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End the criminalization of sex work in Canada

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The BCCLA joins Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform and Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network in calling on the federal Minister of Justice & Attorney General to issue a federal directive not to prosecute sex work-specific offences in the Criminal Code of Canada.

This federal directive could direct the Director of Public Prosecutions as follows:

  1. The Director shall not prosecute s. 213 of the Criminal Code (stopping or impeding traffic and communicating to provide sexual services);
  2. The Director shall not prosecute s. 286.1 of the Criminal Code (obtaining sexual services for consideration);
  3. The Director shall not prosecute s. 286.2 of the Criminal Code (material benefit from sexual services);
  4. The Director shall not prosecute s. 286.3 of the Criminal Code (procuring sexual services); and
  5. The Director shall not prosecute s. 286.4 of the Criminal Code (advertising sexual services).

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed stark health and labour inequities for sex workers. Many sex workers remain out of work, and all of those who continue are working in precarious conditions. But unlike workers in other industries, sex workers have largely been unable to access emergency income supports because the criminalization of sex work isolates sex workers from formal income reporting mechanisms like filing taxes, and because many live and work in poverty and do not meet the income thresholds for emergency benefits. Still others will not engage with government institutions for fear of repercussions due to criminalization, stigma and discrimination. These challenges are compounded for migrant sex workers, who are subjected to additional law enforcement surveillance as well as the threat of detention and deportation. Sex workers who are Indigenous, Black, migrant, trans, or who use drugs are also disproportionately affected by police profiling.

A moratorium on the enforcement of Canada’s sex work laws is long overdue. Read our joint letter here, urging the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to issue the federal directive without further delay.