberta supports the decriminalization of sex work and opposes the continued implementation of Bill C-36, Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act and sections of the Immigrant and Refugee Protection Regulations in addition to all other municipal, provincial, and federal legislation that imposes violence on sex workers.
As an active member of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform (CASWLR), SafeLink Alberta supports and continues to advocate for the 49 recommendations for law reform as outlined in the CASWLR’s Safety, Dignity, and Equality: Recommendations for Sex Work Law Reform in Canada (2017).
SafeLink Alberta’s Shift program provides support to adults currently or previously engaged in sex work. The Shift program uses a rights-based approach to sex work, recognizing that sex work is a choice for many, and respecting the rights of adults to make this choice. Shift also recognizes that for some, factors such as poverty or exploitation can put people into situations where they don’t have control.
The SafeLink Alberta Shift program supports sex workers through emotional support, referrals, basic needs (such as safer supplies), advocacy, safety planning and peer support. The SafeLink Alberta Shift program also collects and distributes a “Bad Date” information sheet. This sheet is established by the sex worker community in Calgary to support a safer work environment by identifying potentially dangerous clients.
About SafeLink Alberta
SafeLink Alberta is a non-profit organization that has been serving and advocating for priority populations in Calgary and southern Alberta since 1983. Our mission is to reduce the risks associated with sexual activity and substance use through education, non-judgmental services, and harm reduction programming.
We believe that everyone deserves access to healthcare services, regardless of their background or lifestyle. That’s why we prioritize serving marginalized communities and those who are most at risk for HIV, hepatitis C, and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.
Our services include HIV and hepatitis C testing, counseling, support groups, and referrals to other healthcare providers. We also offer harm reduction supplies and education on safer sex practices, drug use, and overdose prevention.
Our team is made up of passionate and dedicated individuals who are committed to making a positive impact in our community. We work closely with other organizations and community partners to ensure that our services are accessible and effective.
At SafeLink Alberta, we believe that everyone deserves to live a healthy and fulfilling life, and we are here to support and empower our clients every step of the way.
Media Contact Information:
Cid Hanna, Director, Community Relations
Direct: (403) 508-2581