The Senate’s passing of Bill C36 should alarm anyone with any sense of history. It’s just the latest in a long line of legislative measures whose ostensible goal is to support sex workers, but which does anything but. Bill C36 will succeed in only one thing: killing the women it purports to protect.
There are a number of things wrong with Bill C36. The first is that the Tory government needed to be dragged into creating it by the Supreme Court; a proactive government that actually cared about encouraging sex workers into other lines of work or ending human trafficking wouldn’t have needed the court to point out just how flagrantly unconstitutional the laws on sex work were. Instead, the government was pushed to the drafting table like a group of awkward children afraid to talk about S-E-X.
Second, Bill C36 is not so much a new piece of legislation as a reset button that clarifies the Conservative government’s attitudes toward women, sex, and sex work. It criminalizes the purchase of sexual services (a weasel word that allows police officers free rein to arrest whomever they disapprove of), it criminalizes the advertising of sexual services in print or online publications (which will only push sex workers out on the street, where they can become rape and murder statistics), and criminalizes the gainful employment of bodyguards, unless they are in a relationship with the worker (which should keep abusive pimps and madams very happy).