News Local

Vancouver groups sign letter to repeal prostitution law

By Stefania Seccia

Vancouver groups are signing a letter to call federal parties to repeal prostitution law.
File photo

Vancouver groups are signing a letter to call federal parties to repeal prostitution law. File photo

Vancouver groups along with a few dozen other advocates across Canada wrote an open letter to Green Party, NDP and Liberal leaders asking for a firm commitment to repeal the act criminalizing sex work and develop “a model that is proven to protect sex workers.”

 

The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act replicates many of the issues identified by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Canada versus Bedford case when it struck down as unconstitutional, which makes it difficult for sex workers to work indoors, communicate safely with clients, and safety enhancing relationships with coworkers, according to the letter.

The B.C. groups include Pivot Legal Society, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and PACE Society, among others — of the total 33 signatories.

“All have recognized the overwhelming body of evidence demonstrating that criminalization of sex work not only harms sex workers, it also pushes trafficking further underground and makes it harder to detect,” the letter states. “Anti-trafficking measures and so-called rescue measures often expose sex workers to intrusive and damaging enforcement efforts, and make migrant workers vulnerable to deportation and harsh treatment from law enforcement.”

As of press time, Elizabeth May committed to repealing the act and Tom Mulcair released a statement saying the government should “refer (Bill) C-36 to the Supreme Court before proceeding further,” noting a comprehensive strategy combating exploitation while ensuring sex workers safety must be developed.

Brenda Belak, sex worker campaign lawyer with Pivot, said the act has been in place for a “relatively short” time and would be simple to repeal. Prior to the law, advertising for and purchasing sex services were not illegal.

“It’s a situation where sex workers are still going to potentially be in dangerous situations because they’re restricted in a way they can communicate with their clients,” she said. “It still forces sex workers on the street into more isolated and dangerous situations.”