1 min

Sex workers will be heard

Supreme Court of Canada Justice Richard Wagner recently rejected a coalition of sex worker-led groups who applied to intervene in the upcoming Supreme Court case regarding Canada’s prostitution laws. The POWER-Maggie’s-Stella coalition was the only intervener applicant representing sex workers from all sectors of the sex industry and multiple geographic regions in Canada.

Our voices are essential to understanding the full impact of criminalization on both street and indoor sex workers, and particularly the impact of the criminalization of third parties (living on the avails) on all sex workers.

As a sex worker, I am appalled by this decision. It is a slap in the face to all sex workers. In fact, when I heard it, I was shocked. It seemed unreal. The outcome of this case will impact sex workers across Canada and it is highly telling that we have been denied the opportunity to share our experiences of living under the spectre of criminalization.

It is extremely disturbing that sex workers, the very people who have the greatest stake in this case, have been denied a voice, while every single abolitionist group was accepted and will be given space to present their arguments against decriminalization in June.

It hardly seems fair. While it is still true that the appellants are sex workers, denying POWER, Stella and Maggie’s means that the interests of sex workers from three of the largest geographic centres in Canada (Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto) will go unheard. It is terrifying to me that the Supreme Court will hear this case without the input of a broad cross-section of those most affected.

Personally, I have plenty to say regarding the criminalization of aspects of my work. I am tired of working in the shadows, of speaking in codes and acronyms. I am tired of my sisters and brothers being assaulted by predators, police and community members and having no recourse. I am tired of being considered a criminal, despite the fact that sex work itself is not illegal.

Sex workers are best placed to discuss how these laws affect them and Wagner shut us down. He decided that the voices of abolitionists are more important than sex workers. This abolitionist group is comprised of right-wing religious nuts and radical anti-sex work feminists who would see my profession abolished and who rely on moral arguments to justify their hatred of sex and sexual autonomy.