Reaction from sex workers to the Conservatives’ new prostitution bill has been fierce and pretty well unanimous: it sucks.
Justice Minister Peter MacKay introduced Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, on June 4.
Sex work groups have blasted the bill. The usual suspects of abolitionism have come out to endorse it.
Xtra reached out to the sex-work community to get their take on the bill. Here’s what they had to say:
“I am saddened and angry that the government truly didn’t consult with workers or supportive organizations and are quick to hand over money to exiting programs rather than deal with safety issues. The issue of violence on any level needs to be addressed as not acceptable on any level. The Conservatives are still perpetuating the myth that because you are a low-life whore you should be subjected to violence, as you are part of a high-risk activity — I say ‘activity’ as they still do not agree to address it as an occupation/work . . . Safety is and always will be my issue here; beginning the process of destigmatizing the work is where I am at. I also feel that the proposed aspects are far too broad and vague in their scope for advertising, solicitation, and I feel that other sex-faceted businesses will be targeted in a broad sweep. It truly is about oppression!” —Velvet Steele, “Canada’s premiere transsexual fetish lady!”
“I find the speech given by Peter MacKay, Bill C-36, to be reckless, dehumanizing and dangerous. We do not need his $20 million in funding to rescue us from our consensual jobs. We need occupational health and safety rights. We need our jobs to be recognized, and we need to be protected by local authorities in those worst-case scenarios. Sex workers are not victims. We provide our service consensually and are, in some cases, highly educated but are often times marginalized and racialized . . . Being allowed to screen our clients means that we can choose clients that are respectful, honest and understanding of our boundaries. We talk, entertain, cuddle, listen and provide companionship and sexual services. We are skilled workers who deserve to be protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As for the $20 million in funding: this shouldn’t be contingent on forcing sex workers to leave the industry if they don’t want to. This money can be allocated to maintaining bad-date lists; providing health services, including for addiction and mental health; and compensating injured workers.” —Akio, in Toronto