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Janet Butler-McPhee

Dec 17, 2014

Press Release

TORONTO, December 17, 2014 — Today, on the International Day to End Violence
Against Sex Workers, sex workers and their allies want to send a strong message to
Canada’s provincial leaders: Reject the federal government’s toxic new law governing
sex work. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has already expressed her “grave concern”
that the law, brought into force December 6th, will not make sex workers any safer, and
the province’s Attorney-General is assessing its constitutional validity. Sex
Professionals of Canada (SPOC), Maggie’s - Toronto Sex Workers' Action Project, the
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, COUNTERfit Women’s Harm Reduction Program
(South Riverdale Community Health Centre), and the publishers of Toronto weekly
paper NOW Magazine are urging other premiers to follow suit and are calling on
provincial attorneys-general not to enforce the deadly new law.
“This is an important day for us to remember the appalling violence suffered by our
colleagues, both internationally and here in Canada,” said Valerie Scott, legal
coordinator of SPOC. “Sex workers have been abandoned by their own federal
government with this new law. If our leaders truly care about making sex workers safer,
they will stop criminalizing our work, our workplaces and our clients.”
“In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that several former provisions on
prostitution in the Criminal Code were unconstitutional because of the harms they cause
to the safety and lives of women, men and trans people who do sex work,” said Richard
Elliott, executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. “But instead of
listening to sex workers and honouring the Supreme Court’s ruling, the federal
government has pushed through a law that largely replicates the same harms and even
adds new sweeping criminal prohibitions. We call upon provincial attorneys-general not
to be complicit in this legislative violence against sex workers, and today some 190
legal experts Canada-wide have told Ontario’s Premier and Attorney-General that they,
too, are deeply concerned that this misguided new law will trample the human rights of
sex workers.”
“Sex workers are currently living in constant uncertainty, and our lives, safety and
security are left in the hands of the government. We are terrified and exhausted from
the daily fears of arrest and constant deaths in our community,” said Arlene Jane Pitts,
coordinator of the COUNTERfit Women’s Harm Reduction Program. “I am deeply afraid
of the violence that will continue to be reinforced through this new law that will ultimately
cost the lives of those we love.”
“Canada has suffered an epidemic of violence against sex workers,” said Jean
McDonald, executive director of Maggie’s Toronto. “Premier Wynne, Attorney-General
Meilleur and their provincial counterparts need to demonstrate their commitment to
ending this epidemic. Given the serious harms at stake, they must act to ensure that
prosecutions are not pursued while the constitutionality of the new law is in question.”
In the meantime, sex workers must be able to pursue their livelihood. The new law aims
to silence sex workers by restricting their ability to advertise their services online or in
print. But the publishers of NOW Magazine in Toronto have announced that the free
weekly magazine will continue to allow advertising from independent sex workers. “We
have always refused to discriminate against sex work and sex workers,” said
editor/CEO Alice Klein. “Advertising offers a much safer and more secure way to
connect and do business with clients. The law’s provisions around advertising actually
encourage further stigmatization and violence against sex workers.”
To view the open letter from legal experts in Canada to Premier Wynne, and its 190
signatories, please

For more information please contact:
Janet Butler-McPhee
Director of Communications
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Work: 416-595-1666 ext. 228
Cell: 647-295-0861

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