The current government of Canada is conducting a public consultation on “prostitution-related offences” in Canada RIGHT NOW. (February 17th – March 17th). You can answer their questions here.
I strongly encourage folks to go and comment. If you’re stuck for how to talk about this, POWER has isssued a call to action that includes information that can help you fill out the online consult’s questionaire. I’ve also posted my own answers listed below. I admit, I’m not thrilled with my own answer to Question 4 (see footnote for further thoughts), but they’re a place to start.
Please answer the public consultation questions and, beyond that, please spread the word. It’s really iportant that sex workers’ voices are heard on this front, but also the voices of sex workers’ allies and ANYONE who centers harm reduction, personal agency, and the legal empowerment of the many marginalized populations whose members are over-represented in this industry, particularly in its most dangerous and (oh, hey, look) marginalized quarters.

Consultation Questions (with answers)

1. Do you think that purchasing sexual services from an adult should be a criminal offence? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.
Comment: Absolutely not. Sexual interaction between consenting adults is never criminal. The state has no business interfering with these interactions.
2. Do you think that selling sexual services by an adult should be a criminal offence? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.
Comment: Absolutely not. The choice to sell one’s own sexual services harms no-one and helps many. Criminalizing the decision of those who make that choice is infantilizing and shaming and absolutely uncalled for.
3. If you support allowing the sale or purchase of sexual services, what limitations should there be, if any, on where or how this can be conducted? Please explain.
Comment: There should be no limits placed on or around the sale and/or purchase of sexual services by consenting adults. See above.
4. Do you think that it should be a criminal offence for a person to benefit economically from the prostitution of an adult? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.
Comment: No, I don’t think it should be a criminal offence to benefit economically from an adult third party’s sale of their own sexual services. Numerous individuals and businesses already benefit significantly in this way: landlords, the children and spouses of sexworkers, retail establishments, hotels, baby-sitters, music teachers, post-secondary institutions, dry-cleaners, banks, small farmers, phone companies… The same people who benefit economically from an adult third party’s sale of their time, skills, and labour in any other industry. Section 212 (1) of the Criminal Code, that which deals with Procuring, can still be applied, though I would prefer it if it were extended to industries such as child-care, construction, and agriculture, where human trafficking is rampant[1].
5. Are there any other comments you wish to offer to inform the Government’s response to the Bedford decision?
Comment: I am grateful for the Bedford Decision, and that the highest court in Canada has recognized that the anti-sexwork laws are unconstitutional. While I would prefer that the government of Canada refrained from having any official standpoint on sexwork within our borders (similar to Canada’s official lack-of-stance on reproductive medical procedures) as I think it’s wrong for a government to attempt to control what consenting adults do with our own bodies, alone or otherwise, I realize that this may not be considered an option by the current government. As such, as a second possibility, I strongly suggest adopting the New Zealand Model, which ALL available research indicates is far, FAR more effective with regards to harm reduction (which is the point of all of this) than the “Nordic” or “Swedish” Model. I also urge this government, and any that follow, to listen to sex workers in all areas of the industry – rather than “moralists” or alarmists – when it comes to the regulation of their own business, and no-one else knows it like they do.
6. Are you are writing on behalf of an organization? If so, please identify the organization and your title or role:
Comment: No. I am writing on behalf of myself.
Thank you,
Ms Syren.
[1] Look. Strictly speaking, I’d rather we didn’t have a “procurement” law like this on the books, as it’s too specifically entwined with bawdy houses and it’s too easy to twist into something that looks like the above-mentioned Swedish/Nordic Model which disempowers, endangers, and infantilizes anyone working in the sex industry, or to turn it on its ear so that it can be used like the Avails Law has been used in the past to criminalize the families and associates of sexworkers.
I would much rather see human trafficking dealt with via additions to Section 362(1) (False Pretense), and Sections 279 (kidnapping of an adult) and 280-283 (kidnapping of a child/minor).