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Sex workers use ‘know your rights’ cards

By Stefania Seccia

Chili Bean, with the group Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence, speaks about the ‘know your rights’ cards being handed out across Canada.
Stefania Seccia, 24 hours

Chili Bean, with the group Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence, speaks about the ‘know your rights’ cards being handed out across Canada. Stefania Seccia, 24 hours

Just ahead of the one-year anniversary of the new federal law that made it more difficult to work in the sex trade, a group of Vancouver sex workers are issuing thousands of “know your rights” cards across Canada.

The groups Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence and the Pivot Legal Society have launched the cards to inform sex workers which of the activities related to their work is illegal. The cards are being printed in English, French and Chinese.

Chili Bean, with SWUAV, has been advocating for sex worker rights for the last 10 years and said an additional card is being given out to explain the Vancouver Police Department’s enforcement guidelines.

“While we appreciate the efforts that have been made at the policy level within the (VPD) to create a safer environment for sex trade workers, SWUAV members know all too well that a decision made at a higher level in the police department do not always translate to changes on the street,” she said.

“We also want sex trade workers to know that SWUAV and other organizations are committed to making sure that the police are held accountable to the promises not to harass or prosecute sex workers under these laws.”

Bean said the group is also calling on the new federal government to repeal the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act.

Brenda Belak, Pivot Legal lawyer and sex workers’ rights campaigner, said the law has caused a “great deal” of confusion for sex workers in Canada.

“This confusing and harmful law continues to be enforced, and as long as that is the case it continues to put sex workers across Canada at risk,” she said.