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December 17th is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Today is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.
In past years Kingston’s Sex Worker Action Group (SWAG) has done many different things to honour this day. We have had a vigil in front of city hall, we have held a Slutwalk/Scavenger Hunt and we have showed films to expand peoples’ thinking about sex work. This year we are doing none of those things, but I didn’t want to let the day go by without taking some action. So, I decided to write to Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau. I have no idea what her feelings are about sex work, but it seems to me that she is a reasonable woman who would like to see all Canadians safe, regardless of their profession. I’m hoping that includes sex workers. My letter to her (couriered yesterday) is below.
December 17th, 2015
Dear Mrs. Grégoire-Trudeau,
First, let me say how grateful I am that you and your husband worked so diligently to get into office. The vast majority of Canadian’s are feeling such a sense of relief to have our Canada back. Thank you!
I’m writing today because it is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. I do not identify as a sex worker myself, but I do count myself fortunate to have been granted the title of Ally by sex workers. I coordinate the Sex Worker Action Group in Kingston, Ontario. (www.swagkingston.com)
In 2010 a brilliant and caring judge, Justice Susan Himel, struck down laws around sex work that she felt clearly created unsafe working conditions. Since that time, and thanks to our previous federal government (among others) we have spent a fortune and put three women through hell to basically end up with the same result. Laws that make sex workers unsafe.
As you possibly know, sex work is not now, nor has it ever been, illegal in Canada. However so many of our laws lead to unsafe working conditions. When you combine this with the stigma and discrimination faced by sex workers it becomes clear that we have a portion of our population who has no access to labour or even basic human rights.
As the Laws Stand
Current laws mean that while sex workers are less frequently criminalized, clients of sex workers are now the ones often facing charges. That doesn’t help keep sex workers safe. When clients fear arrest they get nervous and want to talk to the sex worker for as short a time as possible, in case the next car around the corner is a police officer. So, even though Justice Himel struck down the communicating for the purposes of prostitution law, when clients started being criminalized it created a very similar set of circumstances. Sex workers are forced into isolated, often industrialized areas. Sex workers have to make very quick decisions about whether or not a client is safe to get in a car with, and they have to do so while the client is likely nervous, thus making that decision even more difficult.
Sex workers don’t want their clients charged; it ruins their business, it adds to stigma and discrimination faced by sex workers, and in many cases sex workers form close and real relationships with clients who they don’t want to see face prosecution.
Additionally, our current laws do not allow for sex workers to work together in any indoor location. Indoor sex work is clearly safer than outdoor work. When a sex worker is working in a known (to her) location she is aware of the exits, where the phones are, and she can even set up safety systems with a neighbour…if she/he or they can find one to trust. With “brothel” type of setups, there are many safety systems built in. Everyone in the building is either doing the work or knows what is happening. Everyone can listen out for problematic situations, and standard screening systems are often in place. Indoor sex work locations also mean that someone else is taking care of the administration. Not every plumber wants to own their own business – some want to work for someone else. The same holds true for sex workers. Not everyone is interested in advertising, booking the clients, keeping the books etc. Unfortunately now with our new laws, police often target indoor sex work locations making the safer places less so.
Sex workers do a legal job but face so many challenges, it might as well be illegal. For example, sex workers can work out of their own homes, on an individual basis as per the new law. They are allowed to advertise their services, however any publication (print or online) that carries their ad are subject to prosecution. In my best guess with our current laws, the only truly legal way for sex workers to advertise is to create a flyer and distribute it door to door!
Police
Sex workers in Ottawa identified the police as those who were most likely to inflict violence against sex workers. It is not uncommon for police to take sex workers on “twilight tours” where they take workers out to the middle of nowhere and drop them off. They have to make their own way back to town. Police have been known to demand sexual services in exchange for not being arrested. In the end arrest may or may not happen. And of course there has been many cases of physical abuse, calling sex workers out, humiliating them and using terms such as NHI when they’re at a murder scene of a sex worker. NHI means “no human involvement”
Sex workers also face another significant problem with police – they are unable to access them when needed.
The following is a quote from an Ottawa sex worker:
“I’ve been raped twice. This one time, I was just coming out of an alley, I had just been raped, I have been hit over my head with a brick. My head was gushing blood. I flagged a cop and he told me to call my own fucking ambulance. He called me a fucking crack whore and told me he had no time for me. Then he left. After you have been told you are a piece of shit you don’t try a second time […] They didn’t give a shit. I couldn’t walk even. I ended up just sticking my piece of gum in the hole in my head. I wasn’t gonna go to the hospital either; they don’t treat you well there. I took care of myself. I did what I had to do.”
(Beth, street-based worker)” Challenges Report by POWER
Sex workers who face violence or any type of illegality are pretty much left to their own devices to deal with it. They cannot and will not call police, and with good reason. When sex workers and managers of sex workers told police about serial killers Robert Picton or Gary Ridgeway they were dismissed as unreliable. Women could have been saved if they didn’t discriminate against sex workers.
Stigma and Discrimination
Sex workers don’t only face stigma and discrimination from police however. As you can see from the above quote, medical personnel also stigmatize workers leaving them not only unable to access police, but often unable to access emergency services. How would you feel if you knew your best option to deal with a bleeding head wound was to stick a piece of gum in it?
Many times I have heard stories about positive relationships being developed with counsellors, nurses or health care workers. So positive in fact that the sex worker outs their line of work. And that is when the positive relationship ends. Agency workers become standoffish and want to remove the person from their office as quickly as possible.
Health care and social service workers also assume that when a sex worker comes in to see them the problem they are facing has to do with sex work, when really they may need help finding housing, paying their hydro bill or they just need a flu shot!
Sex workers are stigmatized by society as a whole. While workers may gain many skills during the course of their work, (counselling, touch therapy, advertising and marketing, admin, bookkeeping, security etc. etc. etc.) they are very unlikely to ever be able to showcase their skills on a resume. Reasonable fear of negative reaction means workers often have to keep a part of their life secret. They may have been responsible for creating one of the best ever days for a quadriplegic, but there are very few people with whom they can share.
Abolitionists
I am not at all certain of your feelings, if any, around sex work Mrs. Grégoire-Trudeau. I do know many feminists, especially from Quebec who come from an abolitionist based approach. The problems I see with the abolitionist perspective are many. Sex work has been around since the dawn of time. The church even used to sanction and play a part in sex work. Sex is a normal natural aspect of our lives, but it has been made taboo and in doing so, sex negative attitudes have developed. Does it really make sense that parents are okay with their kids seeing people tortured and killed on tv but they switch the channel immediately when a scene comes on that involves sex. We need to change our attitudes. We need to be more sex positive.
Abolitionists, in my opinion, wish to decide what is and what isn’t okay for other women’s bodies. They want to decide what are okay or not okay choices for other women to make. They ignore the fact that sex work is done by all genders and simply see it as violence against women, regardless of how sex workers themselves actually feel. This to me is not feminism. Even if you would prefer to see sex work end, what I hope is that in the meantime you want to see all our citizens as safe as possible, and see laws that support the safety of Canadians.
The Nordic model of sex work, the model of reform pushed by abolitionists and what Canada basically ended up with, has been proven to not increase safety. We should be looking towards New Zealand where they have decriminalized sex work and have therefore created an atmosphere where sex workers can access police and health services, where stigma and discrimination has been reduced and where condom use, while doing the work, is mandated and now accepted as the norm. New Zealand has seen zero increase in trafficking, child sex work and in fact, sex work itself.
While I understand that not everyone who is doing sex work wants to remain in the profession, there are many sex workers who love their jobs and, even after finishing graduate school, choose to continue their sex work career. For those who want to be doing something else but feel they have no options, we need to look at the underlying problems…poverty, lack of access to education, food and housing insecurity among others. Only when these social issues have been dealt with will we put an end to people “forced” into sex work.
So, what I’m asking you today Mrs. Grégoire-Trudeau is for your consideration. Canadian sex workers need an ally with access to power. Power to make change, power to say that human and labour rights should apply to ALL Canadians, power to stand up to abolitionists in recognition that sex workers themselves have a right to decide what is and isn’t okay for them. As the wife of our Prime Minister, you have that access. You can make a difference in the lives and safety of many women, as well as men and trans people – citizens whose only “crime” has been to engage in legal work in our country.
Sex workers are moms, daughters, aunties and yes, even grandmothers. Sex workers take their kids to soccer games, the orthodontist and back to school shopping. Sex workers knit and do yoga and read sci-fi novels. Sex workers are safer sex experts, activists and graduate students. Sex workers are human beings who deserve full human and labour rights. Please Mrs. Grégoire-Trudeau, consider Canadian sex workers.
Sincerely,
Deb Kinder
Coordinator, Sex Worker Action Group Kingston
Women and HIV/AIDS Community Development Coordinator
HIV/AIDS Regional Services
dkinder@kingston.net
Ps – to learn more about sex work I suggest an excellent and local site: powerottawa.ca. They have engaged in an abundance of amazing community based and authentic research

 

BAD DATE INFO

Incident Date:  15 August 2015

City:     Belleville

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  Eric S

Phone: 61*-8*5-5*12

Email:  P*umer4******

Handle:

Category:         Time Waster/Late/No Show

Details: Booked and then went silent about an hour before the appointment. Almost cost me and my partner travel fees but he wouldn`t confirm. Knew it would cost money for her to travel. Deliberately tried to waste time.

 

Incident Date:  11 August 2015

City:     Belleville

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  Jesse

Phone: 61*-8*8-3*83

Email:

Handle:            Tweed Jesse

Category:         Time Waster/Late/No Show

Details: Cheapskate and a time waster.

 

Incident Date:  23 July 2015

City:     Belleville

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  Asif R

Phone: 64*-8*2-5*00

Email:  rava_ *******

Handle:            Rava

Category:         Uncooperative with Screening

Details: Provided fake information to a disposable cell phone. Facebook profile also seemed fake. When I ask client to provide proper information he stated “I don`t want you knowing anything about me” Seemed very suspicious.

 

Incident Date:  22 July 2015

City:

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  Lee H

Phone: 64*-2*1-8*85

Email:  *hosiosky********

Handle:

Category:         Time Waster/Late/No Show

Details: Guy cancelled and rebooked repeatedly in the same day. Is supposed to show

up, arrives way early and gets mad that I am in the shower and cancels.

 

Incident Date:  16 July 2015

City:     Trenton

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  John T

Phone: 61*-9*2-0*15

Email:  john6. *********

Handle:            John T ***************Additions

Category:         Time Waster/Late/No Show

Details: Client booked a 1pm appointment, Did not answer the confirmation text and

did not show up

 

Incident Date:  16 July 2015

City:     Trenton

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  John T

Phone: 61*-9*2-0*15

Email:  john6. *********

Handle:            John T ***************Additions

Category:         Time Waster/Late/No Show

Details: Client booked a 1pm appointment, Did not answer the confirmation text and

did not show up

 

Incident Date:  13 July 2015

City:     Kitchener

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  Leandro C

Phone: 51*-5*1-6*00

Email:

Handle:

Category:         Drug User/Drug Presents

Details: Tried to offer me drugs in exchange for sexual services, low balled me on

my rates. Very rude

 

Incident Date:  09 July 2015

City:     Toronto

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  Tony L

Phone: 41*-6*2-8*88

Email:  tonyl**1215*****

Handle:

Category:         Boundary Crosser

Details: Tony kept asking questions about booking. Then out of nowhere sends me

some girls first and last name along with an obviously personal email (appears he lifted it

from facebook.) Wanted to know if she was me. Told him it was not and that young lady

probably didn`t want her info shared and I didn`t appreciate him attempting to find out my

personal details. Client said he had emailed the other woman before. Told client that he is

to stay out of my personal life and that I would go to the police if I heard from him again.

 

Incident Date:  08 July 2015

City:     Belleville

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  Lee

Phone: 61*-8*3-0*54

Email:

Handle:

Category:         Dangerous/Rob/Rape

Details: Client repeatedly tried to force himself into me without a condom even after I told him in text and in person that I don`t do that. He tried to push past my legs and tried to push into me when I leaned over to get a condom. At one point said “I`d slip inside given the chance.” Client is 50-60 white man, Average height and average build. Has a moustache and brown eyes. Sandy brown and grey hair. Skin tags on his crotch. Drives a white pontiac or ford car, looks like a 90`s model with bumper stickers… one had yellow writing and the other had a “613” number on it.

 

Incident Date:  07 July 2015

City:     Trenton

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:

Phone: 41*-8*4-7*00

Email:

Handle:

Category:         Uncooperative with Screening

Details: Refused to provide verification information (name and email)

 

Incident Date:  07 July 2015

City:     Kitchener

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  Robin B

Phone: 51*-9*8-0*88

Email:  pipersp

Handle:            piperspl

Category:         NOT RECOMMENDED

Details: Client was very rude. Believes I shouldn`t be able to advertise in multiple cities because he doesn`t want to travel. Accused me of “wasting his time” because even though my location is posted in my ad at least twice and numerous times on my website, plus a map… he somehow was uninformed that he would have to travel to visit me.

 

Incident Date:  07 July 2015

City:     Belleville

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:

Phone: 41*-3*9-9*38

Email:

Handle:

Category:         Unsafe Practices

Details: Client asked repeatedly for activity rates, was told no. Gave rates for my time, once again asked for activity rates. Advised no and gave him my restrictions. Asked if I did bareback. Informed client he was not welcome to see me. Was staying at the comfort inn in Trenton Ontario 07/07/2014. Toronto number

 

Incident Date:  28 June 2015

City:     Belleville

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  Sujit K R

Phone: 90*-3*1-4*25

Email:

Handle:            daddykama

Category:         Do Not See/Bad Clients

Details: Repeatedly harassed me to come to Toronto. Says sex workers aren`t productive members of society and should get real jobs. Called me a cunt and a bitch when I told him I wouldn`t let him pimp me out. Then started making up lies, said I asked him for money and that I hated disabled people. He`s indian, in a wheelchair, glasses, wonky eye.

 

Incident Date:  16 June 2015

City:     Trenton

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:

Phone: 34*-2*3-9*75

Email:

Handle:            Whitney

Category:         Do Not See/Bad Clients

Details: Attempted to bring his one year old son to an appointment at my home in a stroller. Said it would be less sketchy that way.

 

Incident Date:  04 July 2015

City:     Belleville

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  Zachary B

Phone: 22*-6*3-6*68

Email:  zachb98

Handle:            Zach D B

Category:         Minor – Under Age

Details: Client admitted to being 16 years old and asked if that was an issue. Advised client to never contact me again. Do not see!

 

Incident Date:  04 July 2015

City:     Belleville

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  Justin

Phone: 61*-8*7-2*47

Email:

Handle:

Category:         Drug User/Drug Presents

Details: Said “Hey” and I replied with “Hi” His response was a very rude “Bj?” I said I would pass as I don`t see rude clients His response was that it was too bad because he was going to give me good pot.

 

Incident Date:  30 June 2015

City:     Belleville

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  Dan T

Phone: 61*-3*1-8*57

Email:

Handle:

Category:         Poor Hygiene

Details: Client showed up to my house smelling so bad that I retched when he took his pants off. He had greasy hair and bad breath. When told to take a shower he did but refused to use soap. Was told he could use soap or never see me again, he used the soap but still refuses to mouthwash or shampoo his hair. Also EXTREMELY clingy and has issues with boundaries. Keeps asking to be my friend and asking if I will be his girlfriend. Admitted that he forced himself onto his friend Natasha because “She was acting like she didn`t want it but he knew she did.”

 

Incident Date:  25 June 2015

City:     Belleville

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  Jay

Phone: 61*-8*7-8*62

Email:

Handle:            “the man”

Category:         Good Client Gone Bad

Details: Tall, square jaw, average-fit, blonde hair, goes by Jay. Was a well liked

client until he showed up waaaay late and was told that I wasn`t doing the appointment. Called me a time waster and cursed at me. Advised him that he wouldn`t be allowed to see me again. Knew my legal name due to unavoidable circumstances and answered one of my ads asking if that was my name because he knew a local sex worker who went by that name. Thinks he did nothing wrong by distributing my legal name or cursing at me.

 

Incident Date:  18 March 2015

City:     Belleville

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  Anthony B

Phone: 61*-8*9-2*00

Email:

Handle:            Michael B

Category:         Dangerous

Details: Threatened to rape and beat a worker. Often threatens to come to workers

homes and says he has GPS tracking on workers. Verbally abusive and should be avoided! Another worker met him and told me he was very rude and abrasive with her. Harassed her after she left. Lives on Station.

 

Incident Date:  18 March 2015

City:     Belleville

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:

Phone: 61*-8*8-1*66

Email:

Handle:

Category:         Sextortion

Details: A client booked and then when he got the address pretended to be his girlfriend. At first he tried to threaten me with the police and when I told him to stop contacting me he tried to blackmail me. I was either to pay $1000 or he would call the police. I pointed out extortion is very illegal and so he then tried to blackmail me for pornographic images of myself. Once again, he was told not to contact me. Then tried to book me again.

 

Incident Date:  15 April 2015

City:     Belleville

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  Jim M

Phone: 34*-2*3-3*24

Email:

Handle:            James,

Category:         Dangerous

Details: Client showed up and then after grabbing my shoulder hard, I yelled and my

dogs began to bark and try to get into the room. Jim took off without paying the

cancellation fee and began harassing me by reporting all of my ads.He only stopped

reporting my ads after I threatened to call every “M****” in the phone book and tell them what he did. Tall, dark hair, mid 50’s, thin build,

 

Incident Date:  30 April 2015

City:     Belleville

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  Thomas M

Phone: 61*-885-6203

Email:  navychef

Handle:

Category:         Do Not See/Bad Clients

Details: Repeatedly asked for sexual pictures, asked a bunch of vague questions and

then asked to become an escort as well. Apparently doesn`t think STD screening is

important. Made a deliberate attempt to waste the workers time. Also posing as an escort on Backpage in Belleville and Owen Sound. Be cautious as he may be looking for pornographic materials or have sexually transmissible diseases. Red hair, green eyes, exceptionally prominent chin,

 

Incident Date:  02 May 2015

City:     Belleville

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  Brandon S

Phone: 61*-8*5-6591

Email:

Handle:

Category:         Weird

Details: Messaged pretending to be a woman, then messages back pretending to want to

book me for him and his male friend. Google search immediately turned up escort ads linked to the phone number. Says they are posted by his ex-gf. Client is possibly dangerous and definitely attempting to lure workers to him. Was very crude in his messages, offered booze and “smokes” as compensation. Avoid!

 

Incident Date:  02 May 2015

City:     Trenton

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:

Phone: 61*-2*2-4172

Email:

Handle:

Category:         Time Waster/Late/No Show

Details: Booked an appointment and then didn`t show up, after being informed the

appointment was cancelled he asked to book again and pay the cancelation fee. When he messaged the next day to ask about a booking and I didn`t respond immediately to his message he began calling me a “whore” and harassing me.

 

Incident Date:  06 May 2015

City:     Belleville

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:  Jason W

Phone: 61*-7*9-8342

Email:  morph612@hotmail.com, Morph61@hotmail.com, Toronto.leafsfan@hotmail.co

Handle:            JS, Jeremy Dunc**

Category:         Harassment

Details: Made numerous fake emails to book appointments and cancel. Tried repeatedly to get me to give him my address.

 

Incident Date:  19 June 2015

City:     Belleville

State:    Canada – Ontario

Name:

Phone: 6**-4*2-0278

Email:

Handle:

Category:         Psycho

Details: Client showed up late and was declined an appointment. Refused to leave me

alone when asked. Then started threatening me when told to go away. “It starts tomorrow” “I will come to your home and get you bitch” “I am calling the cops on you” “I don`t need to come into your house to get you” Believe he may be threatening me with death, the police or to harm my home. If this number contacts you, be aware they are extremely dangerous.

BAD DATE INFO

SWAG has had report from a sex worker of repeatedly getting harassing texts from a person in Kingston.  This person texts asking vague questions and persisting even when asked to stop.  Similar texts have been received from 2 different cell numbers.  The concerned sex worker feels it is the same person who has changed his number.  Originally texts were received from a cell number with the last 4 digits of 6577.  The second number ends in 7214.  The instincts of the sex worker in this case is that something is off with this person so please be wary of those digits.

If you have or need further information email swagkingston@gmail.com or call Deb at HARS 613-545-3698.

CHECK OUT OUR NEW WEBSITE!

SWAG presents it’s new website with lots of new information!

Check out the Resources sections as a sex worker, client of sex workers, and supporters!

Had a bad date/client? Send us a message to share.

Moving to a new city or looking for other sex work organizations? Click here!

Make sure to keep updated on news about decriminalization and events in the area to support SWAG!

Follow us on twitter or join our group on facebook for more info!

Did we miss something? Contact us to let us know!

A big thanks to STELLA and St. James Infirmary for all the information they share!

 

Solidarité

Rencontrez-nous au Marquet Square à 10rs am pour démontrer aux Travailleurs (euses) du sex de Kingston que vous supporter leurs droits de la personnes ainsi que leurs droits en matière de travail.  Habilliez-vous en rouge ( ou portez un de nos chandails WHORE), apportez vos parapluie rouge et joignez-vous à nous pour une marche pleine d’action sur la rue Montréal.

Nous laisserons notre message de solidarité partout!

SWAG prends la rue en solidarité avec le cas Bedford vs Canada  qui sera entendu par la court suprême ce juin 2013. Nous soutenons la demande faite que les trois lois qui criminalisent les travailleuses (eurs) du sex soit abolies.

merci

SKMBT_C20313052810270

SEX WORKER SOLIDARITY DAY OF ACTION

 

 

 

 

Meet at Market Square at 10am to show Kingston sex workers that you support their right to human and labour rights!

Dress in red (or wear one of our WHORE shirts), bring red umbrellas and join us for an action filled walk up Montreal Street.  We will leave our message of solidarity everywhere!

SWAG is taking action in solidarity with the sex workers in Bedrord V. Canada – a constitutional challenge to be heard at teh supreme court of Canada this June 2013 that seeks to strike down three laws that criminalize sex workers.

BE BRAVE, BE VISIBLE, BE VOCAL, SHOW YOUR SUPPORT!

SKMBT_C20313052810270

Sex Worker Solidarity March

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KINK3 – Can You Take It? Is less than a month away!

SEX WORKER DROP IN

PLEASE NOTE:  THE THURSDAY DROP IN HAS BEEN CANCELLED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.  FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT DEB AT 613-545-3698

 

 

Every Thursday from 1:30-3:30 at 99 York Street.

Join in, meet other sex workers, enjoy some refreshments, choose from donations of clothes and makeup (as available) and of course pick up condoms and lube.

Police and CAS free zone – always!

 

Open Letter in Support of Sex Workers Who Were Arrested

TO ADD YOUR NAME TO THE OPEN LETTER, PLEASE SIGN IN THE COMMENT SECTION BELOW, OR EMAIL sault.on.redumbrellacampaign@gmail.com .

Thank you for all the support!  It has been so amazing!

Open Letter in Support of the 9 Sex Workers who were Arrested:

A call to Stop the Arrests and end ongoing media harassment in S.S.M, ON

Background:

On September 28th 2008, sex workers and allies celebrated Judge Himel’s landmark ruling that would effectively decriminalize sex work.  The Superior Court of Ontario struck down three sex worker related laws in the Canadian Criminal Code (CCC) (s. 210 ‘Common bawdy house’; s. 212 (1)(j) ‘Living on the avails’; and s. 213 (1)(c) ‘Communicatingfor the purposes of prostitution’). We were optimistic about the direction that the Ontario Courts and sex worker laws were taking.  Ontario Superior Court Justice Susan Himel ruled that these laws violate the right to liberty and security that is guaranteed in Section 7 of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Himel exposed that harm done to sex workers outweighs any harm done to the community in respect of these laws.

On March 26, 2012 the Ontario Court of Appeal revisited Himel’s decision and struck down the bawdy house provisions, deeming them unconstitutional. At this time, the court also amended the living on the avails provisions to ensure that they apply only to those who do so “in circumstances of exploitation”. The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that, Section 213, communicating for the purposes of prostitution, ‘does not violate the prostitute’s rights and is a reasonable limit on the right to expression’. This means street based prostitution, where ‘prostitutes’ solicit business in public, still remains effectively illegal. Ultimately, this represents only a partial victory for the sex worker’s rights movement as the amendments leave the most vulnerable workers at risk. Sex workers’ safety is at risk with the combination of uncertainty regarding ‘prostitution laws’ and Stephen Harper’s tough-on-crime policy of using the prison system to drive social policy. Street based sex work represents a small percentage of sex work (research in Canada shows between 10% to 20%) but it is these folks who have been facing disproportionate criminal sanctions, with distinct and long standing historical implications for racialized and Indigenous communities. This criminalization continually displaces people from their supportive networks and forces workers into hasty negotiations with prospective clients, often in more dangerous and secluded areas. In practice, it also means being unable to report assault rape or theft to the police—clear evidence of second-class citizenship. It has been a legal whirlwind in the past few years and the fight for the rights of sex workers continues.  The next step in the process is the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) and to challenge the communicating law (s.213) (the most enforced prostitution related offence). We will likely find out this fall whether the Federal government’s appeal on the Constitutional challenge will be heard before the SCC.

Arlene: I am co-writing this letter as a concerned woman that is a naturally gifted product of Sault Ste Marie.  I was born in the Sault into a working poor family and left home at a young age.  I was a street involved youth and left my community as a young teenager out of survival.  I found myself politicized in this time in my life as I was directly affected Mike Harris’ neo conservative agenda that waged a war on the poor. As a young politicized adult I returned to my home community in search of stability and was encouraged by a mentor that sponsored me through a feminist based community organization Sault Ste. Marie District Women for Women to return to University. Little did they know that sponsoring my education was like loading a weapon that now had a cause to aim its direction.  Since my return to my home community in 2001, I have been actively involved in local anti-poverty issues, including those of sex workers and drug user’s rights.  I am currently working in Toronto’s downtown as a harm reduction worker and activist who works alongside street involved populations including those engaged in sex work.

Joni: Born and raised in the Sault and area, I worked locally as an outcall based sex worker in my late teens and into my early twenties. Doing so allowed me, as a single mother, to secure a more optimal standard of living for my son and I—a relief in the face of the shitty Harris days and dealing with ‘Ontario Works’. I also experienced police violence and systemic discrimination during this time, further intensified by hierarchies among sex workers and a struggle for legitimacy and control playing out amongst different actors in the city. In the face of this, I am thankful for the wonderful relationships, laughter and support I’ve shared in with my coworkers and many of my clients along the way. I make no apologies for my candidness. Having obtained BSW and MSW degrees since, I’ve worked in mental health and harm reduction outreach (in the Sault and Toronto) for the last several years, as well as doing community based research and public education on prostitution policy in Canada, sex worker activisms and barriers to social service delivery. As a current PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University and an active member of SWAG, my sex work research continues. The Sault and the people and places I love there are never far from my mind though.

Urgent issues:

It was after Arlene’s recent visit home to Sault Ste. Marie, ON (on August 18th, 2012) that I first heard of the arrests of 9local women who were charged under this outstanding and highly contested area of prostitution policy contained in theCriminal Code. In reviewing the media coverage, we were shocked and disturbed to see that the women’s full names and home addresses had been published. Reportedly fuelled by community complaints about ‘aggressive solicitation’ and ‘women residents’ being mistaken for “prostitutes” in the long stigmatized Albert and Gore Street neighborhood (where the main stroll is located), the arrests and articles continued. An all time low coming when one of the women was scoped out and rearrested by an undercover officer in the same neighborhood, with local media republishing not only her name and address, but also the ‘nitty gritty’ of her alleged offers of sexual services and attempts to negotiate safer sex (this in a relatively isolated Northern community of 75,000 people). It has become a full-out police and media witch-hunt. We are very concerned about the safety of these community members, and the street sex working community at large. Major violations of sex workers’ rights and privacy have been committed without any public outcry! Together, and with the backing of the Kingston Sex Workers Action Group (SWAG), we write this letter in solidarity with several other concerned individuals and organizations—locally, provincially and globally. We are drawing attention to the safety and the human rights violations that were made against the 9 women arrested in mid-August, 2012. Namely, calling attention to the criminalization, scapegoating and media dissection of these 9 women who are now under a microscope. This is a letter to the community of Sault Ste Marie asking for solidarity and support of these 9 women and all other sex workers within the community. It is also a letter demanding that these arrests be put to a STOP!

Our demands are:

  •    That a citywide moratorium be put into effect to halt the arrests of sex workers in Sault Ste Marie, ON, including but not limited to solicitation based offenses. We request that this moratorium be kept in place until the aforementioned status of the Federal appeal is known, and counter Constitutional challenges heard and adjudicated upon before the Supreme Court of Canada (namely the communicating law).
  • This is also a call out to the media to stop putting these workers in further jeopardy by publishing personal  information.  You are putting lives at risk!
  • We are demanding that Sault Ste Marie Police Services put an end to leaking arrests and the personal information of those arrested.
  • Community based consultation and considerations on social impacts are a must and need to be inclusive of sex workers at every level.  Nothing about us without us!
  • We are calling for a red umbrella campaign©.  We invite Sault area residents, City officials and service providers to participate in a district wide Red Umbrella Campaign. Wear a red umbrella as a sign of care and respect for the rights of the 9 Sault Ste Marie women who were arrested mid-August, and out of recognition of the well being of individuals with lived experience (past or present).

In support of this open letter and proposed moratorium regarding the rights and safety of sex workers in S.S.M., ON

Put forth on Monday September 3rd, 2012 by SWAG (Kingston) and its allied Authors (A.J. Pitts & J. Aikens). Released to public and media on September 10th, 2012.

 


© The red umbrella began its history as an emblem for sex worker solidarity in Italy back in 2001. It is also the official symbol used to mark ‘International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers’, which is celebrated annually on December 17th. You can download a red umbrella and gain access to informational resources by visiting SWAG’s website at http://swagkingston.com. Wear a red umbrella button as a sign of care and respect for the rights and well being of individuals with lived experience (past or present) (buttons ready for distribution in the Sault in a couple of weeks!). Be a part of the conversation—we need you! sault.on.redumbrellacampaign@gmail.com



© The red umbrella began its history as an emblem for sex worker solidarity in Italy back in 2001. It is also the official symbol used to mark ‘International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers’, which is celebrated annually on December 17th. You can download a red umbrella and gain access to informational resources by visiting SWAG’s website at http://swagkingston.com. Wear a red umbrella button as a sign of care and respect for the rights and well being of individuals with lived experience (past or present) (buttons ready for distribution in the Sault in a couple of weeks!). Be a part of the conversation—we need you! sault.on.redumbrellacampaign@gmail.com

 

Stop the Arrests (2)