Language shapes the way we perceive the world around us, how we interact with it, and how others respond in return. If we want to provide the best possible care and support to sex workers, …
! This article contains graphical depictions of violence and potentially traumatic subject matter In Calgary, it is estimated that there are 1000-3000 sex workers, and less than 10% of the sex work occurs on the …
The marginalizing of people who self-identify as transgender and in sex work is dangerously compounded by the societal stigma attached to sex workers — putting people at an even greater risk of violence. Shift is committed to pushing back and here for support and advocacy.
At Shift, we don’t spend a whole lot of time talking about human trafficking.
In 2014, we provided ongoing support and case management to 125 registered program clients; only a handful of these individuals had experienced trafficking. In the 8 year history of Shift, people experiencing human trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation have remained a small minority of the individuals we support.
When Bill C-36 (The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act) was first proposed the Shift Line phone was ringing off the hook. And honestly, it hasn’t stopped ringing. Sex workers are confused, upset, frustrated, and in general unsure how this new law is going to affect their lives. Many of the people who call us care about following the law and avoiding criminal charges, but these laws are so vague that they just can’t figure out what they can and cannot do.
As I began my search for a practicum I knew that that finding a harm reduction program was top priority. In a sea of abstinence based programs in Calgary, I was ecstatic to find the Shift program, a pro-choice, client centered, program for adults who have ever been involved in sex work.
At this year’s International AIDS Conference, held in Melbourne Australia, sex work was a hot topic. This open discussion of sex work in relation to HIV/AIDS and human rights was long overdue, as sex workers felt ignored at the same conference held in the US last year.
Statement by HIV Community Link
Calgary, Alberta June 5th, 2014 – Yesterday Justice Minister Peter MacKay introduced a new bill the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act that will reform Canada’s prostitution laws. The Government of Canada’s comprehensive and “made-in-Canada” approach will criminalize the purchase of sex, communicating for the purpose of selling sex, gaining material benefit from sex work, and advertising sexual services.
“At Shift we are reeling with disappointment following the announcement of the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act,” says Susan Cress, Executive Director of HIV Community Link which houses the Shift program which provides support services to adults currently and formerly working in the sex industry. “This new legislation does not resolve the problems found by the Court in Bedford to be unconstitutional rather it imposes more danger, more criminalization and fewer safe options for sex workers.”
This bill would make it illegal to communicate sexual services in a public place that is or is next to a place where anyone under the age of 18 could “reasonably be expected to be present.” This will displace sex workers into dangerous and isolated parts of the city where they are more likely to work alone in order to avoid police detection. Sex workers will not be able to screen clients and negotiate the terms of the transaction, resulting in a much greater risk of harm that the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional back in December.
This Canadian approach is an unconstitutional variation that will lead to more violence against sex workers in Canada. At HIV Community Link, we support decriminalization of sex work which has been extremely successful in New Zealand. This model has shown no growth of the sex industry, no increase in the numbers of sex workers and no increase in trafficking. Decriminalization has improved the overall employment conditions and a decrease in violence against sex workers. Improved relationships with police means sex workers are able to report violence and expect and receive police protection.
One day, while organizing Shift’s condom supply, I took the following photo of all of our beautifully colored flavored condoms: I wanted to post it on our blog because a) The condoms looked so adorable …
Supreme Court of Canada Rules Prostitution Laws Unconstitutional On December 20, 2013 the Supreme Court of Canada delivered a landmark unanimous decision (9-0) in the case of Attorney General of Canada v. Terri Jean Bedford, …