Sex work is real work: Fixing Canada’s prostitution laws

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Acumen Lawyer Sarah Leamon sits down with Vancouver sex worker Carmen Shakti and PACE Society community educator Caroline Doerksen to discuss concerns about Canada’s sex work laws.

The latest version of Canadian sex work laws were implemented in late 2014, following a Supreme Court of Canada decision that determined sex workers have as much a right to make a living as anyone else in the country. Specifically, the Court determined that three sections of the Criminal Code violated constitutional rights.

  • s. 210 – prohibition on keeping or being in a “bawdy house” for the purposes of prostitution
  • s. 212(1)(j) – prohibition on living on the avails of prostitution
  • s. 213(1)(c) – prohibition on communicating in public for purposes of prostitution

The court suspended these laws for one year to give government time to come up with a new set of laws that would abide by the Supreme Court of Canada ruling. The federal government came up with Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act.

This set of rules made it LEGAL to sell or advertise sexual services, but ILLEGAL to BUY sex. For many sex workers, however, the change in the law did not address their concerns of safety, and of being able to pursue their profession without stigma. In some cases, sex workers were even negatively impacted by this new law created in the name of protecting sex workers.

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